Schisandra: The Five Flavored Berry

Did You Know…one unusual super-berry is a legendary secret weapon?

Unlike other well known super fruits (think goji or acai, for instance), the berries of the Schisandra chinesis are not destined to be covered in chocolate or blended into a smoothie.  The Chinese name—Wu Wei Z (Five Flavored Berry)—hints at why no one eats this berry with yogurt: its taste is quite unique.

The berry embodies all five essential flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy.  Despite its unusual taste profile, Schisandra occupies a lofty place in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM); in fact, it is considered one of the top 50 essential herbs.

Slow Aging and Prolong Life—Those Are Powerful Benefits 

Medicinal preparations of Schisandra support longevity and overall wellbeing.  Over thousands of years, the berry has been celebrated for its ability to…

  • Slow the aging process
  • Prevent infections
  • Boost energy
  • Refresh the heart and kidneys
  • Alleviate insomnia
  • Enhance the appearance and health of the skin
  • Increase stamina
  • Prolong life

Its superior benefits are quite literally the stuff of legends.

Schisandra: The Secret Behind an Oscar-Winning Story 

In 1902, a man named Dersu Uzala introduced Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev to the Schisandra berry.  Uzala, a member of the Nanai, an ethnic subset living in the Russian Far East, worked as a guide for Arsenyev and his men.

Like all Nanai hunters, Uzala relied on Schisandra berries and seeds while hunting to improve night vision… ward off exhaustion… and minimize hunger and thirst.  Later, Arsenyev would commemorate Uzala’s intelligence, keen instincts, uncanny observational skills, and deep compassion in a book named for the guide.  That book was subsequently adapted into two feature films, the latter of which won an Oscar.

Not surprisingly, tales like Uzala’s sparked great interest in Schisandra throughout Russia.  The berry is now included in the National Pharamacoepia and in the State Register of Drugs.  Scientific analysis shows the berries instigate significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in the body, meaning it has protective and restorative effects.

Those capacities make Schisandra especially useful for athletes.  Human studies conducted with extracts of Schisandra show it can improve performance for long distance runners, skiers, and gymnasts.

Other trials indicate that Schisandra assists with cerebral endurance as well.  Participants experienced improved concentration and produced more accurate, higher quality work.  Clinical studies that focused specifically on doctors, students, and soldiers reported superior mind-sharpening properties.


Dare to Try the Superberry

Though TCM practitioners have used Schisandra for over 2,000 years, and Russians hold the berry in high regard, it remains relatively unknown in the United States.
Hopefully, continued scientific inquiry will bring more attention to this health-promoting powerhouse.  In the meantime, dried Schisandra berries can be purchased in some Chinese grocery stores and medicine shops.

Experts say simply ingesting a few dried berries each day can lead to noticeable gains in mental and physical vitality.  Wary of tasting the Five Flavored Berry?  You may be better off looking for Schisandra supplements.  The best supplements, say experts, should be standardized to the schizandrins (the active compounds).