Schisandra plus vitamin C may synergistically boost cognition (for mice at least)

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Schisandra chinensis berries.   Image © Getty Images / bong hyunjung
Schisandra chinensis berries. Image © Getty Images / bong hyunjung

Related tags Schisandra Cognition Memory Memory claims

A combination of vitamin C and an extract from Schisandra chinensis may enhance learning and memory and recognition ability, suggests a new study done in Korea with mice.

Data published in Nutrients​ indicate that the combination may boost cognition by enhancing mitochondrial respiration.

“Decrease of mitochondrial function is associated with cognitive decline caused by dysregulation of synaptic plasticity,” ​explained researchers from Chungnam National University School of Medicine, and the Natural Product Research Team at the Gyeonggido Business and Science Accelerator.

“However, there is no clinically used natural compound manipulating mitochondria. Combination of ​Schisandra chinensis extract (SCE) and AA [ascorbic acid] has effects to enhance mitochondrial respiration and to improve cognitive function via induction of a key synaptic protein expression in hippocampus.”

The study was performed in mice and would need to be replicated in other studies, including in a human intervention, but the researchers noted that the combination of Schisandra chinensis​ extract and vitamin C may have potential to slow cognitive decline in the elderly.

Study details

The researchers gave eight-week-old male C57BL/6 mice either Schisandra​ extract, vitamin C, or a mixture of Schisandra​ extract and vitamin C once per day for three days.

Results showed that mice who received the combination of Schisandra​ and vitamin C showed “enhanced learning and memory and recognition ability”.

The cognitive performance data came from novel object-recognition (NOR) tests, which had the mice exploring two identical objects equidistant from the center of the enclosure. In the second session, one of objects was replaced by a new object.

“Specifically, the exploration time for the novel object compared with that for the familiar object increased by an average of 26.6 s in [mice who received the Schisandra-vitamin C combination] and 2.4 s in control mice,” ​wrote the researchers. “An analysis of exploration times for novel and familiar objects, expressed as a percentage of the total exploration time during session 2 showed a 48.1% greater exploration time for novel objects than familiar objects for [mice who received the Schisandra-vitamin C combination] compared with 14.3% for control mice.

“Collectively, these results suggest that an SCE-AA mixture significantly enhances hippocampal-dependent object-recognition memory.”

Additional in vitro studies showed that the combination of Schisandra and vitamin C increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is known to play an important role in memory and learning.

“These observations imply that the SCE-AA mixture mainly affects hippocampal memory storage, accompanied by modest effects on frontal cortex-associated memory formation.”

Source: Nutrients
2020; 12​(4). doi: 10.3390/nu12040897
“Schisandra Extract and Ascorbic Acid Synergistically Enhance Cognition in Mice Through Modulation of Mitochondrial Respiration”
Authors: Y. Jang et al.

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