Schisandra, sometimes spelt as “Schizandra” is a genus of flowering plant. More specifically in sports nutrition and bodybuilding, it refers to a specific species, Schisandra chinensis. This plant has a number of beneficial functions ranging from enhancing physical performance to assisting in stress reduction.
Where Does Schisandra Come From?
Schisandra is native to some forests in China and Russia. They are especially popular in Russia where they are commercially harvested for wine, juice, sweets, and extracts.
The list of benefits for Schisandra is extensive. It is a significant part of traditional Chinese medicine and has been studied extensively in Russia and the former USSR.
Schisandra Benefits for Performance
The effects of Schisandra extract on physical performance have been studied in rodents. A single dose was observed to extend the swimming time of mice between 39 and 67%. The effect of appeared to be long lasting, between 2 to 5 hours after administration (Panossian & Wikman, 2008). Likewise, rats given Schisandra were observed to be more resistant to fatigue compared to untreated animals (Panossian & Wikman, 2008).
These performance enhancing benefits may be a result of unique stimulatory abilities of compounds in Schisandra. Much like caffeine, Schisandra is also able to stimulate the central nervous system (Panossian & Wikman, 2008). In addition, there is also evidence of Schizandra increasing nitric oxide levels in human athletes (Panossian et al, 1999), as well as increasing attention and general feelings of wellbeing in human subjects. An additional benefit is that people develop a tolerance to Schisandra at a rate far slower than that of caffeine (Panossian & Wikman, 2008).
All these effects would be beneficial for training by assisting in improving endurance, stamina, and hence training capacity.
Schisandra Benefits for Anti-Stress
Various lab animals have been studied for their resistance to stress after treatment with Schisandra. This includes heat, cold, and various other environmental stressors. Despite this, signs from test animals showed improvements in coping (Panossian & Wikman, 2008). This benefit is easily translatable into weight training as well as weight loss, as these are both stressful on the body and mind. Supplementing with Schisandra may therefore reduce the negative impact of stressors on the body.
Schisandra Negatives, Safety, and Side Effects
Although there have been numerous studies on Schisandra, much of it is unfortunately in Russian and unavailable for access. Although this does not necessarily mean it is invalid or poor research, it does make analysing information difficult.
It is known that Schisandra may have interactions with some medications, such as warfarin (Mu et al, 2006). In addition it is known to inhibit P-glycoprotein (Pan et al, 2006), and may therefore affect the action of medication that depends on P-glycoprotein. To be on the safe side, it is advisable to consult your health care professional if you are using any medication.
Beyond these points, schisandra is well tolerated by many people, which explains its wide spread use through countries like Russia and China. However, considering that it does have stimulatory properties, it is recommended that schisandra should not be taken before bed.
Schisandra Doses & Ingredient Timing
Effective doses have been speculated at being around that equivalent to 1 to 3 g of powdered schisandra or schisandra extract. It can be taken first thing in the morning with food to assist with mental funtion and mood, or an hour before training to boost performance.
Schisandra can be found as an ingredient in various pre workouts for its uplifting and performance enhancing benefits. When looking for schisandra, be sure to search with both forms of spelling “schisandra” and “schizandra”.
Depending on your goal, schisandra can be stacked with a number of other ingredients. In pre workouts, they are often combined with stimulants such as caffeine and other ergogenic ingredients such as citrulline.
Mu Y et al (2006), Traditional Chinese medicines Wu Wei Zi (Schisandra chinensis Baill) and Gan Cao (Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch) activate pregnane X receptor and increase warfarin clearance in rats. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 316(3):1369-77
Pan et al (2006), Dibenzocyclooctadiene lingnans: a class of novel inhibitors of P-glycoprotein. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 58(1):99-106. Epub 2005 Oct 18.
Panossian et al (1999), Effects of heavy physical exercise and adaptogens on nitric oxide content in human saliva. Phytomedicine. 6(1):17-26.
Panossian & Wikman (2008), Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: An overview of Russian research and uses in medicine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 118:183–212