Herb: Wu Wei Zi

Latin name: Schisandra chinensis

Synonyms: Kadsura chinensis, Maximowiczia chinensis, Schisandra japonica

Family: Schisandraceae

Medicinal use of Wu Wei Zi:

Wu Wei Zi is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs. It is an excellent tonic and restorative, helping in stressful times and increasing zest for life. It is considered to be a substitute for ginseng and is said to be a tonic for both the male and the female sex organs. The fruit is antitussive, aphrodisiac, hepatic, astringent, cardiotonic, cholagogue, expectorant, hypotensive, lenitive, nervine, pectoral, sedative, stimulant and tonic. Low doses of the fruit are said to stimulate the central nervous system whilst large doses depress it. The fruit also regulates the cardiovascular system. It is taken internally in the treatment of dry coughs, asthma, night sweats, urinary disorders, involuntary ejaculation, chronic diarrhoea, palpitations, insomnia, poor memory, hyperacidity, hepatitis and diabetes. Externally, it is used to treat irritating and allergic skin conditions. The fruit is harvested after the first frosts and sun-dried for later use. The fruit contains lignans. These have a pronounced protective action on the liver. In one clinical trial there was a 76% success rate in treating patients with hepatitis, no side effects were noticed. The seed is used in the treatment of cancer. The plant is antirheumatic. A mucilaginous decoction obtained from the branches is useful in the treatment of coughs, dysentery and gonorrhoea.

Description of the plant:


9 m
(30 feet)

to May


Habitat of the herb:

Mixed forests, especially on the margins, also by streams and brooks, usually on sandy soils.

Edible parts of Wu Wei Zi:

Fruit - raw or cooked. Usually dried and used on journeys, it is very sustaining. Rich in sugars, it has a sweet/sour flavour. In Russia a paste made from the fruit is mixed with Actinidia arguta in order to counteract the insufficient acidity of that species. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter and is borne in a grape-like bunch about 10cm long. Young leaves - cooked and used as a vegetable.

Other uses of the herb:

A viscid mucoid material is obtained from the fruit and the branches, it is used as a size for paper and as a hair dressing. The dried wood is charmingly fragrant.

Propagation of Wu Wei Zi:

Seed - best sown in the autumn in a cold frame. Pre-soak stored seed for 12 hours in warm water and sow in a greenhouse in the spring. Germination can be slow and erratic. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for their first 2 years. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, August in a frame. Overwinter in the greenhouse and plant out in late spring. Good percentage. Layering of long shoots in the autumn.

Cultivation of the herb:

Mixed forests, especially on the margins, also by streams and brooks, usually on sandy soils.

Known hazards of Schisandra chinensis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.