The Berry With A “Do-it-all” Reputation

When you start looking into plants for all their healing properties, you begin to understand that every single plant you encounter has something magical to offer. But there are few that have stood out since ancient times, and one of them is a beautiful red berry from China called Schisandra. It is known to be an ultimate balancer, and with the sheer amount of things this one plant can do it is no wonder that this has been a cherished herb for centuries in China. There, it is called Wu Wei Zi, which means “Five Flavor Fruit” because it has all the five flavors including bitter, sweet, sour, pungent, and salty, all in one berry. To those who use herbs, this means a great deal because each flavor has its unique medicinal actions as well as characteristics we must consider in matching it with people. No one herb has only one taste, but not too many have all five either. This well rounded-ness in flavor sums up the Schisandra berry’s healing scope, which is that it pretty much does everything.

Traditionally, it has been used to protect and strengthen the liver, as a lung tonic, to fortify the nervous system, to reduce stress, bring on mental clarity, strengthen the respiratory and kidney function, libido and reproductive issues, for prolonged labor, balance endocrine function, for skin conditions, balancing the immune system, concentration, insomnia, depression, and it is also known to “calm the heart”.  It seems there is no organ or system that would not benefit from this herb.

Because it has such great regulatory effects on many of our systems, it is considered an Adaptogen, and has been used so since ancient times. Adaptogens bring deep adaptability to stressors in our physical, mental, and spiritual bodies by strengthening the systems. Schisandra especially excels in its ability to bring balance to all body fluids. Its astringent quality is particularly great in tightening up any leaky, damp constitutional patterns such as a chronic nasal drip, night sweats and edema, for instance. Spiritually, it has the ability to strengthen and support the core integrity of a person, bringing one stability, centeredness, and boundaries. It is often indicated for those whose energies are leaking out, causing difficulty staying focused in life. It can encourage those who fear growth and can bring stability to those going through change or challenging times.

The best way to enjoy this berry’s unique taste and medicinal benefits is to decoct (simmering the berries) it. Traditionally it is soaked and strained first. It is considered a very safe herb unless you are pregnant, but if you are interested, it is best to consult an herbalist to see if it makes sense to incorporate it into your lifestyle.

— Reported by Maya Robinson

We Tried Schisandra Berry Tea

To enjoy the amazing health benefits of schisandra berries, we tried making tea from dried schisandra berries. We noticed a distinctive herby smell upon opening a package. It is the aroma you smell when you enter a Chinese herbal medicine store that carries hundreds of herbs. It is interesting that only one herb gives off such a well-balanced herb smell. This explains why the berry is called “five flavor fruit.”

It tastes extremely sour but refreshing like lemon juice. Distinctive bitterness follows the sourness.

1. In a pot, put ½ tablespoon of dried schisandra berries in 1 cup of water, and simmer for 20-30 min.
2. Strain the tea and savor as is.

Maya Robinson is a Brooklyn-based writer, coordinator, herbalist, and founder of Rooted Things.

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