VA Back-to-School Schisandra


Another amazing herb for brain health is Schisandra!

Schisandra is a Chinese herb. The berry is harvested in the autumn and used as either a tea or tincture.

Schisandra has many uses, memory and brain function among them. Specifically it improves concentration and helps calm the mind – something we could all use some help with these days!

It is also used for certain types of asthma, night sweats, and urinary frequency. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it “astringes a leaky jing gate”. Sounds mysterious! The Chinese system of medicine is a whole different approach and language compared to western medicine.

I used Schisandra years ago when taking a semester of Anatomy and Physiology. I needed support in memorizing vocabulary lists including a lot of tedious and boring material, like parts of bones. Schisandra helped dramatically!

I took the tincture by itself and quickly noticed my memory improve. I could store much more info in my brain, as well as study longer and more effectively.

Then something unfortunate happened.

I started waking up at 5 AM no matter what time I had gone to bed! At first I could not figure it out. Then I realized it had to be the Schisandra.

Don’t lose hope however in the powers of Schisandra. It may end up being a great herb for you (or your kid in college) to take, so read on and get to the unexpected-but-good ending!

I knew it had to be the Schisandra because the symptom of waking up at 5 AM was an acute symptom – meaning it started all of a sudden. When a symptom or illness starts all of a sudden, it is usually caused by a change in our routine.

An example of an acute symptom is if we get a rash when we have never had a history of rashes, and realize that we recently switched laundry detergents or started eating some new food.

This is an acute symptom and usually there is a quick way to solve it. If we had always had rashes that came and went and returned again, that would be a chronic condition and it would take longer to clear up.

Back to Schisandra.

My lack of sleep was making me crazy, and I was wired. wound up when I was awake, even though I desperately wanted to sleep. I stopped the Schisandra and within a week my sleep was normal. Then I started again, just a tiny dose of Schisandra. The insomnia began again! Oh no!

I lay off the schisandra until about a week before the final exam and then I did something none of us should do, really. I took it again, knowing that it was not really good for me to be wired and unable to sleep well, but I knew that for one week I would not do permanent damage. I wanted the brain power! So I did what so many students have done and took the calculated risk for the sake of a good grade. I got a great grade on the final, and for the overall class.

And I learned a lot about my body and Schisandra, and herbal medicine. I re-learned that not all herbs work exactly the same for all people, and some herbs have unusual side effects. About every one in 10,000 people or so are going to have some weird reaction to an herb that no one had heard of before. My herb teacher informed me that in his 30 years of working with herbs, he never had a person with a reaction to Schisandra such as mine.

What is even more unusual is that Schisandra is also supposed to help with insomnia! Crazy, eh? But I was the one in 10,000!

So what about that good ending..?

First: Everything I learned, of course.

Second: Schisandra alone was too powerful for me but in combination with other herbs it may have all balanced out and worked just fine. I have yet to try it in combination with other herbs, but when I do, I bet I will not get insomnia.

Third: Just because I had this odd reaction does not mean that you will. If you feel called to try

Schisandra, please try it. If you feel a bit nervous about my insomnia story, start with a small dose, and know you can adjust for your needs or stop using it.

Herbal medicine is both a science and an art. Working with different doses and

combinations yield different results. The more you experiment and work with herbs, the more you know how and when to change these things up.

Of course, we can always talk about this and other herbs you may want to try.  Let me know if I can help.