Brandon Amalani is partnered with Pioneer Valley Naturals as the exclusive distributor of the only American-Grown Organic Schizandra currently available. This is where our Schisandra comes from and in this podcast we dive into many of the benefits and uses of schisandra.
- The Energetic Signatures of Each Flavor
- Tai Chi for the Body…in an Herb
- Activating Intracellular Glutathione
- A Body System Breakdown of the Three Treasures
- When NOT to Take Schisandra
- The Benefits of the 50+ Lignans
- How Schisandra Benefits the Reproductive and Endocrine Systems
- Anti-Estrogenic Phyto-Estrogens
- How to Balance Yin and Yang in Your Herbal Program
- Making Schisandra Tea
- The Growing, Harvesting and Concentrating Process of Schisandra
- And Much More
Click the link below to access the complete transcript.
Logan: Hello and welcome to The Vital Way podcast. I’m Logan Christopher from Super Man Herbs and LegendaryStrength.com and today we’re going to be diving deep into a very special herb and just why it’s so special, you’ll be hearing all about that today. Today joining me I’d like you to join me in welcoming Brandon Amalani. Thanks for joining us today, Brandon.
Brandon: Absolutely. A pleasure to be here.
Logan: Brandon is partnered with the one and only American Schisandra Farm where high quality organic schisandra, which is a Chinese medicinal herb, is grown in the USA. This stuff is just amazing. For anyone that has been involved with Chinese medicine, they’re probably used to seeing dried, almost blackish-looking schisandra berries or powders but this American-grown is just preserved fresh and it’s an amazing bright, vibrant red and has a very intense taste. So we’re going to be talking all about, from the growing process to why this is an amazing herb and everything. So the first question I’d like to ask you, Brandon, is just a little bit of your background and how you got involved and hooked up with American Schisandra Farm.
Brandon: Well, I’ve been studying holistic health for well over 15 years and in the last 10 years or so I’ve been really fascinated and enthralled with traditional Chinese medicine and how much of a profound effect that it’s had on my health personally and well-being. And yeah, several years ago an acupuncturist that I worked with, he recommended that I get connected with this farm up in Massachusetts and I had never heard of it. It’s actually been around since 1985. So I opened up a dialogue with them, really thought they were doing some amazing stuff and I was just really shocked and surprised that nobody had really heard about what they were doing. The farm actually is a 50-acre farm up in the Connecticut River Valley.
So once I established that relationship, I traveled up there. I started like really diving in. Because I knew about schisandra. I knew about all the health benefits and how it energizes the entire body, works on all the organ systems and it’s the most complete and balanced herb, ranked in the top 50 actually of all Chinese medicinal herbs. And once I started playing with it in person and seeing how amazing of a quality was being produced up there, I just knew I had to get involved. That’s kind of how I started out with that.
Logan: Excellent. Well, we’ll probably talk some more about that but let’s dive into the benefits of these herbs. The first thing that is very fascinating is it’s called the five-flavored fruit, the five flavors being bitter, salty, sweet, pungent and sour. People have obviously tasted things but they don’t really think about flavor all that much because of our overly chemicalized and taste-tested ingredients that are put out there as food. But taste is so important to Chinese medicine or Ayurvedic medicine and really any system of herbal medicine because the taste clues you into what it’s doing in the body. Can you talk about how schisandra embodies all five of these flavors and what that really means?
Brandon: Yeah, absolutely. In Chinese medicine, they consider all foods and substances to have what is known as energetic signatures. So by having all five flavors, according to the five element theory which is basically a way to consolidate everything in nature into these five archetypes, that basically all these elements have a lot of information involved with it. So as you were talking about liver, for instance, that would the wood element. That’s referencing spring. The color is green. It has all these characteristics, emotional, physical, mental and spiritual connotations to it.
So because schisandra has all five flavors in a balanced ratio—it’s predominantly sour actually but it does contain all the five tastes—it’s able to enter, and no single herb by the way can do this, enter all 12 meridians or energy channels in the body and tonify all the five yin organ systems, which is lung, liver, spleen, kidney, heart. But it’s not just doing the yin organs. It’s doing all the yang organs, the gallbladder, triple warmer, pericardium. It’s working on the bladder. It’s working on all these organs in our body to balance it as a whole.
So what’s interesting and fascinating as far as like a benefits perspective, it’s really challenging to say one thing that it does because everybody is different. And this one of the other reasons that I really got behind it and felt strongly about promoting the treasure that it is in the United States. It’s that some people might want or think that they need energy but they might need all these underlying conditions corrected before the energy will naturally kind of come to be. So what’s interesting is that it goes to where it’s needed. It kind of adapts to the body and regulates all these physiochemical responses in the body to where the body can balance itself. And I think that’s really interesting and fascinating that a single herb can do that because traditionally speaking you would get formulas that are made specifically for you for the condition that you’re dealing with.
Logan: Yeah. Could you talk a little bit more about these five elements? There’s so much there. We could talk hours just on them but that’s kind of the basis of the Chinese system in which they can see how all these things fit together including the meridians.
Brandon: Yeah, absolutely. The five elements are, like I said, correlated with everything in nature. The way we’re talking about it, the five elements like the liver, lung, kidney, spleen, the heart are kind of the foundational pieces of the body and how the body operates. So if we look at the spleen, the yang organ system is the stomach and that’s basically a sweet flavor and that harmonizes earth so that aids in digestion, musculature, things of that nature. The lung is kind of increasing circulation. Kidney cleanses the body and purifies it. And all of these things, what’s interesting is that all the five organs work together. Some of them balance out the other, and some of them feed the other, and some of them kind of contradict the other.
So if there’s a condition with the liver, let’s say, and the liver is just too much heat, something going on that we don’t really know what it is, we can feel that the kidney is actually supporting. That water supports the wood element so it’s an interconnected system in the body that needs to be in a perfect balance for us to be healthy. And usually on a day to day perspective, most of us have some kind of thing out of balance. Maybe we’re overworked. Maybe we’re hitting the stimulants too hard and taxing our adrenals. Maybe we just have too much on our plate. There are a number of things that can happen and not those emotions, those dietary choices, those lifestyle choices, the staring at the screen and frying your eyes, those all have ramifications and affect your organ systems.
So what we do with herbs in particular is all herbs, any thought actually, anything we put in our body, it basically sends signals to the body to perform a certain task. So if we take XYZ herb, that’s going to send signals and start these kind of physiochemical processes that cascade down into the organ systems and affect energy levels. It might affect our sleep cycles. It might affect our emotional state like depression or antidepressants. It might have all these qualities and what’s interesting about schisandra in particular is that there are so many studies. There are actually 156 scientific studies that are listed on PubMed.gov that show how profound schisandra is in regards to regulating cholesterol, blood sugar, insulin levels and eye fatigue. You name it, there’s just so much going with it. It’s pretty challenging to consolidate it. I use the analogy that it’s like tai chi for the body, the internal organ systems, which is kind of weird because when I say tai chi, people go like oh yeah, that’s that thing where old people sneak up on trees, right? And I’m like no.
Logan: I’ve never heard it described that way.
Brandon: So when you look at tai chi, what’s amazing about it is it’s so holistic as a martial art. Tai chi chuan comes from the martial art world, but it also has a lot of these energy-cultivating effects, health properties, relaxation properties so it’s stretching and strengthening and toning and balancing the body all through movement, through breath and through conscious relaxation. And you’re creating these kind of physical structures with these arches and spiral-like structures in the body to where you can ground energy, absorb shock and discharge energy pretty well.
But long story short, it’s interesting that schisandra, because it balances the body, strengthens, tones it. It has a lot of similarities. So I always kind of say that it’s like the tai chi for the internal organs. It’s like a way you can take that in your body and balance the body as a whole while increasing your intracellular glutathione levels, reducing inflammation, repairing the adrenals, balancing sleep cycle and reducing anxiety to a large degree. That’s one key thing that I’ve been seeing more and more recently in these testimonials. It’s that people are saying hey, my social anxiety is completely gone because it’s just harmonizing the nerves so well.
Logan: Yeah, I definitely want to dive into some more of those benefits. One thing I’m curious about and not quite clear, it is predominantly when you taste, it has mostly that sour flavor along with some astringency but it’s considered balanced across all five of these flavors? So since that sour flavor goes with the wood element, if that’s like overbalanced, it’s not going to push you out of balance in any way, is it?
Brandon: No. Technically speaking, from a linear way of thinking of it, it’s not a balancing of flavors. I mean there are very subtle sweet notes, very subtle salty notes but it’s balanced as a whole because it contains all the five flavors. Being predominantly sour, one of the main benefits of it is that it activates phase 1 and phase 2 liver detoxification. If we kind of tie that back into the organ systems and the five elements, that would be the wood element or the liver meridian.
So for people that don’t know, phase 1 and phase 2 liver detoxification is critical. A lot of herbs and a lot of foods will actually stimulate phase 1 which is basically where bioaccumulated toxins are released from the tissue and released to the liver. However, phase 2 is not in play. Phase 2 is very important because that’s how they’re trapped, bound and safely escorted out of the body through those pathways. Otherwise, you get auto-intoxication, these kinds of reactions where the body kind of reabsorbs the toxin and you’re in the same place you started. So as a single herb, schisandra is really able to really nourish that.
And there are stories you can read online and it’s all over the internet. A lot of people use it for marketing material; we don’t really do that but it talks about the 90-day challenge or the 100-day challenge where you actually can take schisandra for an extended period of time, small doses a couple of times a day for a long period of time and it will basically change your skin, your eyes will become more radiant and that’s largely due to the liver cleansing effect and the blood purifying and the blood nourishing effects.
Logan: Okay, really cool. And is this the same mechanism by which the one thing, not me personally of course, but other people have noticed it can help with that hangover?
Brandon: Absolutely. Yeah, a lot of people add it to alcoholic beverages. I’m not recommending that by any means.
Logan: I did do that once with red wine and it’s a good flavor profile to go along with that. It was interesting.
Brandon: Actually Dr. Chang, the gentleman that started the farm 25 years ago, he actually made, and I got to try it, like a 2010 vintage of schisandra wine, just pure schisandra wine, and it was so interesting because I only had a couple of glasses of it but when you tasted it, it smelled and tasted like a really strong, almost like a spirit but it was very smooth flavor and you didn’t really feel the dehydration effects of it. One of the other features of schisandra is that it helps people with hydration levels and nutrient uptake as well as in digestion.
Logan: Interesting. It’s also said along with these, covering the 5 elements and all 12 meridians, that it has all 3 treasures contained within it. Can you talk about that?
Brandon: Yeah, three treasures which you may have discussed in other podcasts are basically jing, qi and shen. Jing is basically our constitution. In the west, it’s equivalent to our constitution or what we’re passed down congenitally from our parents. It’s our hormonal profile and it relates to our glandular system. The qi is kind of like our day to day energy. That’s what we want to cultivate with exercise, martial arts, qi gong, any of that kind of stuff. That’s the day to day energy we want to use. And then the shen is basically kind of like higher consciousness. It’s our highest, most refined self.
One analogy that I’ve heard in the past that I think is really good is that jing is like your savings account so you want to store jing, you want to store money there and really not tap into it and qi is more like your checking account. That’s where you’re going to want to like spend your money, spend your energy. There’s a saying that it’s good to become fatigued but never depleted. So it’s good to exercise and wear yourself down and rebuild but you don’t want to over push it to the point where you’re tapping into that jing. So excessive lifestyle, not getting good sleep, excessive amounts of like bad foods and stuff like that, all of that will kind of reduce your jing which is your essential core life force. When jing runs out, it’s over. We don’t exist anymore. The shen is basically the consciousness that regulates your checking and saving account, like what goes where, how much goes to savings, how much goes to the checking account. All of these are really important treasures and they’re the foundations of our life force. Schisandra is able to be a yin and yang balance of being able to support all three of those treasures and as well enter all the meridians like we talked about and tonify the body as a whole.
Logan: Something that just occurred to me, and I’d like to hear your thoughts when you were describing that, the jing is kind of like our hormonal system in a way. Obviously, there are overlaps between these. Then the qi, that covers like our metabolic, immunity and digestive systems and the shen is kind of more the nervous system. Would you agree with that?
Brandon: That’s a good summary. Yeah, I would say that that’s close for sure.
Logan: I’ve never heard it described that way but just when you were talking about there, that sort of came to mind so interesting.
Brandon: Yeah, and it’s interesting when we think about language and thought and how a lot of stuff just doesn’t translate between languages, like concepts. Do you know what I mean?
Brandon: So we’re basically trying to distill the essence down of what it is that we’re talking about here and that sums it up pretty well.
Logan: Nice. Okay, so let’s dive into some of the more specific areas. We already talked about the liver. It’s helping with phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification. Are there any other sort of actions that we know about? This is kind of why you talked about the science behind it and the western thought or there was this thought—I guess it’s kind of fading—that you have one drug for one thing and nothing can work for more than that, which if we’re looking at something like schisandra, obviously, that’s completely off base when it is working just systemically and doing so many different things. But are there any other functions on either the liver, the organ itself, or the liver if you’re looking at sort of the meridian system?
Brandon: Well, there’s a lot that we can go into. I think one of the important things to bring up is not just organ-specific but cell-specific. We’re made up of trillions of cells in our body and one area which is strange and I don’t think it’s really very well understood why it works—they just have a lot of data that it does work—with intracellular glutathione. This is big because glutathione is an endogenous antioxidant. So your body produces it out of a tri-peptide so it’s made of three amino acids.
What’s surprising is schisandra isn’t necessarily high in these amino acids at all but it stimulates your body internally inside the cell where the adenosine triphosphate or the ATP is produced. It stimulates your body to create a massive amount of this stuff. One of the reasons why it’s such an anti-aging, stress-reducing and anti-inflammatory product—if I can say that legally without the FDA getting on my case but it’s out there; the data’s there, you can research it—the intracellular glutathione where we have an average of like 10,000 oxidative hits a day inside the cell is where we need it most.
We can have in the extracellular fluid this glutathione being manufactured and floating around but getting it inside the cell and getting it to the interphase with the cell membrane and into the mitochondria is challenging for any supplement. But getting it in a whole food form that’s an herb that provides so many other benefits, I think it says a lot for the macrocosm and the microcosm effect of how if it affects one cell inside the cell so well and then it affects all the organ systems just inwards and outwards, it’s just kind of like working on every single level to keep the body balanced and keep us alive and happy longer.
Logan: Right. So glutathione, I’ve heard it described as the body’s master antioxidant.
Brandon: Yeah. Glutathione is actually the master antioxidant that’s produced as a response to stress. So if we’re stressed out, if we’re tearing our body, if we’re athletes and we’re just like breaking our cells down like crazy, the body will naturally produce glutathione, which is essentially a powerful free radical-scavenging amino acid blend. It’s obviously recognized as an antioxidant in the wellness community and wellness world and it’s responsible for a ton of functions in the body – cellular protection, detoxification—like heavy metal detoxification, not a lot of people think about that—improved immune response, cellular repair. The list goes on to protein synthesis, enzyme regulation. It’s a pretty big deal as far as glutathione. It’s just really hard to get your body to manufacture more of it and there are certain herbs that actually help with that dramatically.
Logan: Yeah, I’ve heard, and this is not something that I’ve used before, you can’t just take glutathione. Some people sell what they call liposomal glutathione which is supposed to be able to cross that cell wall. That’s my understanding of it but you’re saying that schisandra just helps your body to produce more of it.
Brandon: Absolutely and that’s been clinically verified. Again, it’s all out there. Glutathione levels, at least the studies that I have come across shows substantial glutathione level elevation in the heart muscles, especially. So for cardiovascular health, it’s super, super important because that’s obviously still ranking as the top disease in our culture, heart disease. So getting glutathione levels in the mitochondria of the cells of the heart is a major benefit, I think.
Logan: Right. Any other benefits to the cardiovascular system beyond the glutathione that you’re aware of?
Brandon: Cholesterol is the main one. Cholesterol is obviously a beneficial thing. If we have too many sugars and too many of these compounds that act like glue that create these small tears in the vascular walls, it’ll basically be like removing these like plaque deposits. That has been shown with it. Other than that, there are some really great herbs like hawthorn berry and stuff like that that are every good for cardiovascular health. But overall, it works directly and indirectly with the cardiovascular system as a whole.
Logan: Yeah. As a berry, it seems that all berries kind of have some similar functions, obviously some different ones as well but they all seem to have a good amount of antioxidant capabilities. They seem to be pretty good in general for the cardiovascular system.
Brandon: Absolutely. And you can relate a lot of berries to liver health as well.
Logan: Right, it’s that sour taste, for most of them anyway.
Brandon: Yeah, exactly. One of the things I would really love to point out that’s missing in a lot of liquid extracts and powdered products in regards to schisandra is the fraction of the lignins. A lot of that that has all those liver and all the stuff we can’t say like the anti- properties. Those qualities, a lot of those liver-cleansing properties are in the lignins, which is the fiber. So if you’re thinking of something that is basically cooked down in a traditional extract, a water extract and is basically spray-dried, a lot of those fibers are left out of the mix and they’re just concentrating specific isolated fractions of the schisandra fractions, of the product. You’re not getting the full spectrum of the gomisin N, the gomisin O fraction, the schizandrols. There’s a whole list of over 50 lignins that are in that product so taking it in a whole tea form, which is what Super Man Herbs has, it’s a whole freeze-dried powder so you’re getting all the seed material, all the plant material and then you’re making it into a tea where you consume all of the plant material so you’re getting like ten times the benefit of most of what’s on the market and available.
Logan: So what about the immune system? In what way is the schisandra interacting with this to help support it?
Brandon: The immune system is governed by the spleen. A lot of that is basically like fluid metabolism. It helps to aid in enzymatic processes and protein synthesis and metabolism to like build the body up. Also, it’s going to work with herbs like reishi. It’s going to work with herbs that boost natural T killer cell counts and help the body kind of escort things out of the body. There are a couple of things that need to be known about it. One is that you don’t really want to take it if you’re experiencing a cold or a flu. This is important because you think oh, it’s good for the immune system; I can take it when I’m sick. That’s not the case. It’s very astringent and it tends to hold nutrients and water in the body and moisture in the body, which is part of its anti-aging effects and for reserving fluids and storing things in the kidney. But you basically don’t want to take it if you’re fighting something, you have a fever and your body is trying to release like all this stuff.
Where it helps the immune system over time is in again its balancing effect and energizing effect in nourishing life force or qi in the body. It strengthens you over time to where you don’t get to that point where you get sick. Your body, cells and organs are all strong and tonified and adaptable to whatever is thrown your way. If you’re around pathogens, if you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s going to help regulate that and keep the body strong and healthy.
Logan: Yeah. A way to think about astringency, which is sometimes considered a sixth taste or sort of a mouth feel because it goes kind of along with sour but it’s a little bit different, that sort of puckering, it’s tightening or tonifying tissues. So a way you can think about this with the immune system is if you’re not sick and you’re just supporting your health, it’s tightening things up. It’s kind of building up your walls or defenses. But if something’s already in there, yeah, it can be doing the same thing and closing it off from being able to exit.
Brandon: Sure. Absolutely.
Logan: Are there any other times when people shouldn’t take schisandra? Any other contraindications?
Brandon: Just when you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or nursing. Those are the other contraindications, just because it goes against energetically what you’re trying to do. If the body is trying to save and store nutrients, fluids and things in the tissue of the body, the baby kind of needs that so it’s contraindicated there. And then breastfeeding obviously, the breast milk is the same as blood in Chinese medicine. Semen and breast milk, those are all considered blood so blood is leaving the body, again schisandra tries to keep that in the body for that anti-aging body but you don’t really want to do that when you’re breastfeeding.
Logan: Okay. Speaking of the semen, it’s regarded also as a sexual herb, helping to basically preserve those fluids in a way. Can you describe that?
Brandon: Yeah. Obviously, it’s working with the kidney system and the bladder. So it helps with like involuntary discharge of semen, it’s good for like sexual fun and frequent urination. Your kidneys again are kind of the root of your glandular so people that have ED, if they’re working on the mental and emotional levels of that, they can take schisandra and have increase, bigger in that regard. Yeah, it’s actually really beneficial for women. They say that it increases water qi to the genitals so I’ve definitely had testimonials before of women who were going through pre-menopause or postmenopause and they’re just saying that it’s a game-changer as far as how they feel, their attitude and energy levels towards sex.
Logan: Cool. Speaking of the endocrine system, it’s not directly kind of working on things. To the best of my knowledge, it doesn’t have phytoestrogens or androgens. It’s not as direct as some other herbs, say pine pollen, tongkat or shatavari for the women.
Brandon: I was going to say it does have phytoestrogens.
Logan: Okay, it does.
Brandon: Lignins are essentially phytoestrogens.
Logan: Oh, that is right.
Brandon: Here’s the cool thing. If you look at fermented miso, a lot of people avoid miso because of estrogen. Obviously as men, we want to keep healthy testosterone levels at peak levels. What’s interesting about phytoestrogens in schisandra is that they’re anti-estrogenic. So if you think about what phytoestrogens, are estrogen-mimicking compounds that are in the form of like chemicals, perfumes, things in the environment that are toxic, they get into our bloodstream, they resemble chemically phytoestrogens, they get stuck and trapped in the liver and tissues of the body because schisandra has the ability to kind of like help the body release those because of how it purifies the body. So not estrogens are bad.
Again, it’s yin and yang principle. We need to have a healthy balance of both and that’s one of the key foundational pieces or why I think schisandra is so important in any herbal protocol. It’s because of the fact that it works on everything. It balances and strengthens everything. If you’re overdoing androgen, that can be just as bad. If you look at prostate cancer, some of those prostate cancers are fed by androgens. Androgens will actually exacerbate that condition.
Logan: And there’s also an estrogenic problem, too, so it kind of depends because it used to be believed that DHT was all the problem but some more recent research has just seen the estrogens are also concentrated in there. It probably depends on the form, a little bit. Obviously, it’s a hormonal issue though in either way.
Brandon: Absolutely. There are several different forms of androgens, several different forms of estrogens. I’ve never come across any research that shows the phytoestrogens in schisandra are negative. In fact, it has the opposite like some of the research that I’ve seen on like fermented misos are that they’re actually anti-estrogenic. One thing we’ve got to remember is that the yin and yang principle, yin is the storage and accumulation of energy so if there is no yin, there’s no yang. So putting back, restoring and doing the yin exercises, the yin herbs, the things that balance the body, that allows a springboard for us to use more of that yang stuff. When you take something like tongkat and schisandra together, you’re getting that one-two punch. It’s a balanced tonifying herb that pushes whatever you’re doing further. And that doesn’t just correlate to herbs. Anything in your diet is going to be absorbed and utilized better with schisandra just because of its amplification properties and its ability to take whatever is coming in, regulate it, digest it and move it through the body effectively.
Logan: Right. I think that’s important, to note that yeah, if you’re just pumping up the androgens and you’re overbalancing that yang, if we go more sort of molecular level, a lot of those need to be detoxed by the liver so once again, we’re helping the body to do that through those different phases. You mentioned it’s anti-estrogenic so that it’s great for men but that might be scaring off some of the ladies so how is it working for them in a balancing sort of way?
Brandon: Well, it’s only anti-estrogenic when estrogen is out of balance. That’s the cool thing about it.
Logan: Right. So it’s an estrogen modulator, more or less.
Brandon: Yeah, that’s more of a correct statement, I would say. I just basically want to get out there that because it’s a phytoestrogen it doesn’t mean it will lead to estrogen dominance.
Logan: Yeah. Right and that’s something that a lot of people when they’re getting into health, the first thing is oh, we’ve got to avoid all these phytoestrogens which are in so many different foods it’s crazy. But the more I’ve sort of studied the subject and realized phytoestrogens can be very helpful and yes, in some cases maybe you can be overdoing them with heavily processed soy, whether that’s actually the estrogenic problem or other stuff. It’s hard to see but as you were saying, miso, maybe it’s that fermentation process where they’re becoming beneficial, that tends to be the only type of soy I’ll eat or other fermented types.
Brandon: Yeah, and what’s interesting, too, is you’ll notice that with phytosterol, that’s a phytoestrogen, it comes from plants. Most plants have them. You’re looking at the stigmasterol fractions. You’re looking at the beta-sitosterols. You’d be avoiding raspberries. You’d be avoiding a whole bunch of healthy stuff.
Logan: Most plant life actually because they all have hormones and we only know some of them. I wrote an article about this a little while ago. Is it that nature is much more feminine and it has more of these estrogenic things or have we just not been looking for the androgens and thus not finding them in certain places? But in either case, my point was what we really need to avoid are the xenoestrogens or things like heavy metals, those have estrogenic properties. It’s really these more unnatural things that tend to have the much more devastating effects and just trying to avoid phytoestrogens, lumping them in the same group, I don’t think that’s serving us as human beings.
Brandon: Precisely and nature is more yin inherently because that’s what feeds life. That’s what creates the yang energy.
Logan: Right. It’s just nature, right?
Brandon: Mother nature, yeah, and the idea is to give the right ratio of things. We need a little bit of all of it and as we age, it’s just nature that our testosterone levels are going to go down. We’re going to age. We’re going to get older and we’re going to become less muscular. That’s why again like the tai chi analogy, you look at somebody who’s been practicing tai chi for a long time, they can defend themselves against stronger, younger, better, more athletic people because they use the principles of like structure, gravity, relaxation, all this kind of stuff.
The same things happen. We function better when we’re older when we take stuff like this, when we utilize herbs and adaptogens and a healthy lifestyle. Then we’re more adaptable in an older age which will inevitably happen. So reclaiming some of that testosterone and taking some of the tongkat and some of the herbs that like replace those phytoandrogens, that’s definitely helpful as we age because it just makes us feel better, it just gives us more of a positive energy. All that I’m suggesting is that we do that in balance with like a healthy lifestyle and have something in there that kind of replaces and balances the body rather than just always pushing that stimulation button.
Logan: Right. It’s the balance of yin and yang. If you go kind of the simplest of Chinese models then you want a balance between these two so that replenishing yin energy with that driving masculine energy, you’ve got to put these two together. Herbs will fall into one. This might not make sense to people at first glance. They just think oh, I want more hormones, I want more. They just go for the yang, yang, yang, not realizing that may be great in the moment but it’s just going to further drive you out of balance if you’re not supporting it with the yin stuff.
Brandon: Yeah, if you were to take for instance your finger and like scoop peas with your index finder, what would happen is it would basically start to get a lot of sensation. It would go yang and then it would kind of numb cool which is yin, and then you would get pins and needles. That would be yang. The body will cycle itself. You would see that if you have a flu for instance. Your body would go from cold to hot trying to purge out and balance and regulate whatever pathogen is attacking you at that moment. It’s only natural to seek that balance. Yeah, these herbs help us to do that.
A lot of times, sometimes we get too passive, too yin and we need to balance that out. Really kind of what I think is great about what you’re doing with the podcasts and the education is that teaching people how to understand and feel themselves better versus like what to think. You’re teaching them like concepts and strategies where they can start to listen to themselves and figure out what they needed any given time. I think that’s super important, that people will get to that point where they not only think for themselves but really stop thinking so much and be present in their bodies and start feeling what’s going on because you’ll feel it.
Logan: Yeah. It’s sort kind of the lost sense just because where we’re Western. The scientific sort of viewpoint is you listen to science and nothing else so you learn to lose this intuitive senses, felt sense within our body. But yeah, so much herbalism is cultivating that and the greater awareness you have in your body, that helps everything, just about.
Logan: So what about the kind of cognitive aspect that schisandra can bring? I remember that’s something I really enjoyed before. It was a small pouch that we sell with Super Man Herbs so it’s easy to travel with. I just take some, dump it on my hands and pop it in my mouth. Maybe it’s the sour flavor but it seems to kind of stretch the mind. That’s one way I’ve described it before. It just kind of pulls that focus in. How is it working with cognition and the nervous system?
Brandon: Yeah, because it’s able to harmonize nerves and make it more efficient, that experience of wakefulness that you’re talking about or mindfulness is one of the more I would say instant effects of consuming schisandra. That’s the thing that most people feel. Not only are you improving the oxygenation but because there’s a high level of cellular coherence with the quality that we produce with the freeze drying, it’s just basically pulverized, cell walls cracked and it’s the most efficient way to preserve the whole essence of the berry. That just goes right towards balancing the system. When we feel balanced, we’re better. I know it sounds kind of redundant to say balance so much but it’s really true. That effect of balance will inadvertently affect everything including waking consciousness.
But yes, the astringency, the wakefulness, the harmonizing of the nerves, the reduction of fatigue. It’s going to affect the eyes because the eyes are part of the nervous system. It’s going to affect the brain and our emotional state and our mood. It’s pretty incredible how that has a cumulative effect over time. You instantly notice that kind of wake-up feeling but if you’re consistent with taking a little bit over a longer period of time versus taking a lot every other time you need it, you start to get this effect where you’re more there. And what’s funny is that you start noticing it less because you’re more there. When you’ve become acclimated to something, you don’t notice it as much. I’ve seen people take those doses once every other week or whenever they feel like they needed it versus taking it over a long period of time and those people feel it more because they’re not really gaining that accumulative beneficial effect over time.
So it’s really I think one of the best aspects about it. Then again if you want to go for like a western perspective, the studies that are like on Alzheimer’s are off the charts as far as what it does that prevent neuronal damage in the brain. I don’t have it in front of me. There’s the University of Seoul in Korea, they had some really amazing research on Alzheimer’s. You can probably Google it on PubMed but basically how it prevented neuronal damage in every single case, which is pretty powerful and not to mention the sports nutrition applications. They came up with the animal studies and the human studies. It’s pretty amazing.
Logan: Very cool. And previously you mentioned anxiety. So how is it working on this? Why are people seeing that sort of benefit?
Brandon: Here’s where it gets a little bit confusing from a Chinese medicine versus Western translation. It’s working on the heart and the shen. In Chinese medicine, the heart houses the mind so our clarity of thought, our clarity of speech, all of that is governed by the heart, and because it’s a really nice heart and cardiovascular tonic and it’s kind of giving those flavors and those energies that our body isn’t naturally used to if we’re just eating salty or sweet food all the time or we’re eating a non-varied diet, it’s going to basically calm the shen, calm the mind, which is usually the start. You’ll see one of those herbs you guys promote, the Sisyphus, it’s a great shen tonic because it’s able to allow your mind to go to rest and go to sleep. Reishi is another good shen tonic where it kind of has that calming, almost sedative soothing effect. Schisandra is kind of this interesting mix because it’s a balance of yin and young. So you’re going to get that kind of sedative, kind of calm feeling but you’re going to feel energized and mentally alert in a way, which is a truly hard to describe experience if you’ve never felt something like that.
One experience I had was I gave this athlete who seriously pushes his body—he’s one of those like CrossFitter types like he’s tearing himself apart—he always seems to be like at this level where his adrenals are just firing. He’s always high-energy, a type A personality and he just wanted to take a nap after schisandra. He’s like I thought this was supposed to give me energy. I’m like what it’s doing is it’s balancing your adrenals out because you’re like firing those things off 24/7. But somebody who has too much coffee and goes into a yin state because they’re using all their yang energy, they’re depleting, depleting, depleting, they take schisandra and because it’s balancing the adrenals and balancing the liver, it’s going to give them more wakefulness and energy to where they a lot of times event transition of those stimulants because they feel so good in their inherent balanced state.
Logan: Right. So you wouldn’t quite describe it as a stimulant though it has some stimulating-like effects sometimes and it’s not quite as calming some other herbs but it has some calming effects.
Brandon: That’s correct. It’ll have a little bit of both. Some things like what I mentioned, reishi, which is one of my all-time favorite herbs as well, it ranks up there high with schisandra, that one is very calming, very shen, very sedative even though it nourishes all three treasures as well but it’s a different characteristic. And it’s just something you have to taste and feel see if it kind of likes worth with your body. I take reishi and schisandra. I think it’s a great combination overall because they’re some of the highest-ranking herbs. Again, they’re in the top 50 of the medicinal system that has 5,000+.
Logan: I’d say their probably both top 10, at least to most people.
Brandon: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s great because with a lot of yang herbs available, it’s something that women and men both can take and it would just kind of help tonify either sex and increase—we have these like usually exclusive ideas that this herb is for men so it will help with their sex drive and this one’s for women and it’ll help their sex drive, but schisandra is kind of a unique herb in the sense that it’s going to work on the cardiovascular, the hormones, the sex drive, the mental faculties of both sexes equally.
Logan: Yeah. Right. I mean that’s the whole thing. It’s a formula all in and of itself by covering everything. I’m curious. So there are all sorts of novel components which are being researched. Is it particularly rich in any sort of vitamins or minerals that may be lending to some of these beneficial effects?
Brandon: Sure. Yeah. On the mineral level, it’s got the big blood-builders, iron. It’s got zinc which is really great for the immune system. We’ve had ours third party-verified and tested for all the macro and micronutrients, or most of them. We can’t do all of them because that’s crazy expensive for something this chemically complex. But magnesium is another huge one as far as getting people to relax. It’s got a nice amount of magnesium and then selenium is part of like—you can’t just simplify to like selenium has some of the anti-cancer, anti-tumor properties. The lignins have something to do with that. There are other compounds and fractions of the antioxidants and phytosterols and stuff like that, and the polyphenols of course but the selenium which is pretty high in it which is surprising. It is a mineral that is depleted in most soils.
And because of where we’re at in the Connecticut River Valley, this top soil has been developed over thousands of years, literally from the flooding and overflowing of the Connecticut River Valley. It’s one of the new places in the New England area actually that you can dig down 12 feet deep and not hit a single rock. That might not sound like crazy or anything but it’s crazy for the area. The locals and people know that. There are companies from that area, Stony Field Farms, that it’s known that there are lots of boulders, lots of stone, lots of rocks in the soil and the area we are at is just in this really pristine area where in fact, the water is super clean as well. We wash all of it by hand after it’s hand-harvested in well water so it’s never been exposed to fluoride, any industrial, manmade chemical agents of any kind. It’s super clean. It’s pretty nice.
To get back to you point, yeah, there are those minerals. There’s the citric acid and malic acid. Obviously, malic acids are really great for dissolving kidney and gallbladder stones. Like I said, there are over 50 different lignins, antioxidants, oils, anthocyanins, proteins, you name it, dude. It’s pretty.
Logan: It’s got a lot. Cool. So what is the best way to take it? Obviously, there are many different ways but what do you recommend? You talked about doing it as a tea a little bit earlier so what are your preferred ways of taking it and what do you advise to other people?
Brandon: Well, the tea is a good way if it’s in a freeze-dried form like we produce. I mean you’re obviously going to see it naturally occurring like higher antioxidant levels because it’s so vibrant. Doing a warm tea, there are receptor sites in your small intestines that are activated only when warm food moves through it so taking it in a warm to hot tea is really great. A lot of that stuff because it’s not 100% water-soluble, you’ll have the very powder-like sediment in the bottom. You definitely want to get that into your body. That’s some of the important really good stuff.
If you’re going to take schisandra in an alcohol extract, getting it and processed, it contains the lignins in with the dual extraction is really good as well. But for most people, it’s an enjoyable tea that tastes pretty good in my opinion and taking it in that format one to two times daily. The only thing I would advise is I wouldn’t recommend most people taking it too late because it could keep you up just because it’s a little bit energizing. It’s best to take it in the AM and maybe for a little boost in the early afternoon.
Logan: Excellent. And is this something besides when you’re sick or pregnant, is it something people can be on long term or even every day for just about the rest of their lives?
Brandon: Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s considered part of the superior food class of herbs. I mean it’s considered a food herb, essentially. It just has all these different multi-faceted benefits to it.
Logan: It’s just berries, right? It’s food.
Brandon: Yeah, a mutation of nature, it’s an experience. You’re not able to eat so much of it. It’s really sounds like eating a precious kind of like—you feel it on your teeth because it’s so acidic. That’s part of how it sanitizes the body and it’s anti-bacterial and stuff like that.
Logan: Right. So you talked a little bit about the farm. Could you go into some more details on like the growing process and the sort of quality controls behind that?
Brandon: Absolutely. Yeah.
Logan: And also processing, too, how does this yield this concentrate?
Brandon: Oh yeah. It’s a really simple operation actually. The farm like I mentioned before is about 25 years old, going on 30 years old actually. The plants are self-sustaining so it’s been with humans and according to the Arnold Arboretum, it’s one of the earliest flowering botanicals known.
Brandon: So it’s been with humans a really, really long time. And insects don’t bother it. There’s no need for pesticides. It does great. The only thing that might deter it is if there’s drought or something like that. But basically, the harvest is one time of year, usually in the fall and what we do is we take a team out. Everybody hand-harvests the berries, puts them in food grade buckets and we just wash them onsite. So we kind of remove stem debris. This also has a secondary function which is basically releasing some of the tannins out of it because it’s getting soaked in this well water that’s tested about 40 parts per million so it’s really, really clean well water. Again, there’s no fluoride. It’s not tap water that it’s rinsed in like most herbal products go through.
And then after we wash it, it gets sealed in those food grade buckets and then put on a freezer truck and then we deep-freeze the products. Then we process it in the freeze dried method. Freeze dried method is basically in a CGMP-compliant, certified organic facility. Even our product is kosher. These long liquid nitrogen vacuums that basically is the most efficient and effective way to pull water out of the plant botanical without disturbing the cellular, any of the nutrients. There’s usually nutrient loss in any product. Most powders will degrade just three or four months after it’s processed and exposed to oxygen and air. So usually liquid extracts have a better shelf life. But this is a way that we can preserve it really well. The vibrancy and color will last. I’ve opened bags several times over the course of like a year and it looks awesome. It looks perfectly vibrant and it has all the characteristics and flavors. And I do recommend that people—I keep mine in the freezer so you’re guaranteed that any moisture in there is going to turn to ice. It just preserves it a bit longer.
But yeah, that’s pretty much it. We just pack it up after that again in a certified-organic facility. And it’s all done within the United States. One of the key benefits of that is that most fruit products coming from overseas, they require radiation. They use these microwave frequencies to sterilize them. So you’re kind of avoiding a lot of those over-processed and over-sterilized aspects by buying a United States-grown product.
Logan: Right. And I’m sure there’s some great schisandra farms in China but by the time it gets here, nothing is going to match the quality of what you have available there.
Logan: One other thing I’ll just add with the bag and keeping it in the freezer, that makes a lot of sense. I will start doing that. But also I’m just saying when listening, make sure you seal the bag and everything because that is one thing that can begin to get the schisandra to turn probably faster than just about anything else. So keep it tucked away. No light, no heat, no air as much as possible. But it comes in small bags that are probably packed and sealed so you go through it pretty quickly, right, unless you’re like me and you take it once a month or some random thinking like that. But after talking about all this, it’s like oh I need to start making this one of my everyday herbs for some time again.
Brandon: Yes. It’s not one of those herbs that people think that’s my go-to herb. They’ll go to a ginseng or a tongkat or a pine pollen something like that for that energy and that lift and everything. But it’s just good to kind of combine that with it because you know that you’re covering your bases and you’re putting that stuff back and allowing those more yang herbs to be more fully expressed.
Logan: Right. Yup. Okay, excellent. We’ve covered a lot here. Is there anything else that you’d like to add that you feel should be touched upon?
Brandon: Just how important adaptogens are in our daily—basically, I think one of the master herbalists in our country, Ron Teeguarden said it’s like a forgotten food category. I think that’s really well said because we don’t think of these things as part of our daily routine but they are food herbs that just have these profound benefits and in small quantities, too. Just taking like a gram of this stuff daily has tremendous life-extending properties. So do your research, feel it out for yourself and if I leave anybody with anything, it’s just like learn how to be in tune with your body because you’ll feel what certain herbs do and knowing what to take at what time of the year and what season in life is very important. Schisandra is just one thing that you can take over the course of your life, at any season in life, at any age, at an activity level and it’s going to help balance and strengthen your body.
Logan: Excellent. Good for children as well?
Brandon: Not children. They are rifling with energy. Teenagers and up, yeah, that’s cool. They can take it. But the whole idea is less is more and our whole goal with herbalism is the healthy lifestyle. We take these things again to stimulate responses in the body and kids, maybe there are extreme cases where schisandra might be beneficial in a formulation but most of the time, teenagers and up can start taking it and nourishing their body with it at that time.
Logan: Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Brandon. I think people will get a kick out of this. It’s been a while since we just did a single podcast dedicated to an herb. I imagine most of the people listening this far in have tried schisandra and love it and we’re just happy to hear more details about it. If for some reason you’ve listened this far and have not tried it, head on over to SuperManHerbs.com and try the schisandra. Everything that Brandon said about the farm, that’s where we source it. That’s why we have Brandon on the call to go into some more details about this amazing herb.
Brandon: Absolutely. Well, it’s been a pleasure, Logan. Man, I appreciate you having me on the podcast.
Logan: Yeah, absolutely. Maybe we’ll do it again sometime and cover some of the other areas in which you are an expert as well.
Brandon: Absolutely. I’d love to.
Logan: All right. Well thanks everyone for listening. Like I said, try out some schisandra. Even if you don’t try our schisandra, go out and get some schisandra because I want you to benefit from it. And then if you’d be so kind, leave a review on iTunes. That always helps us out spread the message so we can get this forgotten food group into more people’s lives. Thanks for listening.