Schisandra chinensis is a creeping vine with small red berries that is native to Northern China and the Russian Far East. It is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. Schisandra chinensis fruit has been traditionally used as a stimulating and fortifying agent in cases of physical exhaustion, and to inhibit fatigue.
Anti-fatigue Properties of Schisandra Chinensis
Schisandra chinensis first gained recognition as an adaptogen in the official medicine of the USSR in the early 1960’s . Large number of pharmacological and clinical studies from Russian scientist show that Schisandra chinensis is able to counteract the effect of fatigue, increase endurance, and improve the physical performance [1,2]. However, these studies were not controlled. One of the first controlled studies, evaluating Schisandra chinensis as a performance enhancer, were done on horses [2,3,4]. The performance of the race horses was improved after treatment with Schisandra chinensis .
Cao et al.  employed swimming endurance test to assess anti-fatigue activity in mice 30 min after Schisandra chinensis extract was administered. Swimming time of treatmed group increased significantly (p < 0.05) when compared with that of the control group. The combination of mixed extracts of Schisandra chinensis and Chaenomeles sinensis also seem to enhance exercise capacity by lowering lactate accumulation . Researchers also speculated that this may at least in part be related to reduction of skeletal muscle injury .
Schisandra chinensis is also added to sport supplements as a cortisol suppressant. Studies evaluating this report minor effects. Panossian et al.  reported a decline in post-exercise cortisol compared to placebo. Same researchers treated animals with multiple doses of mixed adaptogens (Eleutherococcus senticosus, Schizandra chinensis, Rhodiola rosea, Bryonia alba and Panax ginseng) and reported unchanged cortisol levels, while placebo group had increased cortisol by 200 to 300% .
Other Benefits of Schisandra Berry
Some studies are even showing that active ingredients in Schisandra chinensis can stimulate liver regeneration, prevent liver injuries and inhibit hepatocarcinogenesis (carcinogensis in the liver) as well as lipid peroxidation in rodents [9,10]. Schisandra chinensis has also show anti-carcinogen properties . Although promising, further scientific research is needed to better evaluate effects of Schisandra chinensis on cancer therapy. In vivo studies have also shown that schisandrin, main constituent isolated from the fruit, exhibits anti-oxidant effect . One can also protect himself from inflammation by eating Schisandra berries, study reports .
Schisandra Chinensis Side Effects and Toxicity
Schisandra chinensis is usually known as medicinal plants with few side effects such as toxicity . Acute toxicity studies revealed that no obvious symptom of toxicity or significant changes in general behaviour in mice .
Panossian, Alexander, and Georg Wikman. “Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: An overview of Russian research and uses in medicine.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 118.2 (2008): 183-212.
Hancke, J. L., R. A. Burgos, and F. Ahumada. “Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill.” Fitoterapia 70.5 (1999): 451-471.
- Hancke, J. L., et al. “Schizandra chinensis, a potential phytodrug for recovery of sport horses.” Fitoterapia (1994): 65-113.
Ahumada, F., et al. “Studies on the effect of Schizandra chinensis extract on horses submitted to exercise and maximum effort.” Phytotherapy Research 3.5 (1989): 175-179.
- Cao, S. H., et al. “Evaluation of anti-athletic fatigue activity of Schizandra chinensis aqueous extracts in mice.” African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 3.11 (2009): 593-597.
- Oh, Seung-Lyul, et al. “Effect of HX108-CS supplementation on exercise capacity and lactate accumulation after high-intensity exercise.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 10 (2013): 21.
- Panossian, A. G., et al. “Effects of heavy physical exercise and adaptogens on nitric oxide content in human saliva.” Phytomedicine 6.1 (1999): 17-26.
Panossian, Alexander, et al. “The adaptogens Rhodiola and Schizandra modify the response to immobilization stress in rabbits by suppressing the increase of phosphorylated stress-activated protein kinase, nitric oxide and cortisol.” Drug target insights 2 (2007): 39.
- Kubo, Shoji, et al. “Effect of Gomisin A (TJN-101) on liver regeneration.” Planta medica 58.06 (1992): 489-492.
- Hikino, Hiroshi, et al. “Antihepatotoxic actions of lignoids from Schizandra chinensis fruits.” Planta medica 50.03 (1984): 213-218.
Chan, Shun-Wan. “Panax ginseng Rhodiola rosea and Schisandra chinensis.” International journal of food sciences and nutrition 63.S1 (2012): 75-81.
Guo, Lian Yu, et al. “Anti-inflammatory effects of schisandrin isolated from the fruit of Schisandra chinensis Baill.” European journal of pharmacology 591.1 (2008): 293-299.
Dilshara, Matharage Gayani, et al. “Downregulation of pro-inflammatory mediators by a water extract of Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill fruit in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophage cells.” Environmental toxicology and pharmacology 36.2 (2013): 256-264.