English: Schisandra berries

Chinese: 五味子

Parts used: Dried ripe fruits

TCM category: Herbs that stabilize and bind

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): SourSweet

Organ affinity: Heart Kidney Lung

Scientific name: Schisandra chinensis

Other names: Schizandra berries, Five-flavor-fruits, Magnolia-vine fruits, Magnolia berries

Use of Wu Wei Zi (schisandra berries) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Harvest fruits when ripe, remove the stems and dry the flesh.

Dosage: 2 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies the Kidneys and preserves the Essence. Astringes the Lung Qi and stops coughing. Retains Bodily Fluids and encourages their production. Tonifies the Heart and calms the spirit (Shen).

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Wu Wei Zi may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Dyspnea Spermatorrhea Enuresis Urinary incontinence Night sweats Diabetes Insomnia Palpitations Vaginal discharge Dry cough Asthma

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Internal Heat nor by those with an Externally contracted disease.

Common TCM formulas in which Wu Wei Zi is used*

Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan

Source date: 1615 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Treats Yin Deficiency of the Lungs and Kidneys.

Wu Wei Zi is a deputy ingredient in Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

Read more about Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan

Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Lungs. Transforms congested Fluids.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisChronic asthma and others

Wu Wei Zi is an assistant ingredient in Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang, Wu Wei Zi restrains the leakage of Lung Qi and prevents its depletion by the dispersing actions of the other herbs.

Read more about Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang

Xiao Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Warms the Lungs. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsBronchitis and others

Wu Wei Zi is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Qing Long Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Xiao Qing Long Tang, Wu Wei Zi prevents the leakage of Lung Qi.

Read more about Xiao Qing Long Tang

Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan

Source date: 16th century

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Formula key actions: Nutritive tonic: Nourishes Yin, Blood and Vital Essence of the Heart and Kidney. Clears away pathogenic Heat, clears Deficient Heat. Sedative.

Conditions targeted*: Perimenopausal syndromeChronic urticaria and others

Wu Wei Zi is an assistant ingredient in Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan

Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Nourishes the Heart. Calms the spirit.

Conditions targeted*: AnemiaNonhealing ulcers and others

Wu Wei Zi is an assistant ingredient in Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang, Wu Wei Zi is sweet, sour, and warm. It restrains the Qi and prevents excessive sweating, ensuring that augmented Qi is not dispersed to the outside but turned toward the inside and the Blood.

Read more about Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang

Sheng Mai San

Source date: Yuan Dynasty

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Formula key actions: Augments Qi. Supplies the Yin. Stops excessive sweating. Generates Body Fluids.

Conditions targeted*: Coronary artery diseaseAcute myocardial infarction and others

Wu Wei Zi is an assistant ingredient in Sheng Mai San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Sheng Mai San, Wu Wei Zi prevents the leakage of Lung Qi and generates Kidneys Body Fluids. By tonifying the Kidneys, it also checks
the excessive Qi ascent. 

In working with the deputy herb Dwarf lilyturf root, it is very effective in generating Body Fluids. Together with
the key herb Ginseng, it helps to restore the injured Qi and Yin.

Read more about Sheng Mai San

Fu Tu Dan

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Stabilizes the Kidney Qi. Strengthens the Spleen. Stops leakage.

Read more about Fu Tu Dan

Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Kidney Yang. Strengthens the Essence.

In Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan, Wu Wei Zi nourishes and strengthen the Essence thanks to its astringent nature.

Read more about Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan

Key TCM concepts behind Wu Wei Zi's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Wu Wei Zi belongs to the 'Herbs that stabilize and bind' category. This category of herbs is used for treating abnormal discharges and displacement of Organs. This includes conditions such as diarrhea, discharges from the vagina, penis or rectum as well as prolapse of the Uterus or rectum. It is important to note that herbs in this category only treat symptoms, so one should also use herbs to treat the underlying Deficiency.

Furthermore Wu Wei Zi is Warm in nature. This means that Wu Wei Zi tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Wu Wei Zi can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Wu Wei Zi also tastes Sour and Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sour ingredients like Wu Wei Zi helps with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of Fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Wu Wei Zi is thought to target the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung. In addition to regulating Blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Research on Wu Wei Zi

Schizandra affords a stress-protective effect against a broad spectrum of harmful factors including heat shock, skin burn, cooling, frostbite, immobilisation, swimming under load in an atmosphere with decreased air pressure, aseptic inflammation, irradiation, and heavy metal intoxication.1

In healthy subjects, Schizandra increases endurance and accuracy of movement, mental performance and working capacity.1

Numerous clinical trials have demonstrated the efficiency of Schizandra in asthenia, neuralgic and psychiatric (neurosis, psychogenic depression, astheno-depressive states, schizophrenia and alcoholism) disorders, in impaired visual function, hypotension and cardiotonic disorders, in epidemic waves of influenza, in chronic sinusitis, otitis, neuritis and otosclerosis, in pneumonia, radioprotection of the fetoplacental system of pregnant women, allergic dermatitis, acute gastrointestinal diseases, gastric hyper- and hypo-secretion, chronic gastritis, stomach and duodenal ulcers, wound healing and trophic ulcers.1

Sources:

1. A Panossian, G Wikman (2008). Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: An overview of Russian research and uses in medicine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 118(2): 183-212. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2008.04.020

Use of Wu Wei Zi as food

Wu Wei Zi is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Schisandra berry syrup.