Magnolia Bark: What is it, the benefits, and how to take it

Eu Natural
December 21, 2020
Fact checked
Dr. Stephanie Nichols, ND

From flower to tree, there are hundreds of different types of magnolia species.

While they share the same Magnoliaceae family, one species is known for having beneficial health properties.

Meet magnolia bark.

Not to be confused with the popular garden flower, magnolia bark comes from the houpo magnolia tree, also known as the magnolia officinalis tree. Native to China, the bark has been used in traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean medicine dating back thousands of years.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of magnolia bark, if science agrees with this, and how you can reap the benefits.

What is Magnolia Bark?

magnolia bark 1

Also known as Magnolia officinalis Rehd. Et Wils, Houpo and Hu-bak, Magnolia Bark is a thick, brown bark of the Magnolia officinalis tree.

The bark is known for being highly fragrant due to the impressive white flowers and can be taken from the stems, roots, and branches of the tree to create the medicine. 

April through to June are the typical months when the bark is collected, and then the process of becoming supplement ready begins!

The bark is left to be dried, the goodness then extracted by submerging it in boiling water to finally be left in a wet place until its inner surface becomes purplish-brown or dark brown, softened by steaming, and rolled and dried.

This process ensures that magnolia bark is in tip-top shape and on its way to become a supplement or an extract!

What are the benefits of Magnolia Bark?

benefits

The potential benefits of magnolia bark are plentiful, and many of them are a result of honokiol and magnolol, two potent bioactive compounds found in the bark.

These bioactive compounds have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic properties.

The significance of magnolia bark is that that’s the only place to find both honokiol and magnolol, making this bark something special! 

Some well-known benefits of magnolia bark include:

  • Lower levels of anxiety and stress
  • Decrease levels of oxidative stress
  • Promote sleep
  • Reduce gum inflammation 
  • Anti-cancer properties
  • Relieve menopause symptoms
  • Fight against cognitive decline

So, without further ado, let’s see what science has to say about the impact of magnolia bark on the following:

Stress and anxiety

stress and anxiety

Also known as an anxiolytic, magnolia bark is commonly used for reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety. As a result, plenty of studies aim to identify the potential ability of using magnolia bark extra to treat stress and anxiety.

Fortunately, the results are in favor of magnolia bark! 

One study examined the effect of a blend of magnolia bark and Phellodendron amurense had on 60 participants, each with moderate psychological stress levels. 

The study divided the patients into two groups of 30, including a placebo group.

Cortisol exposure was then documented three times a day by saliva samples over four weeks.

Following the study, the participants who had taken the blend of magnolia bark and Phellodendron amurense experienced a significant reduction in cortisol exposure and alleviated daily stress compared with the placebo group. Furthermore, the participants found lower levels of fatigue and an improvement in physical and mental energy.

Additional studies also support the claims that magnolia bark positively impacts anxiety and stress symptoms, including one study that divided a group of 40 women into two groups.

Half of the group were to take a placebo while the other half took a supplement blend of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense three times daily over six weeks. 

Using the Spielberger STATE anxiety questionnaire to measure the outcome, the overall results indicated that the supplement blend was much more effective than the placebo at temporarily reducing anxiety symptoms.

The demand for a natural alternative to relieve anxiety and stress symptoms is increasing more and more, and magnolia bark could be the answer to help diminish symptoms.

Oxidative stress

oxidative stress

Not to be confused with stress, oxidative can have an even more sinister effect.

Oxidation is a regular bodily activity; however, an imbalance of free radical activity and antioxidant activity can lead to oxidative stress, which can be harmful to human health.

The impact of oxidative stress can be severe and lead to the development of health conditions, including:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinsons
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Obesity 
  • Cancer
  • Heart conditions

Oxidative stress can also play a role in the body prematurely aging. 

The antioxidant properties of polyphenols found in magnolia bark can help reduce levels of oxidative stress.

Antioxidants work by neutralizing or removing free radicals in the body; this in turn helps to protect the body from oxidative stress.

Research has found that as polyphenols may protect cells against oxidative damage, this could result in limiting the risk of developing degenerative diseases associated with oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress can happen to anyone, and if you notice it early enough, you can quickly reduce the effects. It’s essential to protect yourself against oxidative stress before it develops into something serious. 

Research suggests that magnolia bark’s antioxidant activity could help ensure or restore a balance of free radical activity.

Sleep

sleep

Inducing sleep is just another one of magnolia bark’s many benefits.

We all experience difficulty sleeping from time to time, but for someone with insomnia, the impact of continuous lack of sleep can have a knock-on effect on other areas of their life.

It isn’t just about struggling to fall asleep. Sleep issues range from when you first close your eyes, to sleep disturbances throughout the night. A buildup of this can lead to anxiety about that time of the day.

Magnolia Bark contains honokiol and magnolol, two compounds that both positively affect GABA(A). GABA(A) is a receptor in the central nervous system and helps both body and mind not only to fall asleep but sleep well throughout the night.

There is a correlation between people with insomnia and lower levels of GABA(A) in the brain, and sleeping medication work by increasing those levels.

A study found that the consumption of a 10mg and 20mg dose of Honokiol led to a reduction in the time it took from being fully awake to asleep as well as increasing non-rapid eye movement sleep, better known as dreamless sleep.

The results of these studies suggest that magnolia bark could be useful in not only helping you drift off but also have an undisturbed night’s sleep. 

Gum inflammation

gum inflammation

Gingivitis refers to inflammation of the gums and is often the result of plaque build-up. 

Magnolia bark could be useful in helping reduce gum inflammation due to its antimicrobial properties. Antimicrobial refers to an agent that destroys microorganisms and prevents them from regrowing, e.g. bacteria. 

One study has analyzed the effect magnolia bark infused chewing gum has on dental health. The participants chewed five pieces of gum three times daily over 30 days. 

The results of the study saw a decrease in plaque build-up, suggesting that chewing magnolia bark infused gum could contribute to good oral health.

These results aren’t stand alone; another study had similar findings.

One study divided one hundred and twenty participants into three groups, including one to take magnolia bark infused chewing gum and another to take a placebo.

Examinations on all 120 participants took place seven days before use, after 30 days of gum use, and seven days after the end of gum use. 

The results after the thirty days showed that magnolia bark infused chewing gum had beneficial effects on oral health, including reduction of plaque and bleeding on probing.

Magnolia bark in the form of chewing gum or toothpaste should be an additional aid to regular tooth care, such as brushing your teeth and flossing, instead of a replacement. 

Anti-cancer properties

anti cancer properties

The positive effect honokiol may have on cancer has led to a significant increase in studies on the compound. 

Research suggests that honokiol may have a positive effect on several types of cancer, including: 

  • Lung
  • Breast
  • Prostate
  • Colon
  • Ovarian

One study’s findings summarize that honokiol helped prevent cells’ growth, specifically in ovarian cancer, and helped to induce the destruction of them.

Magnolol is another compound found in magnolia bark that may also have anti-cancer properties.

Research has specifically looked at the impact magnolol has on colon and liver cancer cells.  Low doses of magnolol can cause cell cycle arrest, which is essentially when a cell cycle comes to an end and no longer divides and spreads.

Furthermore, research claims that a combination of honokiol and magnolol have an even more significant impact and together help the body get rid of damaged cells as well as induce death of cancerous cells.

These two compounds with potential anti-cancer properties suggest that magnolia bark could be a naturally effective cancer management approach. 

Symptoms of menopause

menopause

We’ve identified that magnolia bark could positively affect both sleep and mood, meaning it could help relieve symptoms of menopause.

Several studies have researched the effect magnolia bark has on menopausal women, 

In 2006, a study on eighty-nine menopausal women concluded that magnolia bark is a natural approach to menopause because of its therapeutic usefulness. 

Over 24 weeks, each woman took a daily supplement, a formula of several compounds and vitamins, including 60mg of magnolia bark extract. 

From week four, the women experienced a significant decrease in flushing, nocturnal sweating, palpitations, insomnia, asthenia, anxiety, mood depression, irritability, vaginal dryness, dyspareunia, and libido loss.

While it’s not surprising these results showed a reduction in insomnia, anxiety, and depression, the positive impact on other symptoms suggest magnolia bark could be effective at reducing all menopausal symptoms.

Cognitive disorders

cognitive

The decline of memory and learning ability naturally occurs as we get older, but some illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s, unfortunately, speed up the process.

Magnolia Bark contains the compound, Honokiol which has the potential to promote cognitive health. Research has identified the success Honokiol has on increasing mental health, which has been demonstrated in learning and memory tests.

An extract of Honokiol was tested on animal models, and the results conclude that the compound helped prevent age-related memory and learning deficits. Honokiol was studied against several other compounds found in Chinese herbs and, alongside magnolol, was the only compound to be significantly effective.

Further research on human models is necessary to understand magnolia’s full possible impact on enhancing memory and learning, but this study strongly signifies a likely positive effect.

How do I take Magnolia Bark?

magnolia bark capsules

Don’t worry; you don’t need to chew on actual bark to obtain the magnolia plant’s health benefits! Magnolia bark is commonly available as a capsule supplement, liquid extract, and possible dental properties, even chewing gum and toothpaste.

Typical doses are between 200-400mg. However, the recommended dosage varies from person to person and depends on the results you are looking for, e.g help with sleep, reducing anxiety, improving memory? 

Therefore, it’s best to speak with a healthcare professional to determine the right and safe dose for you. 

Are there any side effects of Magnolia Bark?

Research and studies suggest that magnolia bark is safe to use, and there are no adverse side effects. 

However, if pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to avoid taking any form of magnolia bark. 

If you are considering taking any form of magnolia bark, speak with a medical healthcare professional. 

Wrapping up

While the Magnolia officinalis tree is impressive and beautiful to look at with its spectacular flowers, the bark is the real star of the show and packs a punch. 

From anti-cancer properties, reducing stress and anxiety, menopausal relief, and inducing sleep, magnolia bark extract could be a natural way to help you manage those areas that may be hindering your quality of life.

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