Chinese herbalism is an ancient topic that’s feeling more useful today than ever before. Lately, we’re diving deep through a series with renowned herbalist, Ron Teeguarden, the founder of Dragon Herbs who is widely recognized as the founding father of Tonic Herbalism in the United States. This week, we’re discussing schizandra — an energy-balancing adaptogenic berry that benefits our beauty, brains and sex life. Grab a bottle here — TCM readers will automatically receive 20% off!
The tonic herb schizandra is one of the most popular tonic herbs in the world, consumed by millions of people. It is a remarkable health supporting dietary supplement that may be consumed daily for a wide range of specific and general benefits. Schizandra berries come primarily from Manchuria, where they grow in pristine forests on the side of a huge volcano called Changbai (“Always White”) Mountain, a huge alpine rainforest. Schizandra (sometimes spelled schisandra) berries are called the “quintessence of tonic herbs” because it has many health benefits that exemplify the type of herb known as adaptogens. If there is one dietary tonic herb in the world that you should take every day, it is probably schizandra.
How Schizandra Affects Your Energy
By the standards of Asian health philosophy, it is perfectly Yin-Yang balanced, meaning it helps us maintain metabolic and neurological balance under daily conditions, and even more so when we’re experiencing significant stress. According to Asian health philosophy, schizandra contains the three primal forms of life energy known in Asian health practice as Jing, Qi and Shen:
Jing | Jing is our primal energy that determines how strong we are, how much stress our body can handle, and even how we age and how long we can live. Stress, extreme behavior, overwork and any kind of substance abuse drains Jing, which by Asian philosophy causes us to fall out of balance and to age more quickly. A simple analogy for Jing is to say it is like our battery, which we can recharge, but if it runs out, we’re in real trouble. It must also be noted that Jing is the driving power of your sex life. schizandra has a reputation as an aphrodisiac for both men and women.
Jing can be replenished by consuming certain foods and tonic herbs, and schizandra is one of the greatest of the Jing tonic herbs. Jing tonic herbs are believed to be beneficial to our brain power, to our bones and marrow (which produces our blood, including our immune cells), and our sexual and reproductive functions. Jing tonic herbs like schizandra support our adrenal glands, and this adrenal support is important for those of us, who live busy and stressful lives.
Qi | Qi is our day-to-day living energy. We feel it as our vitality, our functional energy, and our immune capacity. Your organs, your blood, and your tissues rely on Qi to do their thing. We produce Qi by breathing and from the food we eat. Qi tonics help our bodies produce an abundance of Qi.
Qi is the power source of your adaptability. You might think that adaptability is a small issue, but really, it’s among the biggest issues in your life from a health perspective. Every minute of your life, your body and mind are adjusting to the environment and to conditions in your life. It takes energy to adjust to the cold or the heat, or to any hard work—whether it’s working out, shopping or dancing. Scientists talk about adaptability as though it’s the holy grail of survival, but most people take their adaptability for granted. How does your body adapt when you inhale some toxic fumes? How does your body adapt when you drink too much alcohol? How does your body adapt when you spend two stressful hours in a poorly circulated DMV office? Our miraculous human body can adapt to millions of shifting conditions, but we need the energy to perform this constant adaptation.
Qi tonic herbs like schizandra boost our adaptive energy significantly and measurably. That is why scientists refer to schizandra (and a few other famous tonic herbs like American ginseng, gynostemma, Panax ginseng, Rhodiola and Siberian ginseng as adaptogens. People who consume adaptogens regularly (daily is best) find that they have less trouble handling stressful conditions than some of their neighbors. Many world class athletes consume schizandra. Schizandra is believed to be highly protective.
Shen | Shen is a blend of “clarity of mind” and a “happy state of mind.” Shen can also be equated to your mental energy, focus, and even memory. It is a very positive state of mind that is optimistic, centered, loving, compassionate, and giving. We all have the capacity to be a person with radiating Shen, but if we lack the Shen-type of driving energy, we may not feel it and may not be able to manifest it consistently. Schizandra, along with other Shen tonic herbs like reishi mushroom, Himalayan rhodiola and wild ginseng (American or Asian) tend to help us feel emotionally stronger, lighter, and more in tune. Schizandra is well-known to be a very useful herb for supporting mental energy, while at the same time it is calming and centering. Studies have shown that students who consume schizandra do better on exams than the ones who consume coffee or nothing. It would be the same for everybody.
We experience five main tastes. Schizandra is said to contain phytochemicals that stimulate all five of these tastes (sour, sweet, umami, bitter and salty). In Asian health philosophy this is considered to be an indication that schizandra influences five major organ systems: 1) our metabolic system, 2) liver and detoxification system, 3) our respiratory system, 4) our cardiovascular system and our kidney, as well as 5) our brain and reproductive functions (schizandra is a non-sexist herb–it is beneficial to both men and the women).
5 Mind-Body Benefits Of Schizandra
Improves skin Beauty | Schizandra promotes the beauty and health of our skin, which makes it very popular in China. For over two thousand years, it has been the go-to herb for beautiful women in the courts of Asia. It supports the softness of the skin and noticeably helps the skin retain its youthful glow and texture as years go by. For hundreds of years, it was the official daily herb of the Chinese imperial household.
Balances Hormones + Boosts Libido | This tasty herb is famous for women who are sexually active, on a number of levels. However, it is not hormonally a male or female herb, so it is still used widely by both men and women. For women, it is sexually energizing and sensitizing. Many women say that it intensifies sexual experience, and maybe “love experience” as well. Through the centuries, it has been used by women to support sexual fluid secretion. Men also use schizandra for similar purpose. It is mildly, but noticeably aphrodisiac. Legend has it that it improves male sexual endurance, which results in a more intense and satisfying experience (for both partners).
Promotes Physical health | Schizandra can improve physical work capacity. The herb is often consumed to reduce the symptoms of stress such as fatigue and weakness. This is a reason that millions of athletes use it, including some of the most extreme athletes in the world. Schizandra has very positive benefits for our breathing and this is important for those into fitness. In Asia, it is said that schizandra helps the lungs grasp Qi, that is, the energy of the air we breathe – just think of an athlete who doesn’t need that!
Supports The Brain + Nervous System | It supports the health of the brain and nervous system. For the scholars, sages, and kings of Asia through the centuries, this has been one of the main reasons for taking schizandra on a daily basis throughout life. It is believed to be protective, and modern studies support this notion. If you are a believer that your brain is your greatest asset, then you should consume schizandra every day to enhance your brain and to support its function throughout your long life.
Helps The Body cleanse | It supports cleansing the body via the liver. We are all exposed to xenotoxins (environmental pollutants) on a daily basis. Schizandra is a phase I and phase II detoxifier, which means it supports the healthy functions of the liver to neutralized toxins in the liver and to eliminate them safely from our bodies without re-poisoning our cells.
How + When To Consume Schizandra
In Asia, there is a practice known as the “foundation program.” For one hundred days, one consumes schizandra every day. This allows your body to cleanse itself naturally. You should not miss a day or you lose ground. The results should include greater clarity, a stronger body, overt changes to your skin and hair, brightening of the eyes, and the laying of the permanent foundation of the three treasures, Jing, Qi and Shen. One hundred straight days of schizandra will almost certainly have a very positive impact on your mental energy and on your sex life. And most importantly (though you may not realize it), you will become significantly more adaptive, capable of handling stress, and increasing your capacity at work and play
When you are using schizandra, you want to be sure you are using the real herb, which is the Northern schizandra. Some products sold in America are made with a faux kind of schizandra known as “southern schizandra,” which is the wrong species of schizandra because of its very weak action. The Latin name of this faux schizandra is Schisandra sphenanthera.
Unfortunately, many manufacturers in America don’t know the difference, so they buy and sell this variety instead of the real schizandra. It looks similar so it is easy to substitute on the market, especially to American companies that are not experienced in Di Tao herb selection. “Northern Schizandra” comes from Manchuria and is the only real Di Tao (authentic) schizandra. Unfortunately, many American companies don’t know the difference. Real schizandra only comes from Changbai Mountain or from even further north up to Siberia.
You can obtain high quality schizandra in a variety of delivery formats, including tinctures, powders in capsules, and instant granules. All can be excellent. I use all three forms regularly, depending upon what is on my desk or shelf today. Instant granules called schizandra eeTee contain the full spectrum of raw schisandra constituents. The water-and-ethanol tincture will contain all of the thousand or so constituents in schizandra, and this is a favorite way to take schizandra by experts. Capsules that contain the concentrated water-extract of schizandra is also very popular because it is so easy to take a couple capsules a day on a consistent basis.
Schizandra is considered to be a very safe herb. It may be used on a continuous basis, or it may be used intermittently as a boost. Buy a bottle here — TCM readers will automatically receive 20% off!
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.