Home / Chinese Herb / SCISANDRA FRUIT [五味子, WU WEI ZI]


Name : Scisandra Fruit81851c089ee70b2c22eda28d156c9660_opt

Chinese Name : 五味子

Latin Name : Fructus Schisandra


This herb is the dried ripe fruit of Schisandra chinensis (Turez.) Baill. or S. Sphenanthera Rehd. Et Wils. Of the family Magnoliaceae. Schisandra chinensis is widely distributed throughout northern China, Inner Mongolia, and Korea, where it is known as bei (north) wu wei zi. The latter species is abundantly distributed in central China, particulary the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, where it is known as zhong (central) wu wei zi.

Schisandra fruit is collected in autumn and dried in the sun after removing the fruit stalks. It is used unprocessed, or mixed with vinegar or honey, steamed, and then dried. Schisandra has five distinc tastes. The skin and pulp of the fruit are sweet ad sour, the kernels are pungent and bitter, and the whole fruit is salty. This gives rise to the Chinese name “five flavor seeds.” The plant is a climber and the dried fruit is a small berry, red or purple in color.

Schisandra is a tonic herb that benefits Qi and promotes the production of body fluid, with a slightly laxative effect ; it also has astringent properties. Tonic, aphrodisiac, pectoral, and lenitive properties are ascribed to the plant.

Schisandra fruit is an excellent adaptogenic phytomedicine and a powerful antiaging medicinal herb.

Use of Schisandra Fruit in TCM

Sour and sweet in taste, and warm, it acts on the lung, kidney, and heart meridians.

Effects, Medicinal Uses, and Combinations

  1. Nourishes the kidneys, promotes the generation of body fluids, and arrests spontaneous sweating :
    • For palpitations, feeble pulse, thirst, excess sweating, and night sweating from impaired Qi and yin caused by pathogenic Heat, schisandra fruit is prescribed with ginseng and ophiopogon root (mai dong), as in Sheng Mai San (R-5).
    • For repeated sweating due to debility, schisandra fruit is used with biota seed (bai zi ren), ginseng, ephedra root, and oyster shell, as in Bai Zi Ren Wan.
    • To relieve symptoms of diabetes, schisandra fruit is blended with astragalus root, dried rehmannia root, ophiopogon root (mai dong), and trichosanthes root (tian hua fen), as in Huang Qi Tang.
  2. Produces astringency in the lungs and nourishes the kidneys : for a chronic cough and deficiency-type asthma, schisandra fruit is combined with prepared rehmannia root, cornus fruit (shan zhu yu), and Chinese yam,as in Du Qi Wan.
  3. Invigorates and warms up the kidneys and spleen : for debility of both spleen yang and kidney yang caused by endogenic coldness, diarrhea before dawn, anorexia, loose stools with undigested food, abdominal pain, coldness in limbs, and lack of Spirit, schisandra fruit is often prescribed with evodia (wu zhu yu), psoralea (bug u zi), nutmeg (rou dou kou), ginger, and Chinese dates, as in Si Shen Wan (R-28).
  4. Nourishes the heart and tranquilizes the mind : for insomnia, dreaminess, frigidity, and palpitations, schisandra fruit is mixed with dried rehmannia root, ophiopogon root, salvia root,and wild jujube seed, as in Tian Wang Bu Xin Wan (R-45). It is also used with salvia and acorus, along with other herbs, as in An Shen Bu Xin Wan (R-43).
  5. Hepatoprotective : schisandra is used to treat icterohepatitis, chronic hepatitis, and viral hepatitis. Schisandra powder 30 g three times a day for 30 days is effective , and a synthetic drug called biphendyldimethyldicarboxylate (BDD) is widely used in China as a hepato-protective agent. It is highly effective in normalizing liver functions and has very few side effects. Schisandra was found better than silymarin (legalon) and glycyrrhizin in parallel clinical trials.


In a decoction of 2 to 6 g, or 1 to 3 g in powdered form to be taken orally.


Those with ulcers. Hyperchlorhydria, interior inflammation, or suffering from skin afflictions should avoid schisandra fruit.

Side Effects and Toxicity

At the suggested therapeutic dose, the herb is safe. At higher dosages, stomach burning, gastrointestinal tract discomfort, and poor appetite were reported. No deaths occurred in mice receiving an oral dose of 5 g/kg of the herb or 2 g/kg of schisandrin B. The oral LD50 of ethanol extract of the fruit in mice was 5.1 g.kg. Light  skin-allergic reactions and itching were reported.

Chemical Constituents

Schisandra fruit (S. chinensis) contains a large number of dibenzocyclooctane lignans known as schisandrins A. B. and C, schisandrols A and B, schisantherin A and B, hydroxyschisandrine, gama-schisandrin, and gomisins. Other ingredients include triter penic acid, triterpenic lactones, essential oil, citric acid, and vitamins C and E.

Pharmacological Findings

  1. Good for treating hepatitis, schisandra has been shown to reduce serum glutamic acid-pyruvietransaminase (SGPT) concentration in experimental animals; it also protected and increased the detoxification of the liver cells.
  2. Action on central nervous system (CNS) :
    • Increases the physical and mental power of a person, reduces fatigue, nourishes the brain, and increases performance and learning ability.
    • Regulates both the excitatory and inhibitory action, and keeps the CNS in balance.
    • The whole herb extract is a CNS stimulant ; it increases vision, hearing ability, and skin reactivity.
  3. Adaptogenic
    • Schisandra fruit has similar adaptogenic properties as ginseng and Siberian ginseng. It increases human endurance and resistance to diseases but the effect is weaker than ginseng.
    • It increases ribonucleic acid (RNA), glycogen, and enzymes in the kidneys and gonads.
    • Schisandra aids in ophthalmic darkness adaption and improves eyesight.
  4. Schisandra fruit increases blood circulation, the contraction of heart muscle, lowers blood pressure, and is a cardiac tonic.
  5. Stomachic : it regulates the secretion of gastric juice and increases bile secretion.
  6. Mental sedation: schisandra alcohol extract is a sedative, induces peace of mind and sleep, and improved sleep duration similar to barbital.
  7. Other effects :
    • Schisandra stimulates respiration, and is an expectorant and antitussive.
    • Stimulates uterus smooth muscle contraction.
    • Increases the amplitude and frequency of respiration.
    • The alcoholic extract of schisandra fruit was inhibitory in vitro on the following bacteria : Bacillus anthracis, B. dysenteria, B. neoformans, B. proteus, B. typhosus, P. aeruginosa, S. enteritidis, S. aureas, S. albus , and vibrio comma.
    • Antitussive, expectorant and antiasthmatic properties were also observed.
  8. Cancer prevention : gomisisn A showed a strong inhibitory effect on skin tumors in mice and oral administration of gomisin A showed a weak suppressive effect on tumor promotions in rts.
  9. Oral administration of gomisin A prevented the development of immunologically induced acute hepatitis failure.

Clinical Findings

  1. Clinical studies have demonstrated benefits when used to treat jaundice ang hepatitis. Schisandra has astringent, sedative, and anti-diarrheal effects.
  2. Schisandra fruit extract was used to treat acute intestinal dysentery with effective result.
  3. Schisandra fruit extract was used clinically to treat neurasthenia and to relieve the symptoms of insomnia, dizziness, headache, blurred vision, angina pectoris, and spermatorrhea.
  4. Schisandrin lignans improve activities requiring concentration and coordination in humans.