Why Gwyneth Paltrow swears by Chinese medicine’s schisandra berry – the latest wellness fad
Traditional Chinese medicine has used schisandra for thousands of years. The wellness industry has picked it up and it is now said to have ‘adaptogenic’ qualities; Americans take it in smoothies, shakes and health and beauty supplements
An ancient Asian berry is being heralded as the next big thing in American wellness circles. The fruit of Schisandra chinensis – or Wu Wei Zi as it is known in its native China – is the latest in a slew of plant-based ingredients associated with Eastern medicine to have gained notoriety overseas.
The reason behind the berry’s new-found popularity with Westerners has little to do with its traditional use as a lung and kidney tonic – and a lot to do with its purported “adaptogenic” qualities.
“As an ‘adaptogen’, schisandra supports the body’s capacity to handle stress,” says Amanda Chantal Bacon, who heads up Los Angeles-based health emporium Moon Juice, which counts celebrities including Zoe Kravitz, Shailene Woodley, and Gwyneth Paltrow among its devotees.
“Schisandra helps keep hormones at an even keel for a calm and gentle energy. Along with that, the berry contains tons of antioxidants and has been shown to improve skin by nourishing the complexion from within,” claims Chantal Bacon.
At Moon Juice locations in California, customers have the option of adding pure schisandra berry as a beauty booster to 100 per cent vegan nut milk matcha lattes, juices and smoothies.
Pots of attractively packaged Moon Dust powders containing a mix of “adaptogenic” mushrooms and superfoods, including schisandra, are available in-store for converts to take home or purchase online, if living overseas. Repeat buyers keep coming back to the berry, says Chantal Bacon, thanks to a noticeable increase in energy and reduction of inflammation on the skin after taking it daily for a minimum of three weeks.
On America’s east coast, a new luxury supplement company called The Nue Co uses the “super berry”, claiming it helps level out the hormone cortisol in our bodies to ward off illnesses.
The New York-based brand’s Defense Drops mix echinacea, mistletoe, eleuthero and rosemary with organic schisandra in an alcohol-free solution. The liquid product comes in a chic black bottle and users are instructed to put 12 drops under the tongue as a daily preventive or at the first signs of fatigue.
“Continually high cortisol levels can take a toll on your immune system, so we employ schisandra in our formula to help level out the hormone long-term, which in turn boosts immunity,” says founder Jules Miller.
The product has proved a hit with busy fashion editors and frequent long-haul fliers, in particular.
In search of the highest quality, both brands have chosen to sidestep small-scale schisandra farmers in American states such as Massachusetts and source the berry from Liaoning province in northeast China. There, the fruit is cultivated in long rows of wood-like, climbing vines across rolling fields.
In high summer – sometime between the end July and the beginning of August – clusters of the berries turn bright red, signalling the optimum moment for harvest.
Before being exported to brands like The Nue Co, the berries are slowly sun-dried. Eaten in its raw state, schisandra boasts an unusual conflicting flavour profile: the berry tastes sour, salty, hot, bitter, and sweet.