The Chinese name for Schisandra is wu-wei-zi, which means “five taste-fruits” or “five flavor herb” because the fruits contain all five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty. Sucking on a dry fruit is an interesting experience because of its many flavors. Chomping into a fresh one you don’t quite get the ending sweet note, so are left with a funny look on your face due to the mouth gymnastics. But the after effect is a zing of energy, at least for me. Maybe it’s just because my taste buds get a good work out.
Since I’m working towards an edible landscape, and this is a berry/vine that grows in the shade, I’ve got it growing next the north side of the house in full shade on a wooden trellis. It’s an easy-care vine, and likes well-drained soil with some moisture. I ordered mine (which is the self-fertile variety “Easter Prince”) from One Green World in Molalla, Oregon The white flowers in the spring become clusters of red berries that hang like grapes in Mid to late August in Portland OR, although the official information says the berries ripen in September.
I chew up one berry a day as a tonic (and to experience the fun of tasting the 5 flavors on my tongue in succession) until I run out. Sometimes I freeze them in baggies as well, so I have some in the colder weather.
According to this article from the Maine Organic Farmer Gardener, Schisandra berries used in Oriental Medicine offer relief from chronic stress, chronic fatigue, insomnia, poor memory, depression, night sweats and involuntary sweating. Some clinical studies done by Chinese researchers show that the berries improve brain efficiency while at the same time calming the central nervous system. Schisandra helps improve energy levels, reduces tiredness, and improves the immune system’s response, making it great for middle-aged people who find themselves dragging around exhausted (yup, I resemble that remark). You aren’t supposed to use it when pregnant, so should do the usual ‘check with your doctor to see if you can eat this’.