Adaptogens And Nanai Hunters

The Nanai are the indigenous inhabitants of Southeast Siberia and Northeastern China who traditionally lived along the Heilongjiang and Ussury rivers. They are fishers and hunters—even hunting on skis during the winter.

Dersu Uzala (photo below) was a Nanai trapper-hunter who worked as a guide for Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev, who immortalized him in his book “Dersu Uzala” (the book was eventually adapted into a movie, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film!). In 1902, Uzala introduced Arsenyev to the Schisandra berry, a plant commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which was also used by Nanai hunters as a tonic to reduce thirst, hunger, and exhaustion, and to improve night vision. “It gives forces to follow a sable all day without food,” he observed. Arsenyev would commemorate Uzala’s intelligence, keen instincts, and uncanny observational skills in his book, as well as details on the effects of Schisandra 🍒

The book sparked great interest in Schisandra throughout Russia, and the berry came to have considerable value for Soviet soldiers during WWII, with research published in their WWII military journals (more recent scientific analysis discovered that the berries instigate significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in the body, capacities which make it especially useful for athletes. Other research trials indicate that Schisandra improves cerebral endurance as well: participants experienced improved concentration and produced more accurate, higher quality work. Clinical studies that focused specifically on doctors, students, and soldiers reported superior mind-sharpening properties.) 🌱

The idea of using herbal medicinal plants to increase stamina and survival in harmful environments was extensively studied in Russia, and a new concept of “adaptogens” was born—due in no small part to a Nanai hunter.

Dersu Uzala