Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2022 10 26t163715.165

Schisandra – the beauty berry

For centuries, herbs, berries and plants have been used medicinally for their array of health-promoting therapeutic compounds. Schisandra chinensis is a native Chinese berry that is revered for its beauty-promoting benefits and has been used alongside other ancient herbs such as ginseng, goji berries and reishi by Taoist masters. Schisandra’s rich chemical composition and diverse biologically active compounds have sparked attention from cosmetic and health companies, and the berry’s extracts can now be found in several beauty products for reducing ageing and revitalising the hair and skin.

Schisandra chinensis has a long-standing nutritional and medicinal use in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Taoist practices. The vibrant red berries are to thank for the plant’s medicinal powers and are often referred to as “the five-flavoured berry” due to the unique range of bitter, sweet, sour, salty and hot flavours they possess. Schisandra first gained recognition in Russia as an adaptogen herb in the 1960s when it was published in the official medicine of the USSR handbook. Adaptogenic herbs help the body adapt to physical, emotional and mental stress and are incredibly supportive for overall wellbeing.

Schisandra berries contain an array of bioactive compounds including lignans, triterpenes, phenolic acids, flavonoids, essential oils and polysaccharides in addition to being a source of iron, magnesium, manganese, copper and potassium, resulting in the berry possessing the following therapeutic actions:

• Adaptogenic (a natural medicine that helps the body adapt to various forms of stress)
• Neuroprotective
• Liver-protective
• Anti-inflammatory
• Antioxidant
• Detoxifying
• Immunostimulant
• Antiviral
• Anticancer
• Skin-protective
• Cardiovascular-protective

Benefits for beauty

Traditionally, extracts from the schisandra berry have been used to tone and moisturise the skin, encourage wound healing and support blood circulation which carries oxygen and nutrients to cells around the body. Naturally, schisandra berry extracts have since made their way into a number of skin and hair cosmetics and health-promoting products, and interestingly, science is backing up the traditional wisdom of its use for beauty.

Schisandra has been shown to be helpful in purifying and strengthening the protective barrier of the skin, soothing skin irritations and helping reduce both physical and cognitive signs of ageing.

Oxidative stress breaks down cell tissue, causes inflammation and leads to DNA damage in the body, resulting in premature ageing, disease and even cancer. Oxidative stress is caused by a number of environmental and lifestyle factors including diets high in processed foods, sugar and trans fats, radiation exposure, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, certain medications, pollution, pesticides and chemicals.

Schisandra’s antioxidant activities appear to be especially important for anti-ageing and longevity.

Schisandra has been shown to reduce cell death, DNA damage and mitochondrial damage and increase the expression of key enzymes and antioxidants (including glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant) that fight the effects of oxidative stress.

Schisandra’s anti-inflammatory activity also makes it a good choice for healing inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis and inflammatory-mediated acne. A 2015 study on rats showed schisandra extract inhibited ear swelling by lowering skin dermatitis, immune cell filtration and cytokine production, which are all markers of inflammatory skin disorders in humans. Another study conducted in 2016 showed that schisandra extract significantly reduced inflammation associated with acne, promoted collagen production and protected the skin against ultraviolet damage.

How to use

Schisandra has historically been used as a tonic tea and you will be able to find a variety of teas with added schisandra at your local health food store. You can also brew your own tea with dried berries and add in other medicinal herbs such as cinnamon, ginger, liquorice or rose hip for flavour. Schisandra can be taken in a powdered form added to milk or hot water, as a supplement or for a stronger dose in a liquid tincture, which can be prescribed by a naturopath.

Schisandra Beauty Tonic

Ingredients 

  • 1 tbsp dried whole schisandra berries
  • 2.5cm piece fresh ginger, grated
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp manuka honey

Method

  1. Combine the berries, ginger and cinnamon in a saucepan with 2½ cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil.
  2. Take the lid off and let the tea simmer for around 10 mins to help extract the therapeutic properties from the berries and ginger. Be mindful not to let it boil for over 20 mins, as when the berries are over-extracted they taste very bitter.
  3. Strain through a sieve, add manuka honey for extra medicinal support and sip mindfully.

Ema Taylor

Ema Taylor

Ema Taylor is a naturopath, clinical nutritionist and certified fertility awareness educator. For more, visit emataylor.com or @emataylornaturopathy on Instagram.

You May Also Like

pet-friendly garden

Pet-friendly Herb Gardens

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 04 22t140453.766

A healthy smile

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 04 17t142941.179

Adapting to droughts

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 04 17t135704.410

The Path to Body Neutrality