Have you heard of schisandra berries?
The Chinese have revered this herb for many centuries and Dr. Oz has even called it the “Miracle Pill for Anti-Aging.”
Why all the hype over a berry? It probably has something to do with the fact that it can seemingly do everything. Here’s a glimpse at some of the ways that the schisandra berry (Schisandra chinensis) is used…
Benefits of schisandra berry
It’s used as an adaptogen to help nourish and strengthen people who are weak or chronically fatigued.
Schisandra berry strengthens the lungs and can be used for chronic coughing or general lung weakness. It has also been shown to strongly support the immune system even in cases of severe infection such as hepatitis B.1
It’s used for chronic digestive problems, notably chronic diarrhea.
Are you stressed or anxious and have problems sleeping? Alan Tillotson considers schisandra to be an herb that balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. It calms chronic stress, relieves anxiety and helps to promote sleep.2
Scientific studies have shown schisandra to have protective qualities for the liver. In one randomized, parallel, and placebo-controlled study, patients taking schisandra had significantly improved liver blood tests as well as significant improvements in fatty liver disease compared with those taking a placebo. The same study also showed significant improvements in antioxidant status and inflammatory markers.3
Schisandra, when combined with rhodiola and eleuthero, has been shown to improve cognitive functions in women in reported feeling stressed for a long period of time.4
Chinese medicine uses a combination of schisandra, ophiopogon, and ginseng to dramatically and positively effect heart health. According to Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, “The formula is administered to patients who have suffered a serious illness, especially heart attack and congestive heart failure.”5
How does one herb do so many different things?
Well, we could explain its effects through its chemical constituents (schizandrol, schisanlactone). We could also explain it through different herbal actions (adaptogen, hepatoprotective, etc.).
But there is another simpler and very unique property of schisandra berry that explains its widely varied uses.
By the way it tastes.
“Really?” you might ask. “Can we explain how an herb works simply by its taste?”
In both Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, the taste of an herb is an important way to distinguish how it works in the body. In Chinese Medicine there are five tastes, including pungent, salty, sour, bitter, and sweet. Herbs that have predominantly one flavor have the general characteristics of that particular taste.
Pungent herbs are warming and spicy and are used to awaken the senses and get things moving. A great example of this is how cayenne (Capsicum annuum) makes you sweat and gets your sinuses running.
Salty herbs are high in minerals and often effect the fluid balance in our bodies. The archetypal salty herb is nettle (Urtica dioica) with its nourishing and diuretic effects.
Sour herbs stimulate digestion and build strength. An example of this is drinking lemon water in the morning.
Bitter herbs also stimulate digestion and often have a cooling and draining effect that can help to modulate inflammation. Think of coffee and its strong antioxidant effect.
Sweet herbs nourish and build and can restore energy levels and modulate the immune system. Drinking astragalus chai daily is a great way to experience this effect.
So what does the taste of herbs have to do with schisandra?
Schisandra berry is a very special herb in that it has all five tastes. That means that in herbal theory, it contains the qualities and benefits of all five flavors. This explains why it doesn’t do just one thing!
Developing your sense of taste and understanding how to interpret those tastes is one of the most important tools an herbalist can develop. And schisandra is a fun herb to explore since it contains all the different tastes.
“To me, any herbalists that doesn’t know the taste of an herb, but attempts to use it can be compared to a painter who doesn’t know the colors of a rainbow, or a musician who doesn’t know the scales.” – Alan Tillotson
And as you’ve seen, another reason to explore schisandra is that it has so many benefits! The Chinese use it to prolong life, it protects your liver, supports your nervous system, and so much more.
The following recipe uses schisandra berry (sometimes spelled schizandra berry) powder, which you can find at your local apothecary or online with Mountain Rose Herbs. Mountain Rose Herbs carries both freeze dried schisandra and regular schisandra powder. I prefer the taste and the vibrant color of the freeze dried schisandra, but it is more expensive. The regular powdered schisandra will also work great.
Schisandra Pastilles Recipe
This is a super simple recipe and a great way to include schisandra berry into your daily life. While making this be sure to taste the raw schisandra powder. Can you detect all five flavors? Most often people taste the sour first but, with practice, you’ll eventually be able to detect all five flavors.
When making this recipe I recommend using local treatment free honey – look around for your local beekeepers.
What you’ll need…
- 29 grams schisandra powder (roughly one ounce or 1/4 cup)
- Roughly 1 tablespoon honey
- Licorice powder or orange peel powder or rose petal powder (optional for dusting the pastilles)
Place the schisandra powder into a small bowl.
If your honey is thick, you’ll need to warm it so it has a very thin consistency. In a double boiler or on very low heat, gently heat the honey until it is a syrupy consistency. You don’t want to cook the honey, just make it thin enough to easily mix with the schisandra.
Slowly add the liquid honey to the schisandra powder. I like to add a small amount (1 teaspoon, for example), stir, then assess if more needs to be added.
You want to mix enough honey with the schisandra so that it forms a thick paste that can be rolled into small balls. If you add too much honey, then add a bit more powder until you get the desired consistency.
Once you have a thick paste, roll the schisandra and honey dough into small pea-sized balls. If desired, roll the balls in an herbal powder such as licorice powder, orange peel powder, or rose petal powder. This will keep them from sticking together.
Place these in a small container with an air-tight lid.
The recommended dosage of schisandra is 3 to 6 grams a day, which means that this recipe makes roughly 5 to 10 total servings. Ideally these can be chewed so you taste the five flavors. If you make them small enough, they can also be simply swallowed.
Store these in an airtight container. These can be stored in a cool dark location or in the fridge, as desired.
Yield: 5 to 10 servings