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What Are the Benefits of Schizandra Berry?

By Mala Srivastava

Scientifically known as Schizandra chinensis, the schizandra berry is native to northeastern and north-central China. The fruits of this woody vine are globular, red in color and have kidney-shaped seeds. Schizandra berry has been used for more than 2,000 years for healing purposes in Chinese and Japanese medicine, recommended for pulmonary diseases and coughs, notes While this traditional Chinese herb provides many health benefits, talk to your doctor before taking it.

Possible Protection Against Cancer

Eating schizandra berry may protect you against cancer. A study published in the October 2009 issue of “International Journal of Molecular Medicine” investigated the anti-cancer effects of two phytochemicals -- schisandrin and schisandrin C, both found in schizandra berry -- in human leukemia cells. In the study, schisandrin C prevented the growth of cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner, while schisandrin was unable to do the same. These findings led researchers to conclude that schisandrin C may serve as a promising anti-cancer agent.

Improves Cardiac Function

As a cancer medication, adriamycin stops the growth of cancer cells and keeps them from spreading throughout your body. However, it can cause cardiotoxicity, shown through decreased heart function, abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity and congested liver. A study that appeared in the January-February 2006 edition of “Chang Gung Medical Journal” evaluated the protective effects of schizandra berry on cardiotoxicity in rats. Treatment of rats with adriamycin inhibited protein and nucleic acid synthesis, encouraged free radical formation and promoted oxidation of lipids. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage your healthy cells. Administration of schizandra significantly reduced oxidation of lipids, increased the activities of antioxidants and decreased mortality in rats. The study concluded that adriamycin-related cardiotoxicity is linked to antioxidant deficiency, and schizandra treatment helps improve cardiac function and boost antioxidant status.

Protects Against Liver Damage

Schizandra chinensis protects against liver injury caused by a carcinogen called carbon tetrachloride, according to a study published in the journal “Food and Chemical Toxicology” in May 2013. In in vivo study, mice were treated with carbon tetrachloride to induce liver injury. Treatment with schizandra chinensis pollen extract, or SCPE, elevated the activities of antioxidants, prevented the increase in levels of liver enzymes -- alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase -- and decreased free radical formation in the liver of mice. Higher levels of liver enzymes indicate that you have liver disease. The results demonstrated that SCPE possesses powerful antioxidant activities and offers protection against liver injury.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

By adding schizandra berry to your diet, you can protect yourself from inflammation. A study published in the September 2013 issue of “Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology” explored the potential of water extracts of schizandra chinensis fruit to decrease inflammation in macrophages -- white blood cells -- activated by lipopolysaccharides. The results showed that water extract of schizandra fruit successfully restricted the expression of inflammatory substances in macrophage cells.

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