Magnolia Bark (Magnolia Officinalis, Hou Po)

cortex magnoliaeMagnolia bark, also known as Hou Po in Pinyin, is one of well-known Chinese herbs. As a matter of fact, it is just one medicinal part from magnolia officinalis, whose root bark, flower, seed and bud can be also used medicinally. In brief its barks promote gastrointestinal motility and improve bowel function; seeds improve eyesight and tonify qi; buds are a good gynecological medicine. As you can see, this plant is very versatile. Seeds can be used for manufacturing oil and making soap, thanks to its 35% oil content and 25% oil yield. Timber is a good material for construction, sheets, furniture, sculpture, musical instruments, joinery and other purposes. What’s more, it is an amazing ornamental tree as it has big shade and beautiful flowers. Anyway, this article is going to focus only on its health benefits.

What is magnolia bark?

It refers to the dried bark of trunk, root, and branch of Magnolia officinalis Rehd. et Wils. or Magnolia officinalis Rehd. et Wils. var. biloba Rehd. et Wils., plants in the family of Magnoliaceae. Also, other names include cortex magnoliae officinalis and cortex magnoliae. It is mainly produced in Sichuan, Hubei and other places. The best peeling time is from April to June. Root and branch barks are placed in the shade to dry. After drying, put them in boiling water, cook slightly, pile them in shade and moist places, let them sweat until the inner surface turns purple, brown or tan, steam them soft, roll into tube shape, dry again, cut into shreds, prepare with ginger, and set aside for future use.

This is a deciduous tree, 5 to 15 meters in height. Barks are purple-brown. Twigs have fine hairs when young but glabrous when old. Buds in winter are thick, conical, and with bud scales densely covered with pale brown hair. Leaves are alternate, elliptic-obovate, 35 to 45cm long, and 12 to 20cm wide. Flowers, blooming along with leaves, grow solitarily on the top of branch, cup-shaped, white, fragrant, and 15cm in diameter. Aggregate fruit is oblong ovate, 9 to 12cm long and 5 to 6.5cm in diameter. Carpel, woody when mature, is tightly packed and with curved tip on the top. Seeds are triangular-obovate and with red testa. Its flowering period is from April to May and fruit period from September to October. In China it is distributed in Zhejiang, Guangxi, Jiangxi, Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Gansu and other places.

Main chemical constituents are magnolol, isomagnolol, honokiol, tetrahydromagnolol, magnal-dehyde B, C, D, E, magnolignan A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, syringaresinol, alkaloids, magnocurarine, and volatile oil, in which contains eudesmol, α-pinene, β-pinene, p-cymene, and so on.

Magnolia bark benefits

Magnolia officinalis, eucommia and phellodendron are called “three wood” herbs, which are known for their three medicinal parts of dried barks of trunk, branch, and root. And magnolia tree bark is widely used for a variety of diseases. According to related studies, currently there are more than 200 Chinese patent drugs that are based on this herb. No wonder now it is made into various magnolia bark products, such as supplement, liquid extract, capsules, tea, powder, chewing gum, day cream and night cream, pills, tincture, tablets, toothpaste, and so on. Compared to its traditional uses, modern magnolia bark uses have been greatly expanded, including sleep disorders or insomnia, anxiety, weight loss, stress, high blood pressure (hypertension), bad breath (halitosis), belly fat, birth control, prostate cancer, gastroparesis, hair loss, and more. And apparently its pharmacology can tell more truth about this amazing herb.

Modern magnolia tree bark pharmacological actions

1. Its decoction inhibits pneumococcus, corynebacterium diphtheriae, hemolytic streptococcus, bacillus subtilis, Shigella, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus anthracis and certain dermatophytes;
2. Magnolia alkali and magnolol can significantly relax central muscle;
3. Magnolia alkali and magnocurarine can relax striated muscle. Small dose excites the intestine while high dose inhibits the intestine;
4. Magnolol has preventive and therapeutic effect on experimental gastric ulcer in rats;
5. It has antihypertensive effect. During blood pressure reduction, reflex respiratory excitement will occur and heart rate will increase.

Proven magnolia officinalis bark herbal remedies

According to Chinese Materia Medica, it is bitter and acrid in flavor and warm in properties and goes to three meridians of spleen, stomach, and large intestine. Basic functions are activating qi to resolve stagnation, drying dampness and eliminating fullness, and calming the adverse-rising qi to relieve asthma. Prime magnolia bark uses and indications include food retention and qi stagnation, bloating and constipation, damp retention in middle-jiao, fullness in the abdomen, vomiting and diarrhea, reversed flow of qi due to phlegm congestion, and chest fullness caused by dyspnea with cough. Recommended magnolia bark dosage is from 3 to 10 grams in decoction, powder, or tea pills. As mentioned previous, this herb is able to provide natural anxiety relief natural remedies for stress. However, mastering its medicinal properties is first but most important step to prescribe the right formula. And of course you can also borrow ideas from those ancient proven herbal formulas as follows.

1. Ping Wei San. From Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang (Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary), this formula use this herb together with Cang Zhu (Atractylodes), Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel), and others for the syndrome of damp retention in middle-jiao and abdominal distention.

2. Hou Po San Wu Tang. From Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer), this prescription combines it with Da Huang (Rhubarb) and Zhi Shi (Immature Bitter Orange) for the treatment of food retention, qi stagnation, bloating and constipation.

3. Da Cheng Qi Tang. From Shang Han Lun (On Cold Damage), this recipe matches it with Rhubarb, Immature Bitter Orange, and Mang Xiao (Mirabilite) to relieve constipation due to heat accumulation.

4. Hou Po Ma Huang Tang. From Jin Gui Yao Lue, it is mainly formulated for heat-transmission from cold retained fluid, chest tightness, wheezing, sputum sound in throat, and irritability. Other essential herbal ingredients include Ma Huang (Ephedra), Shi Gao (Gypsum), Xing Ren (Apricot Seed), and so on.

5. Ban Xiao Hou Po Tang. From Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer, it is exclusively made for globus hysteriocus. Other major herbs include Ban Xia (Pinellia Rhizome), Fu Ling (Poria), Zi Su Ye (Perilla Leaf), Sheng Jiang (Fresh Ginger Rhizome), and more.

Magnolia bark side effects and contraindications

The AHPA rated magnolia bark with a class 2B. That’s to say, use it with care for cooking or medical purpose. Li Shizhen ever said, :” taking Hou Po should avoid beans. Otherwise it may stir qi.” Therefore, in terms of drug interactions, this herb should not be taken together with beans because magnolia officinalis bark contains tannin while beans are rich in protein. These two ingredients would react and form non-digestible protein tannin. In addition, due to both of them contain complex organic components, eating them together may lead to other adverse reactions, which may make beans harder to be digested, form gas and fill intestines, and finally cause bloating. And finally, last but not least, it should be used with caution during pregnancy.

6 thoughts on “Magnolia Bark (Magnolia Officinalis, Hou Po)

  1. Eve

    I read that it may cause respritory paralasis. I am using it with great success for multiple ailments. But Because of teh warning I read and the information here that shows it works best in smaller doses, I will make sure not to overdo it.

    1. admin Post author

      Indeed, it is best to err on the side of caution when it comes to the doses of a herb you are not so sure about.

  2. Jean Beardsall

    Im worried it may not be safe to take with codeine ibuprofen and paracetamol – very keen to get information about this

  3. roskva

    could you please tell me more about the uses of magnolia seeds? i have been unable to find anything. thank you


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