Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wisdom Wednesday: Schisandra

Schisandra chinensis is a deciduous woody climbing vine that bears flowers and small fruit of a deep red color. The plant is sometimes referred to as Chinese Magnolia Vine. The fruit is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Russian medicine for treatment of asthma or as an expectorant, urinary and genital disorders, feminine health, sedative astringent, and as a general wellness tonic to counter fatigue.

The active compounds in Schisandra are thought to by the lignans but they are structurally unique, and quite different from other lignans such as Sesamin (from sesame seed oil). However, Schisandra fruit also contains unique triterpenoids but their exact role in supplementation is not currently known. Standardized extracts are based on the various lignans, specifically the schisandrins.

Quality Schisandra chinensis grows in Northern China and Western Russia. However, an inferior product from Southern China, Schisandra spenanthera is frequently substituted in herbal preparations resulting in a product that is ineffective.

Russian traditional medicine air dries the fruit then extracts the organic compounds with ethanol to create a tincture. The product I obtain from Australia is prepared by this method.

Schisandra lignans act as hormetic anti-oxidants. Hormesis is a phenomena similar to exercise where damage is induced only to subsequently protect and repair to a greater extent. The result of hormesis tends to be elevation of Heat Shock Proteins and increased expression of anti-oxidative enzymes in mitochondria such as Glutathione Reductase.

The therapeutic, preventative, and (theoretically, not yet demonstrated) life enhancing properties of Schisandra chinensis extends to most organ systems of the body. Schisandra has been demonstrated to reach the brain, liver, lungs, kidneys, spleen, heart, and adrenals.

Schisandra qualifies as an adrenal adaptogen. That is, it will regenerate the adrenals and repair DNA damage. There are only a handful of documented adaptogens – Ashwaganda, Korean ginseng, Rehmannia, and Tribulus are also adrenal adaptogens. Maca, may be an adaptogen, but additional research is needed for it to qualify.

I use Schisandra in combination with Silymarin (Milk Thistle) in the treatment of hepatitis or any time the liver enzymes are elevated. I also use it in liquid blends, mostly in support of women’s issues. While Ashwaganda is said to “give you the strength of 1000 horses,” Schisandra is said to “give you the strength to handle 100 husbands.”

Schisandra chinensis is able to inhibit the CYP3A4 enzyme pathway which metabolizes over 50% of pharmaceuticals. So the use of these herb is contraindicated with many medications. For example, Schisandra chinensis water extract at 500mg/kg is able to reduce the pharmacokinetic profile of warfarin (Coumadin) injections by 29% and the half-life by 11.5%, while increasing the clearance rate by 37.3%.

The Bottom Line:
Schisandra chinensis is valuable herbal extract for use in the treatment of a wide range of systemic conditions, especially those related to aging. It, like many other herbs, has had extensive research documenting its efficacy. However, you must be cautious about herb substitution and only take Schisandra supplied by a reputable herbal company.

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