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Thursday, June 7, 2012

MAGNOLIA VINE, WU WEI ZI - ANOTHER STRESS RELIEVER: HISTORY, HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF THE MAGNOLIA VINE


MAGNOLIA VINE, WU WEI ZI, PINYIN, SCHISANDRA CHINENSIS 
The Magnolia Vine is native to East Asia, China, Japan and Korea. It is known as Wu Wei Zi in China, which means “five-flavour berry”, or pinyin. It is a member of the Schisandraceae family and it is also known by other genus names including Schisandra japonica, Kadsura chinensis, Maximowiczin chinensis and Sphaerostema japonicum.
  In China it is one of the Fifty Fundamental Herbs as is Marlberry, (Ardisia japonica), cinnamon, the tea plant Camellia sinensis, milk vetch or Huang qi (Astragalus membranaceus) and jamalgota (Croton tiglium), among others.                         

  It is often used in China as a substitute for Asian ginseng, Panax ginseng, as a tonic for both male and female reproductive organs. In other words, it is considered to be an aphrodisiac. It has been used for thousands of years in China to improve the ageing memory, and for a multitude of illnesses. The parts used are the red berries which hang from the woody vine in bunches, rather like small red grapes or red currants. These are dried and used to improve stamina and lessen fatigue. In the dim and distant past they were used by travelers to combat weariness on long and difficult journeys.
  The fruit can be eaten straight off the vine or cooked, as well as dried. In Russia a paste is made of the berries along with those of Actinidia arguta, to balance the acidity. The berries contain sugars and are sour-sweet to taste.
  Some of the first scientific studies on the berries were carried out in the former USSR and it is now in the State Drug Register and the Pharmacopoeia of the Russian Federation. They first discovered its qualities as an adaptogen, a substance which helps to relieve stress, whether physical, mental or emotional, so it is used rather like rose root, milk vetch, American ginseng and Eleuthero. It can help to lower blood pressure and has potent antioxidant activities, making it heart- protective and of course a useful anti-cancer treatment. The seeds seem to have most potency against cancer according to some studies.                                                                                         
 The berries stimulate the immune, endocrine (glandular), central nervous, gastro-intestinal and cardiovascular systems, and the extracts from them increase physical endurance, mental performance, and lessen depression, and some of the symptoms of alcoholism such as delirium tremens. Extracts have shown to be liver-protective in studies on rats but these effects have not been studied in humans.
  It is believed that it produces mental clarity by detoxifying the body and it is thought that glutathione is the enzyme responsible for this action.
  It has been proven to help ward off colds and flu because of its action on the immune system, and it has been used to treat pneumonia, asthma, sinusitis, and many other diseases. A decoction of the branches and twigs has been used as a treatment for coughs, dysentery and gonorrhoea. Apparently the berries also have astringent properties making them good for wound healing.
  The branches have a gummy substance in them and this has been used to size paper and as a dressing for hair; while the dried wood is aromatic and can be used in pot pourri.
  Further studies are needed to discover if it really does help to lower blood sugar levels and to have an anti-cancer effect. The magnolia vine is a plant to watch out for in the future.

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