Schisandra

Schisandra

Schisandra

Common Names

  • Wu wei zi
  • Schizandra
  • Five flavor berry
  • Fructus schisandra
  • Gomishi
  • Omicha
  • Omija
  • Ngu mie gee
  • Chinese magnolia vine fruit
  • Wurenchun

For Patients & Caregivers

Schisandra is a fruit extract used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Scientists do not know how Schisandra works, but laboratory experiments have begun to identify some of its biological activities. Schisandra has antioxidant activity, which means that it neutralizes free radicals that can cause cellular and genetic damage. When tested in animals, schisandra had the following effects: 1) protection of the liver and nervous system, 2) improved mental and physical functioning, 3) antidiabetic effects, and 4) reversal of resistance to chemotherapy drugs by tumor cells. The small number of studies in humans is too limited to draw any conclusions.

  • To treat lung problems
    Although schisandra is used to treat some pulmonary symptoms in traditional Chinese medicine, there are no clinical trials to support this use.
  • To treat coughs
    Schisandra is used in traditional medicine to treat coughs. No scientific studies to support this use have been conducted.
  • To treat gastrointestinal problems
    The traditional use of schisandra to treat diarrhea and indigestion is not yet supported in clinical trials. A small study in liver transplant patients suggests schisandra may help with the side effect of diarrhea associated with immune suppressant medication.
  • To treat liver disease
    Animal studies do show that schisandra can protect the liver from chemically-induced damage. In humans, one small study in liver transplant patients suggests schisandra can improve liver function. Another small study indicates it may be helpful in combination with other treatments for chronic hepatitis. However, these are uncontrolled trials that are inconclusive. Larger, more rigorous studies are needed to confirm these results.
  • To increase strength and stamina
    There are no human studies that validate this claim.
  • To reduce sweating
    The traditional use of schisandra to treat excessive sweating is not supported in clinical trials.

Schisandra may reduce the effectiveness of some drugs or increase their adverse effects. Patients should talk with their doctors about the possibility of such drug interactions.

  • You are taking drugs that are substrates of cytochrome P450 3A4 or 1A2: Schisandra may increase the risk of toxicity or reduce the effects of these drugs.
  • You are taking drugs that are substrates of P-glycoprotein: Schisandra may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs.

No serious side effects have been reported. At the same time, schisandra is not well studied in humans.

Schisandra can reduce the levels of certain liver enzymes on lab tests.

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For Healthcare Professionals

Schisandra chinensis, Schisandra sphenanthera

Schisandra is derived from the fruit of the plant and is used in traditional Chinese medicine for coughs and wheezing (1), various liver diseases (2), stomach disorders (3), spontaneous sweating (4), and as an adaptogen (5). In vitro studies have shown that schisandra has anti-inflammatory (1)(6) and anticancer (7)(8) properties, and protects against adriamycin-induced cardiotoxicity (9). In animal models, schisandra protects the liver against various toxins (10)(11), has beneficial effects after myocardial infarction (12), enhances endurance and metabolism (13), improves cognitive functioning (14), and exhibits antimicrobial (15), antioxidant, neuroprotective (16), and anti-hyperglycemic activity (17)(18)(19). Active lignans isolated from schisandra, particularly schisandrin A, were found to reverse P-glycoprotein (Pgp)-mediated multidrug resistance of various cancer cell lines to doxorubicin, vincristine, and paclitaxel (20).

Very few human trials have been performed with this supplement. Two small clinical trials suggest improvements in subjects with fatty liver disease using a mixture of schisandra fruit extract and sesamin, a lignan marketed as a fat-reduction supplement (21), and possible benefit for those with chronic hepatitis C virus when used in combination with other oral antioxidants (22). Another small trial of a proprietary herbal combination that included schisandra suggests improved performance of cognitive tasks (23). Schisandra was also found to reduce tacrolimus-associated side-effects of diarrhea and agitation and to improve liver function in liver transplant patients (24). Additional research is necessary to determine actual efficacy attributable to schisandra and to uncover possible interactions or side effects associated with this supplement.

  • Asthma
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Liver disease
  • Strength and stamina
  • Sweating

Lignans in schisandra have been linked to various effects including hepatoprotective (10), antiproliferative, and estrogenic activities (27). In vitro, schisantherins downregulated pro-inflammatory cytokines and mediators by blocking NF-κB and MAPK signaling (1). In animal toxicity models, pretreatment with schisandra lignans increased DT-diaphorase activity associated with enhanced menadione elimination (10), and provided hepatoprotection and improved Phase I metabolism 24 h after carbon tetrachloride exposure (28)(29). Other animal studies suggest that schisandra increases hepatic glutathione levels and glucose-6-phosphate and glutathione reductase activities (17). It also inhibits α-glucosidase activity, thereby lowering postprandial blood glucose levels (19), and can improve cardiac function after ischemic injury by downregulating inflammatory cytokines, activating the eNOS pathway, inhibiting apoptosis, and enhancing cell proliferation (12). In amyloid-beta-induced memory impairment, schisandra increased superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase activities and glutathione levels in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus of mice while decreasing malondialdehyde and oxidized glutathione (14). It also enhanced endurance and metabolism in the skeletal muscle of exercised rats by upregulating PGC-1α expression (13).

α-iso-cubebenol in schisandra inhibited iNOS and COX-2 expression in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated macrophages (6) and reversed septic shock by triggering protective downstream signaling pathways in a mouse sepsis model (15).The anthocyanin cyanidin-3-O-xylosylrutinoside (Cya-3-O-xylrut) has been identified as responsible for its antioxidant activity (18).

In human renal cell carcinoma cells, a schisandra polysaccharide identified as SCP induced apoptosis via caspase-3 and -9 activation, increased PARP cleavage, and inactivation of the ERK pathway (8). Another polysaccharide known as SCPP11 exhibited antitumor effects in hepatic cancer models via increased thymus index as well as serum IL-2 and TNF-alpha levels, and enhanced phagocytosis and NO production (26). Pgp-mediated chemotherapy drug-resistance in various cancer cell lines was reversed by schisandrins through the inhibition of Pgp and total protein kinase C function/expression (20).

Schisandra coadministration increases oral bioavailability of tacrolimus via inhibition of Pgp-mediated efflux and cytochrome P450 3A-mediated metabolism, and reduction of intestinal first-pass effect (30).

No serious side effects have been reported, although schisandra is not well studied in humans. A few minor adverse events, such as sleepiness and cold extremities, were observed in both treatment and placebo groups in one small trial (23).

  • Cytochrome P450 3A4 and 1A2 substrates: Schisandra inhibits CYP3A4 and CYP1A2 and can affect the intracellular concentration of drugs metabolized by these enzymes. Long-term use can also induce CYP3A4 activity (33)(34).
  • P-glycoprotein substrates: Schisandra can inhibit Pgp activity and interfere with the metabolism of certain drugs (35)(36).
  • Tacrolimus: Schisandra can increase blood levels of tacrolimus, an immunosuppressant, in liver transplant patients (24).

Schisandra can reduce levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) but did not change total or direct bilirubin levels (21).


  1. Park HJ, Lee SJ, Song Y, et al. Schisandra chinensis prevents alcohol-induced fatty liver disease in rats. J Med Food. Jan 2014;17(1):103-110.

  2. Sun HD, Qiu SX, Lin LZ, et al. Nigranoic acid, a triterpenoid from Schisandra sphaerandra that inhibits HIV-1 reverse transcriptase. J Nat Prod. May 1996;59(5):525-527.

  3. Panossian A, Wikman G. Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: an overview of Russian research and uses in medicine. J Ethnopharmacol. Jul 23 2008;118(2):183-212.

  4. Lee YJ, Park SY, Kim SG, et al. Identification of a novel compound that inhibits iNOS and COX-2 expression in LPS-stimulated macrophages from Schisandra chinensis. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. Jan 22 2010;391(4):1687-1692.

  5. You JS, Pan TL, Hou YC. Schisandra chinensis protects against adriamycin-induced cardiotoxicity in rats. Chang Gung Med J. Jan-Feb 2006;29(1):63-70.

  6. Ip SP, Yiu HY, Ko KM. Schisandrin B protects against menadione-induced hepatotoxicity by enhancing DT-diaphorase activity. Mol Cell Biochem. May 2000;208(1-2):151-155.

  7. Stacchiotti A, Li Volti G, Lavazza A, et al. Schisandrin B stimulates a cytoprotective response in rat liver exposed to mercuric chloride. Food Chem Toxicol. Nov 2009;47(11):2834-2840.

  8. Lee SK, Kim SD, Kook M, et al. Therapeutic effects of alpha-iso-cubebenol, a natural compound isolated from the Schisandra chinensis fruit, against sepsis. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. Oct 26 2012;427(3):547-552.

  9. Xu X, Zhou X, Zhou XW, et al. Schizandrin prevents dexamethasone-induced cognitive deficits. Neurosci Bull. Oct 2012;28(5):532-540.

  10. Jo SH, Ha KS, Moon KS, et al. In Vitro and in Vivo Anti-Hyperglycemic Effects of Omija (Schizandra chinensis) Fruit. Int J Mol Sci. 2011;12(2):1359-1370.

  11. Chiu HF, Chen TY, Tzeng YT, et al. Improvement of liver function in humans using a mixture of schisandra fruit extract and sesamin. Phytother Res. Mar 2013;27(3):368-373.

  12. Melhem A, Stern M, Shibolet O, et al. Treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus infection via antioxidants: results of a phase I clinical trial. J Clin Gastroenterol. Sep 2005;39(8):737-742.

  13. Aslanyan G, Amroyan E, Gabrielyan E, et al. Double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised study of single dose effects of ADAPT-232 on cognitive functions. Phytomedicine. Jun 2010;17(7):494-499.

  14. Jiang W, Wang X, Xu X, et al. Effect of Schisandra sphenanthera extract on the concentration of tacrolimus in the blood of liver transplant patients. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. Mar 2010;48(3):224-229.

  15. Liang Y, Zhou Y, Zhang J, et al. In vitro to in vivo evidence of the inhibitor characteristics of Schisandra lignans toward P-glycoprotein. Phytomedicine. Aug 15 2013;20(11):1030-1038.

  16. Huang KC. The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1999.

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