Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)

Traditional Indications

Schisandra is antirheumatic, antitussive, aphrodisiac, astringent, cardiotonic, cholagogue, expectorant, hepatic, nervine, pectoral, sedative, stimulant and tonic. Wu Wei Zi is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs. It is an excellent tonic and restorative, helping in stressful times and increasing zest for life. It is considered to be a substitute for ginseng and is said to be a tonic for both the male and the female sex organs. (1)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine Schisandra is called Wu Wei Zi. Wu Wei Zi is sour and warm and enters the Heart, Kidney and Lung channels. Wu Wei Zi functions to constrain Lung Qi and is indicated for chronic cough and wheezing, it tonifies the Kidney and binds Jing Essence to stop diarrhoea, nocturnal emission, spermatorrhoea, leucorrhoea and frequent urination, inhibits sweating and generates fluids and is indicated for thirst with excess sweat and quietens the Shen (spirit) and calms the Heart to treat irritability, palpitations and insomnia. (2)


Active constituents include the dibenzocyclooctadiene lignans schisandrin, deoxyshisandrin and gamma-schisandrin (3), schisandrins B and C, γ-schisandrin, schisantherins A and B, schisanthenol, deoxyschisandrin, gomisins A and G. (4) Phenolic acids found in the fruits, schisandra contains the presence of: chlorogenic, p-coumaric, p-hydroxybenzoic, protocatechuic, salicylic and syringic acids. (5) The leaves have also been found to contain isoquercitrin as the main flavonoid, followed by hyperoside, rutin, myricetin, quercitrin, quercetin and kaempferol. (6)

Schisandra has significant sedative and hypnotic activities, and the mechanisms might be relevant to the serotonergic and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic system. (7)
A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Schisandra chinensis for menopausal symptoms concludes Schisandra chinensis can be a safe and effective complementary medicine for menopausal symptoms, especially for hot flushes, sweating, and heart palpitations. (8)

Another study concluded Schisandra can improve the depression-like emotional status and associated cognitive deficits in CUMS mice, which may be mediated by regulation of BDNF levels in hippocampus, as well as up-regulating of TrkB/CREB/ERK and PI3K/AKT/GSK-3β pathways. (9)

The main biological modes of action of the derivatives of schisandrin is blocking of calcium channels (Ca2+) (10) reducing the level of: serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT), liver glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (LGPT), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), inhibition of cyclooxygenase 1 and 2 (COX 1 and 2), inhibition of the production of nitric oxide (NO) (11) inhibition of gene expression of proinflammatory cytokines (12) and inactivation of cytochrome P450. (13)

The Qi-invigorating action of Schisandra berry in Chinese medicine is explained by schisandra’s biochemical ability to fortify mitochondrial antioxidant status and mitochondrion function to generating cellular energy. (14)


1. PFAF. Schisandra chinensis. 2019.
2. Healing WRIo. Schisandra (Wu Wei Zi) 2019
3. Halstead CW, Lee S, Khoo CS, Hennell JR, Bensoussan A. Validation of a method for the simultaneous determination of four schisandra lignans in the raw herb and commercial dried aqueous extracts of Schisandra chinensis (Wu Wei Zi) by RP-LC with DAD. Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis. 2007;45(1):30-7.
4. Ikeya Y, Taguchi H, Yosioka I, Kobayashi H. The constituents of Schizandra chinensis Baill. I. Isolation and structure determination of five new lignans, gomisin A, B, C, F and G, and the absolute structure of schizandrin. Chemical & pharmaceutical bulletin. 1979;27(6):1383-94.
5. Szopa A, Ekiert HJAB, Biotechnology. In Vitro Cultures of Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill. (Chinese Magnolia Vine)—a Potential Biotechnological Rich Source of Therapeutically Important Phenolic Acids. 2012;166(8):1941-8.
6. Mocan A, Crișan G, Vlase L, Crișan O, Vodnar D, Raita O, et al. Comparative Studies on Polyphenolic Composition, Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Schisandra chinensis Leaves and Fruits. 2014;19(9):15162.
7. Zhu H, Zhang L, Wang G, He Z, Zhao Y, Xu Y, et al. Sedative and hypnotic effects of supercritical carbon dioxide fluid extraction from Schisandra chinensis in mice. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis. 2016;24(4):831-8.
8. Park JY, Kim KH. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Schisandra chinensis for menopausal symptoms. Climacteric. 2016;19(6):574-80.
9. Yan T, He B, Wan S, Xu M, Yang H, Xiao F, et al. Antidepressant-like effects and cognitive enhancement of Schisandra chinensis in chronic unpredictable mild stress mice and its related mechanism. Scientific reports. 2017;7(1):6903-.
10. Chiu PY, Luk KF, Leung HY, Ng KM, Ko KM. Schisandrin B stereoisomers protect against hypoxia/reoxygenation-induced apoptosis and inhibit associated changes in Ca2+-induced mitochondrial permeability transition and mitochondrial membrane potential in H9c2 cardiomyocytes. Life Sciences. 2008;82(21):1092-101.
11. Blunder M, Pferschy-Wenzig EM, Fabian WMF, Hüfner A, Kunert O, Saf R, et al. Derivatives of schisandrin with increased inhibitory potential on prostaglandin E2 and leukotriene B4 formation in vitro. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry. 2010;18(7):2809-15.
12. Oh S-Y, Kim YH, Bae DS, Um BH, Pan C-H, Kim CY, et al. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Gomisin N, Gomisin J, and Schisandrin C Isolated from the Fruit of Schisandra chinensis. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 2010;74(2):285-91.
13. Wan CK, Tse AK, Yu ZL, Zhu GY, Wang H, Fong DWF. Inhibition of cytochrome P450 3A4 activity by schisandrol A and gomisin A isolated from Fructus Schisandrae chinensis. Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology. 2010;17(8):702-5.
14. Ko K-M, Chiu P-Y. Biochemical Basis of the "Qi-Invigorating" Action of Schisandra Berry (Wu-Wei-Zi) in Chinese Medicine. 2006;34(02):171-6. 

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