Schisandra
Schisandra
This information describes the common uses of Schisandra, how it works, and its possible side effects.

Common Name

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

How It Works

Schisandra is a fruit extract used in traditional Chinese medicine, but few studies have been conducted in humans.

Schisandra has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine to treat liver conditions, stomach disorders, and as a tonic to improve vitality. It is also used in various formulas for fatigue and sleep. Its Chinese name, wu wei zi, means five-flavored fruit, to reflect the five flavors recognized in TCM: sour, bitter, sweet, salty, and pungent.

Scientists do not know how Schisandra works, but lab experiments have begun to identify some possible effects. Schisandra has antioxidant activity and appears to protect the liver and nervous system. Other animal studies suggest it may improve mental and physical functioning. Only a small number of studies have been conducted in humans and are too limited to draw any conclusions.

Purported Uses

  • To treat lung problems and coughs
    Although schisandra is used to treat some lung symptoms in traditional Chinese medicine, clinical trials have not 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
    Human studies have not been conducted to evaluate this use.
  • To reduce sweating
    A small trial in women suggests that schisandra may help menopausal symptoms including hot flushes and sweating.

Patient Warnings

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.

Do Not Take If

  • You are taking drugs that are substrates of cytochrome P450 1A2, 3A4, or 3A5: In vitro and animal studies suggest schisandra can affect how these drugs are metabolized. Clinical relevance has yet to be determined.
  • You are taking drugs that are substrates of P-glycoprotein: Schisandra may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs.

Side Effects

No serious side effects have been reported, but schisandra is not well studied in humans.

Special Point

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