70. Biochemical basis of the "Qi-invigorating" action of Schisandra berry (wu-wei-zi) in Chinese medicine.

Ko KM, Chiu PY.

Department of Biochemistry, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Hong Kong, China.

Schisandra berry or Wu-Wei-Zi, meaning the "the fruit of five tastes" in Chinese, is a commonly used herb in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Based on the "Five-Element" theory in TCM, while the "five tastes" of Schisandra berry refer to its influence on the five visceral organs in the body, ancient Chinese herbalists specifically trumpeted the berry's beneficial effect on the "Qi" of the five visceral organs. "Qi" is a Chinese term used as a broad description of energy-dependent body functions. Over the past ten years, our laboratory has attempted to define the biochemical properties of Schisandra berry in regard to its purported "Qi-invigorating" properties. We have found, for the first time, an ability of Schisandra berry to fortify mitochondrial antioxidant status, thereby offering the body a generalized protection against noxious challenges both of internal and external origin. Given the indispensable role of the mitochondrion in generating cellular energy, the linking of Schisandra berry to the safeguarding of mitochondrial function provides a biochemical explanation for its "Qi-invigorating" action.