Schisandra: Natural Hormone Supportive Herb
From my experience hormone balance is not an easy task and it is beneficial to pick critical foods that have multiple benefits for balancing hormones. One of those foods is a beautiful Schisandra berry, which may also be a true anti-aging food as well.
Schisandra in China it is known as a “five-flavor fruit,” because it contains the flavors salty, sour, bitter, sweet and pungent, which, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, all represent many different health properties. This may also explain its earthy taste. Believe me, Schisandra is not the greatest tasting berry in the world! This berry contains compounds called Schisandra, which might help with supporting liver issues, and nervous system issues. Much of this research though, which includes controlled clinical studies with humans, is in China, unfortunately.
Studies also have found that Schisandra can counter the stimulating effect of caffeine. Taking Schisandra can help you cut down on coffee and it will lessen the anxious and shaky symptoms that come with withdrawal. Schisandra also enables you to keep the blood sugar stable and reduces the severity of the headache that always accompanies caffeine withdrawal. It supports the adrenals because Schisandra is known as an adrenal adaptogen, making it a perfect food for the body during stressful times.
Schizandra is also great for protecting the liver from toxic substances in a similar manner to milk thistle, which is the most popular liver-protective supplement and tonic. It can be helpful in the recovery from hepatitis and might act as an anti-inflammatory and as an antioxidant to help protect the liver. For people who have been reading my post about hormones, know how important is the liver for healthy hormones and hormone metabolizing. Schizandra also has been used for the treatment of cardiovascular symptoms associated especially with menopausal symptoms in Korea.
Schizandra helps breakdown and detoxify the body of excess estrogen. The primary active compound in Schisandra is lignans. Lignans are phytoestrogen found in a variety of plant foods. Bacteria in the human digestive tract convert lignans to lignan precursors. They have been known to have weak, but beneficial estrogenic activity within the body. These lignan precursors along with plant’s fiber attach to excess estrogen and help remove it through the body’s systems of elimination. Eating schizandra berry may be beneficial for women with estrogen dominance, endometriosis, PCOS because taking phytoestrogens might help modify the effects of estrogen.
One double-blind placebo study looked at 12 racehorses, all of similar age, temperament, weight, and training and all with high liver enzymes and low-performance issues. After fourteen days, the horses on Schisandra had lower liver enzymes in comparison to the placebo. Fifty percent of the horses on schizandra also had improved appearance and performance. While we are not race horses by any means, we certainly often not carrying for our livers and so some schizandra might help us with our performance issues.
Schisandra is also known as an aphrodisiac and tonic for both female and female sex organs and is commonly used by TCM for “increasing zest for life”. Digestively, Schisandra is a cholagogue, meaning that it stimulates and increases the flow of bile into the intestines. The primary role of bile is to aid the digestion, breakdown, distribution, and absorption of nutrients by the digestive tract; mostly fats and fat-soluble vitamins. When we stimulate bile flow, we improve digestion, and the body can then properly utilize nutrients offered by foods, herbs, and supplements.
Schisandra might be helpful for proper peristalsis (gastric muscle contractions), stress-induced gastric ulcers and regulating stomach acid and it might also help with diarrhea.
I think though the number one benefit for schizandra berry might be the research that states it has anti-aging properties. Schizandra has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities, the two most essential elements in preventing age-associated issues. Studies have also found that it may be helpful with age-related memory loss, and can act as a tonic for the heart. It can be helpful with depression and can support the immune system.
Finally, Schisandra is excellent for our skin! It can give us improved skin elasticity, clearer complexion, and diminished the appearance of wrinkles and scars. Does it get any better than that?
You need to make sure that you have a good source of Schisandra because a lot of it comes from China. I like Nature’s, and they are available in the US. St Francis also makes a good tincture I use. Organic Traditions sells the dehydrated powder in a jar that is 6x concentrated. You can also find loose and dried berries in health food or Asian stores. You can ground them in a coffee grinder.
If buying a supplement, watch out for standardized extracts. Although many science types might recommend this as the preferred version, a standardized extract is usually just one phytochemical found in a plant and does not represent all the chemicals found in the whole plant or in this case, the berry. There are 40 different phytochemical compounds in schizandra – there would have to be for it to do all the amazing things it is credited for. We should be consuming – the whole berry – if we want to get the most from it.
How To Use Schisandra:
* supplements (tablets or capsules)
* liquid extracts
* powdered forms
* organic dried berries
Tonic and teas:
Steep one tablespoon of Schisandra in hot water for tea. To make a tonic use additional herbs like ginger, turmeric or cinnamon.
Simmer 2 tsp. dried berries in 16 ounces of water for 5 -10 minutes and then steep for 30 minutes more, covered. Cool it down, strain, and squeeze the excess liquid from the berries into a glass. Drink 3 ounces, twice a day.
Infusion in juice – Pour ½ cup dried berries into 1 gallon of dark fruit juice. Allow berries to soak for at least 24 hours and strain. Store chilled and take 2 tsp. per day as needed.
Glycerite (glycerin-based liquid extract) – Soak dry berries in glycerin for one month, strain and consume 1 tsp. per day.
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