Mulberry bark, or called Sang Bai Pi in Pinyin, may be strange to you as a Chinese herb. But as you may know, it is part of mulberry plant and possesses similar healing properties. As one of commonly used herbs, it plays an important role in many famous ancient formulas. In short, it is mainly used for lung-heat cough, asthma or wheezing, swollen eyes or face, difficult urination, high blood pressure, diabetes, and so on. What’s more, today studies also show that it is capable of reducing excitement or anxiety, repairing damaged tissue cells, accelerating wound healing, and fading the scar. No wonder it has long been widely used as one key ingredient in many wound-healing ointments since ancient time.
Mulberry bark description
Medicinally, it mainly refers to the dried root bark of Morus alba L. This is a species commonly known as white mulberry in the family Moraceae. So, please keep in mind that it is the root bark rather than the stem bark that is used as a medicine. Try not to mix them up clinically. And it is also known as mulberry root bark, Cortex Mori, Cortex Mori Albae Radicis, white mulberry bark, mulberry white bark, Sohakuhi, mulberry tree bark, and more. It is widely cultivated to obtain white mulberry leaf because this is the main food for silkworms. As you know, silkworm cocoon is one of main sources of the commercial production of silk. In China, it can be found in most regions, in particular Anhui, Henan, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Hunan. And the root bark is usually dug up from late autumn when mulberry tree leaf is falling off to next spring before the sprouting. After that, remove dirt and fibril, scrape off the yellow-brown tertia when it is still fresh, peel the root bark off, vertically cut the cortex by a knife, pound it with a mallet in order to separate the cortex from xylem, remove the xylem, and dry them in the sun. When used as medicine, it is generally raw and cut into shreds, or stir-fried with honey.
The dried root bark of mulberry tree is often in the shape of twisted, elongated plate or a trough due to both sides curl inward. They have varying lengths and widths, usually 1 to 5mm thick. The outer surface is relatively smooth, yellowish white or nearly white, and with a few brown or reddish yellow spots and longitudinal cracks and sparse fibers. Inner surface is yellowish-white or pale yellow, smooth, and with fine vertical stripes, or exposed fibers due to splitting vertically. It is light weight, tough, and hard to break, but it is easy to be split vertically and white dust is generated when it is torn. It has kind of similar smell of the bean and sweet but slightly bitter taste. Medicinally the whiter, thicker, and more powdery one is preferred.
It contains flavonoids, mulberrofuran A, B, C, K, N, 0, M, P, Q, betulinic acid, umbelliferone, scopoletin, α-amyrin, β-amyrin, sitosterol, essential oils, tannins, etc. Flavonoids include mulberrin, mulberrochromene, cyclomulberrin, cyclomulberrochromene, morusin, cyclomorusin, oxydihydromomsin, kuwanon A, B, C, D, E, F, G (albanin F, moracenin B), H (albanin G, moracenin A), I, K, L, Y, Z, moracenin C, D, sanggenon A to P, and more.
Mulberry bark benefits
The inner bark of some species in the mulberry family, such as Paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera), is the main source of making mulberry bark cloth or fabric and handmade mulberry bark paper. This is simply because its woody bast fiber is an ideal raw material for manufacturing exceptionally pure, translucent paper or a paper-like fabric, which is extensively used for rubber stamping projects, handmade cards, scrapbook project, etc. these days. Besides of the above-mentioned applications, mulberry bark health benefits are of equal importance.
a) It alleviates edema by inducing diuresis. Therefore, consuming it can do good to those are susceptible to edema after a long ride or after the surgery;
b) It helps get rid of athlete’s foot since it is a good odor remover. Specifically, boil appropriate amount of them with hot water and then soak feet. By doing so, athlete’s foot can be treated or prevented;
c) It adjusts endocrine system and urinary system. Eating it can help the body regulate endocrine disorders and urinary problems;
d) Instead of by burning or acidizing skin tissue, it removes scars by nourishing and enhancing skin’s self-healing capabilities. Besides, it has a whitening effect too, which can be used to reduce scar color left after wounds have been healed.
Modern pharmacological actions of mulberry bark herb
1) It has mild antitussive action. In addition, it can help induce diuresis, which can increase the rate of urine volume output and raise urine output of sodium, potassium, and chloride;
2) Its decoction and alcohol, ether, and methanol extract have varying degrees of antihypertensive effect; they have calming, anticonvulsant, analgesic, and cooling effects on the nervous system; they still have excitatory effect on intestine and uterus;
3) Its decoction has inhibitory effect on Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi, and Shigella;
4) It can inhibit cervical cancer and lung cancer cells;
5) Recent studies also show that it is also anti-HIV.
Sample mulberry root bark formulas on herbal remedies
The Chinese Materia Medica believes that it is sweet, pungent in flavor and cold in nature. It goes to meridian of lung and spleen. Normal functions are purging the lung of pathogenic fire to relieve asthma and inducing diuresis to alleviate edema. Prime mulberry bark uses and indications include lung-heat asthma due to excessive phlegm, fluid retained in lung, dyspnea and fullness, edema, beriberi; difficult urination. Recommended dosage is from 9 to 15 grams in decoction. Besides, it can be applicable in other forms, such as white mulberry root-bark extract, tea, powder, fresh juice, etc.
1) Xie Bai San from Xiao Er Yao Zheng Zhi Jue (Key to the Therapeutics of Children’s Diseases). It combines with Di Gu Pi (Lycium Barbarum Root Bark) and Gan Cao (Licorice Root) to treat cough and dyspnea in children due to exuberant lung-stomach heat.
2) Bu Fei Tang from Lei Qian Fang (Everlasting Categorization of Inscribed Formulas). It joins with Ren Shen (Ginseng Root), Wu Wei Zi (Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis), Shu Di Huang (Rehmannia), etc. to cure cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, hot flashes, night sweats, and more.
3) Wu Pi San from Zhong Cang Jing (Classic of the Secret Transmission). It couples with Fu Ling Pi (Poria Peel), Da Fu Pi (Areca Peel), Chen Pi (citrus peel), etc. to heal hyposarca, eye puffiness, facial puffiness, turgor and dyspnea, and difficult urination.
Mulberry bark side effects and contraindications
Is mulberry bark poisonous? No, it is considered relatively safe in clinical application since it is relatively less toxic. The experimental results show that its alcohol extract produces no significant adverse effects on laboratory animals no matter it is used by either a single high dose or long-term administration of low dose. TCM wise, it shouldn’t be used in cases of no fire in lung deficiency, urination frequency, and wind-cold type cough. In addition, it is inadvisable to be used by people with deficiency-cold constitution since it is of cold nature. Otherwise, it may make it worse.