North America, chiefly e Asia.
Genera 2, species 47 (1 genus, 1 species in the flora).
The Chinese drug wu-wei-zi and its substitutes are obtained from species of Schisandra. The drug is considered a potential source of expectorants, immune response boosters, and anti-ulcer compounds. Several lignan compounds from species of the genus are used as a treatment for hepatitis and as central nervous-system depressants (S. Foster 1989).
Schisandraceae were considered closely allied to Illiciaceae by A. C. Smith (1947). Embryologic studies (R. N. Kapil and S. Jalan 1964) were interpreted as showing that the former are considerably removed from the latter. In his monograph, A. C. Smith also postulated a close relationship between Schisandraceae and Magnoliaceae. J. Hutchinson (1973) stated that Schisandraceae were probably derived from Magnoliaceae. Studies of fossil pollen led J. W. Walker and A. G. Walker (1984) to conclude that Schisandraceae and Illiceaceae are closely allied with Winteraceae. Based on analysis of nucleotide sequences from the plastid gene rbcL, however, M. W. Chase et al. (1993) and Qiu Y. L. et al. (1993) concluded that Schisandraceae and Illiciaceae are closely allied and closely related to Austrobaileyaceae but distant from Winteraceae.