Wu Wei Zi – Schizandra fruit – “Five Flavor Seed”

Nature: sour, warm

Enters: Lung, Kidney, Heart

Actions: Strongly astringes Lung Qi, stops coughing; mildly nourishes kidney Yin; generates body fluids; stops sweating; controls Jing; stops diarrhea; quiets the Shen and calms the heart.

• Lung deficiency or Lung/kidney deficiency: asthma and cough, especially chronic (inhibits leakage of Lung Qi above, nourishes kidney Yin below).
• Yin deficiency: night sweats.
• Yang deficiency: spontaneous sweating.
• Body fluid injury: thirst.
• Kidney deficiency: seminal emission, including nocturnal, vaginal discharge, frequent urination.
• Kidney and spleen deficiency: chronic/daybreak diarrhea, seminal emission.
• Kidney and heart Yin deficiency with blood deficiency: insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep, palpitations, irritability.
• Skin disorders.
• May improve liver function in hepatitis: reduces liver enzyme levels (particularly SGPT).
• Stimulatory effects: improves reflexes, stimulates respiration through a direct effect on the CNS: helps resistance of respiratory depression from morphine.
• Can induce/promote labor.
• Increases visual acuity and visual field.
• Raises acuity of tactile discrimination.
• Adaptogenic.
• Beneficial in neurasthenia.
• Soak in 80-proof alcohol as a medicinal wine for itchiness and irritation of the skin associated with a wind rash.
• Crush before using.
• Use dry for deficiency heat.
• Use wine-prepared for tonification.
Michael & Leslie Tierra: Inhibits loss of physical and mental energy. Its spirit calming effects lie in its ability to heal and prevent loss of psycho-physiological energy.
• Useful for those who tend to feel agitated or scattered.
• Can be taken in wine to calm the heart/Shen.
Hong-Yen Hsu (Oriental Materia Medica): Excites the CNS, increases brain efficiency, regulates the cardiovascular system to improve circulation, antitussive, expectorant, stimulates uterine smooth muscle, strongly antibacterial, cardiotonic, analgesic, cholagogue.
Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine:
• Insomnia and Memory Loss:
Wu wei zi can nourish Yin and harmonize Yang, astringe Yang into the Yin, balance the zang-fu organs, calm the shen and strengthen the will. Li Pei Shen has an extensively used formula called Wu Wei An Mian Tang, containing Wu wei zi, Fu shen, He huan hua, and Fa ban xia. It is very effective at treating stubborn insomnia.
Typical daily doses: Wu wei zi 50g, Fu shen 50g, He huan hua 15g, Fa ban xia 15g
• Chronic Fatigue and Menopausal Symptoms:
Liu Zhen Ji often used a large dose of Wu wei zi to treat chronic fatigue with difficult recovery after extreme physical labor, and menopausal symptoms.
Typical dose for menopausal symptoms or extreme physical exhaustion: 100g/day.
It is recorded in Yong Yao Fa Xiang that Wu wei zi has the function to tonify the source Qi and astringe dispersed Qi. Modern pharmacological research shows that Wu wei zi can improve human intelligence and efficiency. At concentrations of 5 to 10 mg in the bloodstream, Wu wei zi can improve the attention and balance movement by affecting muscle chemistry. (It also works through enhancement of the cortex.) Wu wei zi can stimulate the smooth muscle of the uterus, so it is not recommended for pregnant women.
• Prevention of Asthmatic Bronchitis:
blockage and rebellion of Qi in the bronchi: recurrent bronchial spasm, shortness of breath, coughing, expectoration of mucus and wheezing
Li Zhen Lin used a method which had been passed on in his family for the treatment of night sweats – application of Wu wei zi to the navel – for a patient who also had asthmatic bronchitis. When the night sweats were gone he found that the asthmatic bronchitis was cured as well. (Overall efficacy rate is about 85%.)
Method of application: grind raw Wu wei zi to a powder and add 70% ethanol. Mix to form a paste and save in a bottle. Take an egg-sized amount of paste, put on the umbilicus, cover with plastic wrap and use tape to fix it in place. It is usually applied before bed and removed the following morning. Re-evaluate the patient after 3 20-day courses.
Pharmacological research shows that Wu wei zi can enhance the body’s defenses against irritants and improve function of the adrenal cortex and the immune system. Shen Que [CV-8] has a biao-ne relationship with the Du Mai, connects with the twelve meridians, five zang and six fu organs, and joins the upper and lower body. Medical research shows the umbilicus is the last place to close during the development of the embryo. Beneath it, there is no adipose tissue, but a number of large blood and lymph vessels and nerves. From an anatomical perspective, the umbilicus is thus an excellent passage for absorption of topical herbs. The properties of Wu wei zi penetrate this passage to act on the human body.
• Treatment of Viral Hepatitis:
Research has shown that Wu wei zi can decrease glutamine- alanine transaminase, the enzyme which converts glutamic acid to alanine – necessary for propagation of the hepatitis virus. The key components in Wu wei zi that can decrease glutamine-alanine transaminase are in the seed of the Wu wei zi fruit. So the correct way to prepare Wu wei zi is to bake it and then grind it into a powder. Take the powder, 3g at a time, three times a day. It also can be made into pills with honey. If cooked in a decoction, it must be ground first.
When using Wu wei zi to lower glutamine-alanine transaminase, we need to be cautious. After glutamine-alanine transaminase is back to normal, we should decrease the dosage of the Wu wei zi. If we use only Wu wei zi to lower the glutamine-alanine transaminase level, it is easy for the patient to relapse. When jaundice appears we should move the blood and dispel blood stasis. It is better to disperse the pathogen than to astringe it. Sometimes only using Wu wei zi can trap the pathogen inside and the disease will progress to severe jaundice or cirrhosis of the liver. Therefore, the best way to treat hepatitis is to combine Wu wei zi with some herbs to move Qi and blood and dispel blood stasis.
• Diabetes:
Wu wei zi is very effective at treating Type II diabetes mellitus (non-insulin dependent). The source of the disease is related to deficiency of the prenatal yuan Qi and postnatal imbalance, causing kidney deficiency and leakage of the Jing, blood, and body fluids. Wu wei zi’s sweet taste can strengthen the spleen, and the sour can astringe. In this case, astringing means storage. The kidney is in charge of the storage of Jing, so Wu wei zi is a key herb to tonify the kidney and treat diabetes. Use a large dosage of Wu wei zi and make it into pills. If the patient has hypertension, add Yi mu cao, and Huai niu xi. If the patient has high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, add Jue ming zi, He shou wu, Dan shen, and Shan zha. If the patient has coronary artery disease, add San qi, Jiang xiang, and Tian hua fen.
The Lung is the upper water passage and the kidney is the lower water passage. Insufficiency of the upper water passage and leakage from the lower water passage are the key causes of polydipsia and glucosuria in diabetes. Wu wei zi enters the Lung and kidney, and it can astringe the Lung and tonify the kidney – this is how it can ease thirst and prevent the leakage of Jing.
• Itchiness and Dryness of the Throat:
When treating dryness and itchiness of the throat, the first herb to consider is Wu wei zi. Wu wei zi nourishes body fluids, eases dryness, and also works for itchiness caused by allergies. When Wu wei zi is added to Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang, Zhen Yue Tang, and Yang Ying Qin Fei Tang, the sour flavor combined with the sweet can produce Yin and body fluids, ease dryness and benefit the throat. This method is widely used in chronic pharyngitis caused by Lung and kidney Yin xu or dryness and itchiness of the throat after chemotherapy. It follows the idea that sour and sweet can produce Yin, as recorded in the Nei Jing.
When Wu wei zi is added to formulas such as Yu Ping Feng San, Jin Fang Bai Du San, Qing Fei San, etc., the sour flavor of Wu wei zi can balance the acrid herbs such as Fang feng, Jing jie, Bo he, etc. In this way, we can disperse pathogenic factors and at the same time astringe the Qi and body fluids to stop the itchiness of the throat. Clinically we use these combinations to treat cough with itchiness and dryness of the throat due to allergic pharyngitis.
Wu Wei Zi Can Constrict the Pupils and Stop Tearing:
It was written in Yong Yao Fa Xiang that Wu wei zi can astringe dispersed Qi and constrict enlarged pupils. It was explained in Yi Xue Zhong Zhong Chan Xi Lu that the sour flavor of Wu wei zi can enter the liver, and the liver opens to the eyes, so Wu wei zi can “astringe” dilated pupils. Because tears are the fluid of the liver, and Wu wei zi enters the liver, it can astringe tears also. However, it cannot treat all forms of pupil dilation and tearing. Due to its warm nature and sour taste, it can treat symptoms caused by liver and kidney deficiency or liver Qi consumption. It was recorded in Yan Ke Liu Jin Fa Yao that Wu wei zi is good for treatment of eye problems caused by liver Qi stagnation, excess heat in the Lung, or spleen Qi xu with dampness.
Three additional guidelines to consider when using:
1. Large doses, from 10 to 20g, can be used with no side effects from long-term use.
2. It can be combined with a small dose of Gan cao, so as to blend sweet and sour and produce Yin. This combination will strengthen Wu wei zi’s nourishing function, and it can be taken for a long time.
3. When cooking Wu wei zi in a decoction we must grind it into a powder first, just as Zhang Xi Chun said. Wu wei zi’s skin is sour and its seed is acrid. So as a whole (when ground to release the contents of the entire fruit and seed) its astringing and dispersing functions are balanced.
• Topical Use for (Non-Healing) Ulcers:
After cleaning the surface of the ulcer, apply a small amount of Wu wei zi powder and cover with sterile gauze. Change the gauze every other day.
When applied in the clinic, we need to wait until all the toxins and unhealthy tissue on the surface are gone. Be cautious not to apply too much powder, because too much will form a scab and cover the surface, which prolongs healing time. Apply a thin enough layer of Wu wei zi powder so that the tissue beneath is still visible.
Dui Yao (Sionneau): With Gan jiang to effectively warm the Lungs, transform phlegm, stop cough, and calm asthma. For indications such as cough and/or asthma with profuse, clear, and white phlegm due to cold in the Lungs, Lung Yang deficiency, or phlegm-cold. For these indications, the combination is used in Xiao Qing Long Tang accompanied by Xi xin. For more details on the mechanisms of the combination of Wu wei zi and Gan jiang, see Gan jiang.
Examine.com: • Bioavailability of Schisandrin lignans is poor in water, and can be enhanced in the presence of fatty acids or a good solvent. Although most lignans appear to be absorbed, some have a relatively greater absorption than each other and they can increase each other’s absorption.
• In general, ethanolic extracts of the fruit are preferred due to higher extraction of lignans. The ethanolic extract per se is sometimes dubbed Wurenchun in traditional chinese medicine.
• Despite all lignans being bioactive and of concern, Schisandrin and y-Schisandrin tend to be seen as the ‘main’ lignans; the comprise 0.5% and 0.3% of the Schisandra fruit by weight, respectively and on average.[3] The lignans tend to be named related to either the plant (lignans that sound like Shisandra) the Japanese tea Gomishi made from Schisandra berries (Gomisin lignans) or the Chinese name for the ethanolic extract of Schisandra, Wuweizi (some of the nortriterpenoids).
• The lignans are also found in the shoot and leaves, just in a higher concentration in the fruits.[13][15] Some of them possess an anti-oxidant capacity.[16] It has been estimated that maximum value of total lignans reaches 6-11% at flowering in the stem and bark of Schisandra Chinensis, in which 3-8% was either Schisandrin, Schisandrol, or Gomisin A.
• Has potential to interact with a large range of pharmaceuticals, and should be used with caution in drug-drug combinations
• Schisandra interacts with Warfarin by increasing clearance rate; consult a doctor prior to using Schisandra fruit extracts if using Warfarin.
• The entire fruit of Schisandra has been shown to activate the PXR receptor in rats, and increased Warfarin clearance rate.[1] It (in reference to Schisandrol B in particular, but also the entire class of lignans in Schisandra[24]) also acts as a P-glycoprotein inhibitor and can increase circulating Paclitaxel concentrations in rats[25] and 300mg fruit extract has been shown to increase the Cmax of talinolol by 51% and the 24-hour AUC by 47%, approximately double the potency of 120mg Ginkgo Biloba.
• Schisandria Chinensis fruit extract is able to inhibit the CYP3A4 enzyme[27] which metabolizes over 50% of pharmaceuticals; this inhibition may be due to the Lignan components, specifically Schisandrin A and B[28] and more potently with Gomisin A.[29] Despite a roughly equipotent inhibition of CYP3A4, the combination Kampo therapy including the fruit extract (Shoseiryuto) did not actually alter subsequent pharmacokinetics of nifedipine, a tracer drug.
• Schisandra lignans as hormetic anti-oxidants underlies most of the therapeutic, preventative, and (theoretically, not yet demonstrated) life enhancing properties of Schisandra Chinensis in most organ systems Schisandra has been demonstrated to reach (brain, liver, lungs, kidneys, spleen, and heart).
• Circulation has been shown to be improved by approximately 9% after consumption of Schisandra at 130mg daily in persons who, although otherwise healthy, had slightly impaired blood flow.
• The direct mechanism may be (in part) due to weak agonism of Estrogen receptors,[41] which increases activity of the NO-cGMP pathway and induces endothelial relaxation. Increase Nitric Oxide circulating after ingestion of about 360mg Schisandra Chinensis extract has been noted in human athletes of both novice and elite caliber.
• In part, subjective improvements in cognition can be attributed to placebo or reductions in stress. Currently, the only human study on cognition related to Schisandra has been conducted under conditions of stress.[45] Schisandra seems to possess adaptogenic properties, reducing the biochemical markers of perceived stress; this effect has been recorded as reductions in corticosterones, and reductions in stress-induced liver damage.
Another possible mechanisms of improved cognition is pertaining to acetylcholine, whereas consumption of Schisandra Chinensis fruits is associated with inhibiting Acetylcholinesterase (thereby increasing levels of acetylcholine) and simultaneously possessing the capacity to enhance Cholinergic signalling in the presence of a ligand.
• Schisandrin B appears to be an active lignan in protecting the heart tissue from myocardial infarction damage via glutathione (primarily in the cardiac mitochondria[51]), but only when preloaded suggesting a preventative effect rather than rehabilitative.
• There is biological basis for claims of Schisandra Chinensis fruit extract (some of the lignans) to benefit the heart organ itself, and it appears to induce these benefits by a hormetic (induce a bit of harm, reap a greater amount of benefit) mechanism.
• Schisandra Chinensis extract appears to be able to increase blood flow and nitric oxide bioavailability, which can compliment the previously mentioned cardio-protective effects.
• In general, research from Russia past suggests Schisandra Fruit extract is able to exert an adaptogenic effect and reduce stress from abnormal temperatures.
• A study in rats suggest that one of the lignans from Schisandra, Deoxyschizandrin, was able to increase memory and cognition in mice with excessive beta-amyloid pigmentation; this was hypothesized to be secondary to its anti-oxidative abilities, and suggests Schisandra may help Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms.[74] Schisandrin B also exerts a general protective effect on scopolamine-induced memory impairment.[75] In this latter study, a preservation of glutathione levels was seen in rats subject to Schisandra.
• Schisandrin was also implicated in enhancing M1 receptor (cholinergic) neurotransmission as assessed by oxotermorine-induced tremors, able to enhance the tremoring effects of the drug while not confering any tremors on its own at this dose; oral doses of 1 and 10mg/kg bodyweight water extract were insignificantly different. [46] Injections of 175mg/kg Schisandrin do induce convulsions, however.
• In accordance with traditional usage of Schisandra as a hypnotic and sedative (and to treat insomnia, historically[77]), a study in mice found that oral administration of 100-200mg/kg bodyweight Schisandra extract was able to attenuate rises in catecholamines and cortisol associated with restraint stress and increase the amount of anxiolytic behaviours of mice (relative to control).[77] Schisandra was more effective than Diazepam at normalizing adrenaline and serotonin changes in stress, but not dopamine.[77] This reduction in activation of the HPA (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal) axis seems to extend to exerise, where there is also noted attentuations in cortisol.[69] In rats subject to the same restraint mentioned previously (a research model for Anxiety and Stress Relief), it was found that stress was able to increase tumor growth in rats already harboring tumors; 100-200mg/kg oral Schisandra fruit was able to normalize the immune system biomarkers and oxidation in test rats and reduced the amount of hepatic metastatic nodules.[78] This anti-stress effect has been somewhat replicated in a human study using Schisandra which noted that cognition, accuracy and attention was increased during periods of study by stressed persons using the supplement relative to placebo, but this study was confounded by Siberian Ginseng and Rhodiola Rosea which also share an adaptogenic property.
Without a prior stress, administration of Schisandra at 25-100mg/kg demonstrated an anxiolytic effect and promoted sedation and sleepfulness in rats.
• A study delineating how Schisandra affects the liver practically found that both the anti-oxidative protection (mediated via glutathione induction) and anxiolytic effects of reducing corticosterone were crucial (as psychological stress may adversely affect liver function[89]).[85] Furthermore, Schisandra offers a protective effect on hepatic (liver) tumor cells that are responsive to stress.[78] On the anti-oxidant side of things, induction of glutathione (S-transferase and reductase) and buffering anti-oxidant status prior to chemical insult has been demonstrated to protect against aflatoxin,[90] cadmium,[90] Hepatitis C,[91] and carbon tetrachloride.[92] It is said to confer a protective effect that is not specific for a toxin, but instead general.
• In regards to liver enzymes; Schisandra lignans can reduce a stress-induced increase of ALT from 96.7±6.3IU/L to 29.70-34.76IU/L, with 100mg/kg being more effective than 200mg/kg; the control group in this study had ALT levels at 17.5 ± 4.7IU/L.[85] These benefits have been noted in humans with 260mg Schisandra extract plus 10mg Sesamin daily, and alongside the reductions in liver enzymes (ALT, AST) the increase in anti-oxidant enzymes (glutathione, reductase) as well as a reduction in fatty liver and inflammatory markers was seen; no significant influences were noted on bilirubin.[93] A study on blood flow in humans using half the dose of the previous study found increased blood circulation with no influence on liver enzymes; these humans were healthy, so either the dose or prior disease state may account for the discrepancy.[40]
• It has been demonstrated that Sheng Mai San results in better bioavailability of Schisandrin (a lignan used as biomarker) than does a basic aqueous extract of Schisandra fruit delivering the same about of Schisandrin.[101] Whereas isolated Shisandrin at 5mg/kg delivered an AUC of 31766.4+/-7551.1ug/mL, the AUC from Schisandra was 70209.1+/-29155.0ug/mL and from the Sheng-Mai-San concoction 116697.4+/-35816.4ug/mL.[101] This is a 121% enhancement of average AUC using the whole plant, and a 267% enhancement of average AUC using the three herbs.

Dose: 1.5-9 (6-9g as tonic, 1.5-3g for chronic cough)

2 comments on “Wu Wei Zi – Schizandra fruit – “Five Flavor Seed”

  1. P T Loh says:

    Very good details on Wu Wei Zi. I’m a strong advocate of TCM and received treatment for liver cancer by a TCM physician in Qingdao. After 8 months of medicine, my liver cancer is no more. There is no hospital stay and all the necessary if I opted for surgery by Western doctor. Carry on your good work to provide extensive information on TCM treatment and herbs

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