What is Schizandra and Fringetree and What Are the Side Effects?
Answered by: Robert Newman, L.Ac.
Question from: Newson
Posted on: March 09, 2004

I have Hep C and I have had treatment. It did not eliminate the virus but it lower my viral count and my enzymes are normal now. There is a product out, a vitamin which contains some herbs. Can you tell me what Schizandra and Fringetree are and what are the side effects? I do have high blood pressure. I currently take Premarin, Synthroid, Mycardis HCT, Verapamil and Prilosec. I would like to order the vitamins, Hephelpers, but I am not familiar with these herbs.

If you see a herb listed in a remedy as "Schizandra," it is generally referring to Schisandra chinensis, or Chinese Magnolia Vine. This is a woody, perennial vine which is found in northeastern China. The fruit with the seeds still present inside is a well-known herbal medicine in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In Chinese, it is commonly called Wu Wei Zi ("woo way zih," or "five-flavored seed"). It’s properties are that it’s sour and warm, and it is said to affect the Kidneys, Lungs and Heart. It is categorized as an herb that "Stabilizes and Binds" -- this means that it is traditionally used to reduce or stop the symptoms in conditions where there are abnormal discharges from the body (these are situations of fluid or "Qi" loss involving problems such as incontinence, nightsweats, long-term diarrhea, etc., and these symptoms are making the person even weaker, which in turn causes additional fluid losses, and in turn causes more weakness, etc.) or prolapse of tissues or organs (such as hemorrhoids, prolapsed uterus, etc.). These type of herbs are used when these kinds of symptoms are caused by weakness (as opposed to acute inflammation) -- due to old age, chronic illnesses or damage from harsh or inappropriate herbs or drugs.

Wu Wei Zi has been called a high-grade herb in TCM. One reason is probably due to the fact that it is very useful for holding in fluids and stopping loss due to weaknesses (for: chronic dry coughs, loss of voice, difficult respiration, asthma and shortness of breath that all become worse with more coughing and any exertion; spontaneous sweats at any time of the day; night sweats; chronic diarrhea -- often in the early morning with undigested food; nocturnal emissions; spermatorrhea; whitish and odorless vaginal discharge; excessively frequent, copious, painless and clear urination). And an even more likely reason is because it is also a good nourishing, tonic herb, beneficial for nourishing the Yin (fluids and material aspect) of the Kidneys and Lungs, and nourishing the Yin and Blood of the Heart to calm the spirit (for: weakness, dry cough, palpitations, anxiety, insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep, spermatorrhea and chronic diarrhea -- it is probably also addressing these symptoms through some strengthening of what TCM calls the Kidney Essence and Kidney Qi -- this can be partly correlated to what would be thought of as a strengthening of the adrenal glands, from a western physiological approach).

From a strictly western research standpoint, it has been found to stimulate the central nervous system and improve mental alertness and reflexes, stimulate non-specific immunity, and improve cardiovascular function. It has been used in treating diabetes and has demonstrated some anti-inflammatory capabilities. In connection with its traditional tonic functions listed above, research has labeled it an "adaptogenic" herb, believed to improve work performance, build strength, reduce fatigue, help oxygen utilization, and increase endurance, immunity and concentration (these benefits would fit in rather well with the idea that it strengthens the adrenals or "Kidney Essence and Kidney Qi"). And of particular significance to your situation, Wu Wei Zi has shown significant protection to the liver from damage due to various drugs, chemicals and viral infections. This has included an ability to lower elevated liver enzymes such as SGPT in such instances (I have also observed this benefit clinically in a number of my patients). So Wu Wei Zi has a known hepatoprotective function. Also, there was a particular study done in China that employed a herb formula containing 4 herbs, including Wu Wei Zi, to treat chronic hepatitis, and it had a 97% rate of effectiveness, significantly helping 33 of 34 patients. This beneficial effect on the liver may come partly from various types of compounds in Wu Wei Zi known as lignans--particularly ones found in the seeds--which have shown usefulness in treating both chemical- and viral-induced hepatitis and liver cancer.

It is generally considered a very safe and gentle herb when used in typical traditional dosages: 6-9 grams as a decocted or infused tea or 1-3 grams as a powder. And when used in combination with other herbs in a formula, it can even have a milder effect. But as a sour herb, it is considered a possible aggravant with stomach ulcers, excess stomach acidity or acid regurgitation problems (the sour taste tends to increase gastric secretions) -- in this situation, one must be careful using Wu Wei Zi. I noticed that you said you are using Prilosec, so I would guess you have a problem with stomach acidity. You may want to be cautious with using Wu Wei Zi: this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to use it, but if you do try using any product with Wu Wei Zi in it, you should probably start slowly and watch for any acidity aggravation. It also has the potential to enhance the sedative effects of drugs and act in opposition to stimulants such as caffeine and amphetamines and should be used only with a physician’s ok in combination with any drugs known to be working through neurotransmitter interactions (such as with certain anti-depressants).

You can also do a search on MEDLINE using the link below and typing in either "Schisandra chinensis" or "Schisandra chinensis, hepatitis"

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?CMD=Search&DB=PubMed

Chionanthus virginicus, also known as Fringetree Bark, is not a Chinese herb. But in looking it up on the internet, I found the following information:

Chionanthus virginicus

Fringetree Bark, Old Mans Beard, Snowdrop Tree

Parts Used: The root bark

Active Compounds: Phyllyrin, a lignin glycoside, Chionanthin

Hepatic, cholagogue, alterative, diuretic, tonic, antemetic, laxative. Fringetree bark may be safely used in all liver problems, especially when they have developed into jaundice. Good for the treatment of gall-bladder inflammation and a valuable part of treating gall-stones. It is a remedy that will aid the liver in general and as such it is often used as part of a wider treatment for the whole body. It is also useful as a gentle and effective laxative.

Dosage:

Infusion: Pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the bark and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: Take 1-2ml of the tincture three times a day.

Additionally, this is considered a very effective medicine in the form of a homeopathic remedy for many symptoms associated with liver and gall bladder imbalances -- I have recommended it a number of times as a homeopathic medicine in my practice with great effect for such issues.

Back to Chinese Herbs and Their Uses | Q & A Index

Copyright © 1997-2014 Otto Richter and Sons Limited. All rights reserved.