Schisandra Chinensis: Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Nootropic for Hacking Yin and Yang

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A notable herbal cofactor that enables the body to process other supplements and drugs.

This article is mostly going to focus on finding parallels between Traditional Chinese Medicine and what more recent research is saying about Schisandra and how this squares up with the self-experimentation reports coming out of the Biohacking community online. For more of my own personal experiences, thoughts, and comparisons please see the written and video reviews in the sidebar.

Scientific Research

When it comes to Schisandra Chinensis research, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is an Armenian placebo-controlled, double-blind study of the stress responses of 71 athletes. From its abstract:

Effects of heavy physical exercise and adaptogens on nitric oxide content in human saliva.

These results correlate with an increased physical performance in athletes taking adaptogens versus athletes taking placebo. In contrast after treatment with the adaptogen heavy physical exercise does not increase salivary [nitric oxide] and cortisol in athletes, whereas athletes treated with placebo heavy physical exercise increased salivary [nitric oxide].

Athletic Performance

Schisandra is a hardcore athletic Biohack as it increases circulating Nitric Oxide in the blood. Nitric Oxide has been called the “master signaling molecule” that optimizes cardiovascular function.

Flowstate hack?

It’s popular with joggers and anecdotally potentiates runner’s high, the flow state induced by extended endurance exercise. Author Steven Kotler talks about the hippie speedball, which is a cocktail of marijuana, espresso, and jogging for getting into a sublime flow state. I’ve video blogged about getting into really profound flow states after combining marijuana with Heart Rate Variability training.
So when I get back to Colorado, I will self-experiment with an adaptogenic hippie speedball by adding Schisandra. I bet it will be pretty rad!

The Plant

Is native to Central China and Eastern Russia, it’s a vine that grows up around trees.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Also referred to as Chinese Magnolia Vine, on the Traditional Chinese Medicine spectrum it’s a ‘Qi-Invigorating’ agent in the Yang family of herbs because of its potent anti-fatigue effects.
Schisandra berries themselves (Wu Wei Zi as it’s referred to in China) have 5 distinct tastes supposedly; salty, sweet, sour, pungent, and bitter.

As you can imagine, there’s some debate online as to whether the Schisandra berry contains more Nootropic qualities than extracts of its bioactive agents, whether the whole is greater than its parts.

It’s a Tonic, which I was at first a little confused by, a tonic in Chinese Medicine is nothing like the tonic water you order at a cafe or mix with gin in your cocktail, it’s a rather wide category of herbs that have been used historically to energize different dimensions of the human experience.
In Chinese medicine, there are two categories of Qi tonics; Yin and Yang which correspond to…

  • Yin — Parasympathetic nervous system
  • Yang — Sympathetic nervous system

Schisandra is a full spectrum tonic herb that…

Enters all 12 meridians

  • Lung (肺)
  • Heart (心)
  • Pericardium (心包)
  • Triple Burner (三焦)
  • Small Intestine (小肠)
  • Large Intestine (大腸)
  • Spleen (脾)
  • Kidney (腎)
  • Liver (肝)
  • Gall Bladder (膽)
  • Urinary bladder (膀胱)
  • Stomach (胃)

Nurtures all 5 elements

  • Heart
  • Digestion
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys
  • Liver

5 Elements in Nature and the Body

Tonifies all 3 treasures in Traditional Chinese Medicine

  • Qi (Body)
  • Jing (Mind)
  • Shen (Spirit)

100 Days of Schisandra

Schisandra has a cumulative effect and some authors (who were perhaps reincarnated as Internet Marketers) of some of the seminal texts of Traditional Chinese Medicine recommended taking Schisandra for 100 days straight.

This seems to be an antidote to anhedonia; it turns up the volume on reality, it turns up the brightness on existence, it puts life in high definition. To quote one herbal enthusiast:

i’ve been doing these tonics pretty heavily for the past few years and i have seen pretty dramatic results… i feel as tho i am getting my jing back. like in taoism they speak of returning to being like a child… i feel like this is happening with my health and vitality. the herbs really work, but the more you work on yourself, the more they work with you.

An Energizing Nootropic

As an adaptogen it modulates the hormones up and down, so sometimes it will make you more energetic and sometimes it will make you more relaxed and tranquil. It makes your nervous system more permeable in its responses.
A herbal enthusiast, Thorsten2, on Longecity reports:

Schizandra is best taken chronically and will enhance sleep, libido (to some extent), well being/mood and cognition (to some extent). All in all it just feels brain healthy and if you can handle Rhodiola with it, awesome.

And goes on to say…

Shizandra is supposed to enhance sleep and it did for me even after chronic use. I never noticed anything fatiguing about it or particularly energy enhancing…

On Pubmed

We find several hundred results for Schisandra Chinensis, which include a grand total of four clinical studies, which is kind of underwhelming. One of the criticisms of the adaptogens as a category is that they lack a significant quantity of human clinical studies, compared with the Racetams or B-Vitamins. The explanation posited for this is that since the adaptogens come from the natural world and have been used for thousands of years, it’s more difficult to patent their pharmacological components. So there’s a whole lot less profit motive for researching them.

Keep in mind that a decent double-blind, placebo-controlled human study, costs about as much as a new Ferrari. In between the salaries of the scientists, paying the volunteers, the lab time, the equipment, and what the scientific journals charge for publication — clinical trials run into the six or even seven-figure range. There’s a lot of potential to cut the fat, hack away at the unessential, I’m sure, but it costs about the same as a Ferrari. Unfortunately, there’s a whole lot less motivation to spend that money when you’re dealing with natural medicine. Anyone can plant some seeds in their backyard and grow on their own.

Cognitive enhancer?

There appears to be some debate as to whether it actually improves cognition or whether as an adaptogen it just attenuates negative stress hormone-related effects that retard cognition.
The one double-blind, placebo-controlled study done that indicated a positive effect on human cognition was done using the Adapt-232 formula of which Schisandra Chinensis is just one-third.

The Soviet Formula

Schisandra is one-third of Adapt-232, which I call The Soviet Formula as it was developed and refined behind the iron curtain as a performance enhancement solution by the soviet union for its military, athletes, and space program.

Mir space station

Dr. Victor M. Baranov of the Ministry of Health in Moscow wrote in regards to the goals of herbal adaptogens in the space program…

Dr. Valeri Polyakov

The search for ways to maintain high mental and professional working capacity of cosmonauts at all stages of a long-term flight is the most important task of space psychology.

Dr. Valeri Polyakov was the scientist, cosmonaut, Russian hero, and all-around consummate badass in life, who spent 437 days on the Mir space station to prove that man could survive a trip to Mars. In the tradition of scientists reaching the olive branch of peace out to former rivals in the form of shared research, he shared some of his findings at a seminar in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1996. From the abstract of his paper, The Use of a New Phytoadaptogen under Conditions of Space Flight:

It [Adapt-232] also optimized their ability to endure the changes in (the) gas atmosphere of the spaceship.

The interesting thing about Adapt-232 is that you can’t buy it. Google it. It’s not for sale anywhere. In my research of Schisandra Chinensis, its Nootropic effects are almost always mentioned in reference to Adapt-232. And it’s a bit of special formula of specific extracts in specific proportions, however, you could kind of DIY your own Adapt-232 by picking up pure extracts of…

  • Schisandra
  • Rhodiola
  • Eleuthero

Vs Stress

Historically, it’s praised for its sedative and hypnotic qualities and is used to combat insomnia. From a 2011 Jinan University study:

Fruits of Fructus Schisandrae were used as sedatives and hypnotics in traditional Chinese medicine for a long history… These results suggested that schisandra lignans extract reversed stress-induced anxiety level, changes of cortex monoamine transmitters and plasma corticosterone. The anxiolytic effects of schisandra lignans extract might be related to its anti-stress activity by modulation of hyperactive HPA axis.

Memory Hack

A 2009 Japanese study was quite optimistic about it hacking the memory via the ACh system:

Taken together these findings suggest that schizandrin reverses scopolamine-induced memory impairment, in part, by enhancing cholinergic function, and that schizandrin might be useful for treating memory deficits.

Sources

Science.bio in the USA offers lab-tested, COA-verified Schisandra Chinensis extract with 9%+ Schisandrins.

Order: Schisandra 5:1 Extract

In supplemental form, it’s quite affordable with 30 grams, at least a 3 month supply, of powdered Schisandra 5:1 Concentrate running about $20.

My go-to source for Schisandra in Europe is Indigo Herbs in the UK.

Schisandra Chinensis fruits can be brewed into wines or teas, which sounds antioxidizing and intoxicating to me! Apparently, one of the ways they make extracts is with ethanol. Alas, Googling I was unable to find Omija Cha wine (Omija Su) anywhere online. So if you want your own Nootropic-Adaptogenic wine you will have to give some Schisandra Chinensis fruits to your friend who makes wine.

Downloadable Schisandra?

You may be interested in taking it as an infocuetical — a non-pharmacological, side-effect-free version of the drug that takes advantage of the phenomenon of water memory — which is imprinted on water via quantum collocation and electromagnetism and trippy lights using this device…

If you’re skeptical of Infopathy that’s understandable but I’d urge you to evaluate the scientific evidence (presented in my biohacker review) that downloadable medicine is no longer science fiction…

Eyesight hack

According to one of the most comprehensive titles on Adaptogens

Schisandra increases visual acuity and decreases eye fatigue in tasks requiring extended visual concentration.(p. 103)

Improves Night Vision

Those who depend upon their ability to discern the world between dawn and dusk should consider supplementing Schizandra…

  • Truck drivers
  • Haunted house chainsaw murderers
  • Hosts of monster searching reality TV shows
  • Nightclub bouncers
  • Snipers
  • And Skanks!

Beautifying the Skin

Schizandra has numerous youth-preserving qualities, it makes the skin soft, moist, and radiant. 30 days of consuming Schizandra berries have a noticeable effect on skin complexion.

Sex Hack

As an adaptogen, it unsurprisingly empowers us as sexual beings. It improves blood circulation to the genitals, which enhances sensations for both men and women.
It’s said to create abundant sexual fluids, so if your career aspirations include becoming a pornstar… Schizandra.
I hear there’s a shortage of pornstars in Japan…

Mechanism of Action

The active molecules in it are the Lignans

and the Triterpenoids

The absorption of Schisandrin lignans by the body is not great in water, so it’s a good idea to take them with fatty acids, such as fish oil.

A 2008 Singaporean study of 10 humans:

“In conclusion, this pilot clinical study indicates that the combined administration of sesamin with schisandra extract could improve blood fluidity after 1 week of oral intake and this effect was sustained up to 2 weeks.”

Mitochondria

Part of Schisandra’s antioxidative mechanism is related to Hormesis; it increases Heat Shock Protein expression which fortifies the Mitochondria against future oxidative damage. From a 2012 paper:

The enhanced cellular/mitochondrial anti-oxidant status and heat shock response afforded by SchB can preserve the structural and functional integrity of mitochondria, suggesting a potential role for SchB in ameliorating age-related diseases.

Schisandrin B is of great interest to anti-aging researchers, from a Hong Kong University paper:

The energy failure resulting from mitochondrial dysfunction further impedes brain function, which demands large amounts of energy… The combined actions of Sch B offer a promising prospect for preventing or possibly delaying the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, as well as enhancing brain health.

Dosage

Cofactors

Most of the more promising placebo-controlled human studies including Schisandra were done on the Adapt-232 formula of which Schisandra is just one-third, the other ingredients are the adaptogens Eleuthero and Rhodiola Rosea.

Sesamin
One of the human studies that demonstrated a positive effect on blood flow was using Sesamin extract which is also a Lignan in conjunction with Schisandra extract.

Rhaponticum and schisandra enhance reading comprehension, aptitude, and speed. (p. 94)

Talk about a reading lifehack!

Side Effects

As a stimulant you are going to want to go easy on the dosage, there are some anecdotal reports of mania and insomnia likely resulting in excessive consumption.

Another experienced self-experimenter on Longecity reported:

Restless. Need to keep moving. Don’t care about little mistakes, but am quite accurate with my thoughts and movements. Looks like 300mg is all I need. That extra 100mg afterwards was a little overkill. Blood pressure and pulse are a little high, but not of concern.

Some online have reservations about the potent Schizandriol A extracts, but the downside is quite limited, at least according to violetechos on Longecity:

As far as NEGATIVE effects, its pretty damn benign.I take it often, and I have liver issues.I am very sensitive to depeting drugs, and the worst effect is overstimulation .Nothing like depression,body pains,sickness.

Order: Magnolia Vine (Schisandra Chinensis) (9%+ Schisandrins — Powder, 30g)

Other side effects can include heartburn, acid indigestion, and stomach pain but given its excellent safety profile, I suspect that adverse effects are arising from low-quality, cheap herbs. With herbs, it’s double-important to make sure you are consuming lab-tested, purity-verified organic stuff.

Conflicts

It’s been demonstrated to wash the drug Warfarin out of the body faster, diminishing Warfarin’s effects.

Conclusion

Aside from its wide range of health-empowering effects, I love the stuff for its great taste! My wife and I have taken adaptogenic herbs for years during the wintertime and they’ve kept colds, flu, and COVID at bay. I include it in my digital shopping cart anytime I’m herb shopping.

Originally published at limitlessmindset.com. I’m not a doctor, medical professional, or trained therapist. I’m a researcher and pragmatic biohacking practitioner exercising free speech to share evidence as I find it. I make no claims. Please practice skepticism and rational critical thinking. You should consult a professional about any serious decisions that you might make about your health. Affiliate links in this article support Limitless Mindset — spend over $100 and you’ll be eligible to join the Limitless Mindset Secret Society.

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Jonathan Roseland

Jonathan Roseland

Adventuring philosopher, Pompous pontificator, Writer, K-Selected Biohacker, Tantric husband, Raconteur & Smart Drug Dealer 🇺🇸