Support your aging brain with THIS amazing berry

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schisandra-may-support-cognitive-fuction(NaturalHealth365)  One way or another, the simple and inevitable act of getting older can take a toll on your mind, memory, and mood.  In fact, one out of nine adults in the United States lives with age-related cognitive decline, a condition involving minor impairments in thinking and recall.

A much more serious scenario involves Alzheimer’s disease, which currently affects nearly six million Americans.  Experts warn that the incidence is soaring, with the number of people with the disease expected to double by the year 2050.

As rates of neurodegenerative conditions rise (and as much-hyped pharmaceutical medications continue to yield minimal results) researchers have focused on discovering safe, effective interventions for cognitive decline and dementia.  Research suggests that schisandra, a berry native to Russia and China, has beneficial effects on cognitive function, concentration, memory, and mood – and may even have potential use against Alzheimer’s disease.  What’s the story behind the intriguing schisandra berry, and why is it raising scientists’ hopes?

Schisandra is an adaptogen that may slow down the aging process

For thousands of years, schisandra has been prized in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).  Known as “wu wei zi,” the berry is used to treat liver disease, asthma, fatigue, and depression.  The berry is said to feature all five of the major flavor properties – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and hot – and to mirror the five “yin” elements of TCM (represented by the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and spleen).

Contemporary scientific analysis has shown that schisandra is rich in beneficial flavonoids, polyphenols, vitamin C, and antioxidant compounds such as quercetin and chlorogenic acid.  But its primary therapeutic powers appear to come from compounds called schisandrins.  (One in particular, schisandrin A, is believed to be protective against cancer).  Like ashwagandha and ginseng, schisandra is classified as an adaptogen, a substance that helps the body adapt to stressful conditions such as illness, injury, fatigue, and mental distress.

In addition to having antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory effects, schisandra can boost levels of glutathione, the body’s most important detoxifying enzyme.  Yet another benefit of schisandra is that it helps to manage the overproduction of cortisol, the “stress” hormone.

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Given these effects, is it any surprise that many healers in TCM and Ayurveda maintain that schisandra has anti-aging and life-prolonging powers?

Schisandra helps mental performance under stress

Schisandra has long been believed to promote mental clarity and enhance concentration.  For example, in one notable study published in Phytomedicine, a one-time amount of 270 mg of schisandra extract significantly improved volunteers’ performance on mental tests.

The adult female participants, who all reported living under “chronic stress,” were given a formulation that included schisandra extract (along with two other herbs, rhodiola and eleuthero).  They were then assigned a series of stressful mental tasks.  The group that received the herbal formulation containing schisandra experienced substantial improvements in attention, brain speed, and accuracy when compared to the control group.

This finding is all the more impressive in light of the fact that the already-stressed participants had been given a mentally fatiguing test before being given the schisandra.  Yet, improvements were seen in the subsequent tests, showing that schisandra could improve cognitive function under stress.  The scientists noted, as well, that no serious side effects were reported.

The constituents known as schisandrins may not deserve all the credit for the positive effects.  Chlorogenic acid, a compound found in schisandra (as well as in coffee and apples), also appears to offer benefits.  In a review published in 2018 in Nutrients, scientists reported that it has been shown to improve mood and cognitive function in human volunteers, decreasing the incidence of dementia and depression.

Can schisandra play a role in addressing Alzheimer’s disease?

While human studies are limited, research on animals has been encouraging.  In a review published in 2019 in Nutrients, the authors noted that schisandra improves cognitive function and reduces neuroinflammation – and speculated that this could stem from schisandra’s anti-aging and antioxidant effects, as well as its ability to improve energy metabolism in the brain.

A 2017 study revealed that schisandrin B blocks the formation in the brain of excess amyloid beta peptides, which are responsible for forming the amyloid plaque implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.

Clearly, more research is needed.

Support mental clarity with schisandra

You can brew dried schisandra berries into a tea by adding one to two teaspoons to eight ounces of water, simmering for five minutes, and then steeping twenty more.  Schisandra is also available in capsule form, with integrative healthcare providers recommending amounts of one to two 500-mg capsules two to three times a day, taken with meals.  Consult your trusted integrative healthcare provider before supplementing with schisandra.

Other natural nutrients and herbs for cognition include ginkgo biloba, acetyl-l-carnitine, gotu kola, ashwagandha, turmeric, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.  Check with your integrative doctor before supplementing, however.  Of course, good nutrition (featuring healthy fats and antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and spices) is an important piece of the puzzle, as is avoiding highly processed foods, refined sugars, and trans fats.  And the importance of getting sufficient quality restful sleep can’t be overstated.

While it’s probably impossible to evade all the consequences of aging, there are steps you can take that may be able to minimize them.  Schisandra might be a valuable ally in preserving precious cognitive function and memories.

To learn more about how to avoid dementia, own the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Summit, created by Jonathan Landsman – which features many of the top experts in brain health and natural science.

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