The Legendary Longevity Berry
While you may be adding Goji berries to your antioxidant-rich smoothie or consuming Matcha tea as part of your daily wellness routine, there is one lesser-known superfood that should be at the top of your overall longevity protocol if it is not already. Believed by Daoists to be one of the most preeminent tonics in Asian herbalism, Schizandra or Wu wei zi is a small, bright red berry from a deciduous woody vine native to Asia and Russia. One of the most fascinating adaptogens in Traditional Asian Medicine, it is known as the “five-taste” berry because true to its name it contains the five quintessential flavour profiles such as sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty that correspond to the five element theory of Traditional Asian Medicine of wood, fire, earth, metal and water.
In addition to providing nourishment for these five elemental energies of the body, according to the tenets of Traditional Asian Medicine, Schizandra has the ability to support all meridians and strengthen all three treasures known as Jing, Chi and Shen. Although many in the West have an awareness of Chi, Jing and Shen are not as well known. Jing is the primary essence or energy that determines one’s life span, strength and vitality. Chi is the life force and Shen is the consciousness and emotional energy of the body. According to Daoism, all three are essential for optimal vitality.
First chronicled in Emperor Shen Nong’s herbal compendium in 2700 BCE and used in Traditional Asian Medicine as a tonic for improved endurance, vitality and energy, deficient Lung and Kidney energy as well as a liver tonic, stories of the power of this berry have given it legendary status. In one such tale, after consuming Schizandra for many years, a man by the name of Huai Nan Gong was able to stay dry in water and resist being burned by fire. He was given the name “Jade Girl,” a moniker that signified his eternal youth and radiance. Not only was Schizandra revered as a beauty tonic in the imperial Asian court, but also it was noted for its ability to rejuvenate all aspects of vitality and as such became known as a powerful aphrodisiac. The Nanai hunters of Northeast Asia are said to have consumed Schizandra berries during long hunts to increase stamina, improve night vision and curb hunger.
In the 1960s a larger interest in Schizandra emerged out of the preliminary Russian research on adaptogens and their ability to increase non-specific resistance of the body to a variety of stressors. Schizandra was noted for its ability to increase physical stamina and provide stress-protective benefits. Not only has research indicated that Schizandra is able to improve endurance and performance ability, particularly in situations of stress, it has also been shown to improve mood for those with exhaustion and depression, provide antitumor activity, antioxidant protection from free radicals, improved liver detoxification, increased adaptation to darkness and improved visual function and the normalization of arterial blood pressure in hypertensive individuals.
Schizandra can be consumed in a variety of ways. The berry has a distinctive taste that incorporates all five flavours and is astringent in nature. It may be an unusual taste for some people who have never had an experience with the berry before and may take some getting used to, but the benefits are well worth it. Dried berries, either whole or cut can be boiled to make a tea or used to make a tincture. Adding Goji berries to the tea is a nice way to add a touch of extra sweetness. Consume the tea hot or cold. The whole dried berries can be put into a coffee grinder and freshly milled to a powder to be sprinkled on berries or added to smoothies. I recently tried a 6:1 concentration made from Certified Organic, American grown Schizandra in a powder that was the most incredible form of Schizandra I have ever tasted. Schizandra in a powder form can be added to water, coconut water, a juice, a salad dressing, raw superfood desserts and really any other recipe. Combining Schizandra with other adaptogens such as Holy Basil (Tulsi), Ginseng or Maca can be particularly effective.
It is no wonder that many stories about Schizandra have survived the test of time. An extensive, ever-growing body of research seems to validate many of these folkloric tales. In our stressful 24/7 world, a berry such as this may be indispensable.
Eternal Youth Tonic
This is lovely simple beverage loaded with antioxidants. It offers all the benefits of the energy-increasing adaptogen, Schizandra. There is a lovely synergy between Schizandra berries and Goji berries that has long been noted.
8 oz. water
1 tsp. of Organic Traditions Schizandra 6:1 Concentrate
3 tablespoons of Organic Traditions Goji Berries
1 tsp. of Organic Traditions Ceremonial Matcha
1 tsp. of Organic Traditions Yacon Gold Syrup
Blend all ingredients in a blender. Serve chilled or gently warm (do not boil) in a saucepan after blending.
Renita Rietz is a health and nutrition writer and speaker who educates on the phytotherapeutic potential of indigenous foods and plants for prevention and regeneration.