What is Schizandra?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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Wu wei zi, or schizandra, is a climbing vine which produces distinct red berries. These berries are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as an herbal treatment for a wide range of conditions. Practitioners of TCM are extensively trained in the use of schizandra, and they may prescribe it for patients who appear to need it. Wu wei zi is also available over the counter in some Asian markets and herbal stores, for people who want to take it independently.

Scientifically, the plant is known as Schizandra chinensis. It is in the magnolia family, characterized by woody stems and a creeping growth habit. It prefers shady locations, and it is deciduous, so it will lose its leaves in the fall and winter. Gardeners propagate schizandra by taking cuttings of fresh shoots in the spring, and many gardeners grow it as an ornamental. Many gardeners are entirely unaware of the medicinal uses of the plant.

In Chinese, wu wei zi means “five taste fruit,” a reference to the fact that the berries taste bitter, salty, sour, hot, and sweet all at once. It contains a number of compounds, and is classified as an adaptogenic plant under the principles of TCM. Adaptogens are herbs which promote a general state of balance, which means that they act in different ways depending on the condition of the patient. For example, a patient who is tired might take schizandra to perk up, while someone who is agitated might use it as a sedative.


Studies on the berries of schizandra suggest that they have antibacterial and antioxidant qualities. They may also be effective for certain heart conditions, and the plant appears to be capable of soothing irritation, including irritating skin conditions. The herb is also prescribed for insomnia, night terrors, coughs, lung problems, depression, and liver disorders. Like many herbs used in TCM, wu wei zi also promotes general immune system health.

It is important to remember that the practice of TCM is quite complex. A practitioner incorporates a number of things into a diagnosis and final prescription. Although people may want to take herbs on their own, it is usually a good idea to consult a Chinese herbalist, as you may have a condition for which other herbs are recommended. It is also an excellent idea to remember to consult a conventional doctor as well, especially for persistent conditions, and you should always disclose the use of herbal supplements and other medications to medical providers.


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I have protein in my urine and high levels of muriatic acid. What would you prescribe for my Kidneys?

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