By Amy McKelvey
If you follow natural health and wellness trends, then chances are, you’re already aware of reishi, ashwaganda, and of course our beloved ginseng. What do all these have in common? They’re a class of plants, known as adaptogens. And in the next few months and years, you’re probably going to hear a lot more about them.
That’s because adaptogens aren’t just now trending; they’re a tenet of Ayurveda and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), and they’re here to help our body’s ability to adapt (hence the name). Adapt to what? Chiefly, to manage change and stress, and to allow for a normalizing effect upon each of our bodily systems. Rather than a quick hit burst of support (like caffeine), adaptogens provide more long-term, foundational changes that affect your body on a cellular level—so overall, you have more energy and vitality. It seems that as a culture, we’re all waking up to them, and it’s wonderful news.
But there’s a multi-performing adaptogen you may not have heard about yet, one that I just love: the Schisandra Berry. I first learned about this plant while studying herbalism at the California School of Herbal Studies in Sebastopol, California, founded by Rosemary Gladstar, the mother of Western herbalism. There, I slowly started to familiarize myself with adaptogens, intrigued by their long history of use and their ability to activate immune cells and tonify different organ systems that restore balance and help the body cope with stress. I’ll never forget the first time our instructor passed around the dried berries of Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) for us to taste and experience: it was such a complex, intriguing plant. As it turned out, this little berry is known for possessing all flavors, all at once (sour, salty, sweet, bitter, and pungent), is uniquely healing for women, and offers a balancing, whole body support that has been used in TCM for over 2,000 years.
Schisandra Berry provides adaptogenic support to manage stress, combat fatigue, and revive energy without over stimulation, and it’s a wonderful adrenal and liver-supporting ingredient. The body is built to survive in times of stress, but elevated and prolonged chronic stress levels (which too many of us experience!) can affect every organ system, including the thyroid and adrenal glands.
During my studies, along with tinctures and tea blends I started making adaptogenic, herbal versions of the modern-day energy bar—only these were made with nut butters, honey, medicinal herbs, and spices. After eating one in particular for about 3 months (3-4 a day), my Schisandra Berry Bites, I noticed something pretty profound. Even though I was working as a natural products consultant and in school full-time with 2 kids and a long, 2-hour commute every day, I had energy galore, my mental outlook was better than ever, and surprisingly I felt calm and in control of every area of my life. I also did not have one illness or cold sore outbreak! (Something that has plagued my poor nose since the age of 10—anytime I’m overly stressed).
Years later, with two teenagers and a full-time job as a busy CEO, my love for adaptogens and Schisandra Berry has only grown. I see every day that my overall health is very strong and that my body, mind, and spirit are better handling their daily stresses—even the constant barrage of endocrine disrupting ingredients—of this modern age. I am exercising and eating very well; sleeping and practicing mindfulness, but I am healthier and more resilient than ever before (even with perimenopause) and my chronic health issues are a thing of the past. That’s largely because of the gently supportive and balancing qualities of the intriguing and complex Schisandra Berry.
So here is one recipe I suggest to anyone who is stressed, tired, or simply wants to support their body in a quest for balance and energized living. Enjoy!
Schisandra Berry Bites
These Bake-Free Schisandra Orange Almond Butter Coconut Bites are:
- blood sugar stabilizing (critical for adrenal health and hormone balance)
- energizing without over-stimulating
- easy to make and affordable
- made with simple ingredients
- easy to carry wherever you go
- vegan and gluten free
- packed with healthy protein, fiber, and fats
¾ cup unsweetened coconut shreds or flakes
¾ cup coconut flour
¼ cup ground flaxseed
5 tsp schisandra berry powder
2 tbsp grated orange zest
3 tbsp bittersweet chopped chocolate chips (optional but so good)
¾ cup natural, unsalted almond or macadamia butter
¼ cup MCT oil, melted butter, coconut or avocado oil
¼ cup pure maple syrup (or honey, xylitol, stevia—amount adjusted to taste)
In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients: coconut shreds and flour, schisandra berry powder, orange zest, flax, almonds and chocolate chips.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: almond butter and maple syrup (or honey, xylitol, stevia).
Pour wet mixture into dry mixture. Using a large spoon fold together ingredients until well incorporated or simply use your hands like I enjoy doing.
Scoop about 1tbsp of mixture into hands and roll and form into small balls. If the mixture is a little dry, add in more coconut, butter, or avocado oil. Roll in dried unsweetened coconut flakes to finish or extra bittersweet chips if you are not overly sensitive to caffeine.
Amy McKelvey is CEO of Her Vital Way