Uses and Purported Health Benefits of Schisandra

Dried schisandra berries
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Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) is an herb that has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Derived from the fruit of a vine native to China and Russia, Schisandra is sometimes known as "five flavor berry."


In traditional Chinese medicine, schisandra is often used to treat cough, wheezing, and diarrhea. Schisandra is also often touted as a natural remedy for these health problems:

What Studies Claim

To date, the health effects of schisandra have yet to be extensively studied. However, research suggests that Schisandra may be of some use in treating the following conditions:

Cardiovascular Problems

In Korean medicine, schisandra is sometimes used to treat cardiovascular symptoms associated with menopause. In a study published in 2009, researchers tested schisandra's vascular effects on a group of rats, finding that the herb helped reduce tension in blood vessel walls.

Although this finding suggests that schisandra may help improve blood flow and enhance blood vessel health, more research is needed before schisandra can be recommended in the treatment of cardiovascular problems.


Schisandra contains compounds that may help fight inflammation, according to a test-tube study published in 2009.

Scientists found that schisandra extract helped curb the production of inflammatory cytokines (molecules that can contribute to the onset of chronic disease when overactivated).

Stress-Related Fatigue

In herbal medicine, schisandra is often used as an adaptogen (a class of herbs said to boost the body's resistance to stress of all kinds). In a research review published in 2009, investigators note that there's "good scientific evidence" that shisandra may increase endurance and mental performance in people with mild stress-related fatigue.

A number of other herbs have been found to possess similar properties; these include rhodiola, ginseng, and ashwagandha.


Schisandra may cause heartburn in some patients.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals or drugs. 

While consumers face such risks when purchasing any dietary supplement, these risks may be of greater magnitude in the purchase of traditional Chinese medicine products, especially those containing a variety of herbs in varying doses.

Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications have not been established. 

Warnings About Use

Schisandra is available in capsule, tablet, tincture, and powder form. Given the lack of scientific research on schisandra's health effects, it's important to consult your health-care provider if you're considering the use of schisandra in treatment or prevention of any health condition. 

Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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Article Sources
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  • Park JY, Shin HK, Lee YJ, Choi YW, Bae SS, Kim CD. "The mechanism of vasorelaxation induced by Schisandra chinensis extract in rat thoracic aorta." J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 12;121(1):69-73.