People often come to the Alchemist’s Kitchen seeking herbal support for anxious thoughts or an inability to concentrate. There are a wide variety of plants that can help, and just as many unique presentations of anxious feelings. Before recommending an herb, or combination of herbs, one of my goals as a clinical herbalist is to assess not only physical but also energetic patterns that exist within the person in front of me. Overarching patterns that span mind, body, and spirit, can help herbalists match a person’s internal ecosystem more specifically to the plants that are right for them.
If you recognize yourself in one or more aspects of that description, you may align well with a medicinal botanical called Schisandra Chinensis. This herb can be a stabilizing force for those who want, or need, to feel held.
Schisandra is known traditionally in Chinese medicine as an ally for those who have “leaky jing”. In other words, someone whose deep energy reserves escape their body, causing disorientation or depletion. Interestingly, Schisandra is also considered useful when that same energetic pattern extends to the physical body – as in a loss of bodily fluids, such as urinary frequency, night sweats, premature ejaculation, and chronically loose bowels.
Schisandra communicates its distinctly gathering energy through its astringency and sour flavor. While Schisandra is thought to contain all the flavors – sour, bitter, pungent, sweet, and acrid – and is therefore called the “five flavored fruit” in traditional Chinese medicine, most people tend to notice the sour element first.
Sour flavors tend to offer a drawing inward of one’s energy. Schisandra illustrates this action well. People find it particularly effective at helping them feel calmer, collected, and focused. Some herbalists use Schisandra in ADHD and ADD protocols, and for clients with memory
impairment. Sour herbs are usually simultaneously astringent, so they tighten and tone soft tissues and mucous membranes. You’ll notice this effect when you suck a lemon and your mouth puckers! Schisandra, therefore, prevents excessive loss of fluids. One might notice the opposite energetic effect with pungent flavors (think cayenne or ginger) which get the blood and fluids flowing outward toward the extremities, enhancing sensations of expansiveness.
Schisandra’s sour flavor and astringent actions reflect the range of chemical constituents that help restrain leaky fluids on a physical level and tone leaky energy on a mental and emotional level.
Schisandra berry, also called Wu Wei Zi in Chinese, has been used medicinally for thousands of years, primarily as a longevity and anti-aging tonic. Studies show that Schisandra protects liver cells, enhances immune and endocrine function, and lowers blood sugar levels. The berries are anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins A, C, and E, making them an excellent remedy for skin health. Schisandra is also used to calm the heart, and restore the function of the lungs.
Schisandra is one of our premier “adaptogens”, meaning that this herb helps in regulating cortisol so that the body can adapt to stress in a healthy way. Adaptogens are incredibly useful in our modern world. These days, we can’t always escape the external stressors of our environment, and adrenal fatigue is becoming a way of life. I often see adaptogenic herbs being used interchangeably, but I notice that they are most effective when paired with a person’s broader energetic patterns. Schisandra is a great choice of adaptogen if you tend toward the “leaky” or “scattered” energetic pattern outlined above.
Schisandra can be taken in a tincture, tea, as a powder in foods and smoothies, or as a syrup. It is a tonic herb, meaning it can and should be taken regularly over a prolonged amount of time, rather than as an acute remedy. If making tea, the berries benefit from a long simmer. Wonderful products featuring Schisandra include our Plant Alchemy Joy Elixir, and Anima Mundi’s Schisandra + Rose or Euphoria formulas.
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