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Health Benefits of Magnolia Bark

What Should I Know About It?

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Updated July 12, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Magnolia bark is a natural remedy said to offer a range of health benefits. Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, magnolia bark is sourced from Magnolia officinalis (a tree native to China). Magnolia bark contains honokiol, a natural compound that acts as a phytoestrogen.

Health Benefits of Magnolia Bark

So far, research on the health effects of magnolia bark is fairly limited. But there's some evidence that magnolia bark may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at several key findings from the available studies:

1) Menopausal Symptoms

Magnolia bark may help ease the symptoms associated with menopause, according to a study published in Minerva Ginecologica in 2006. For the study, 89 midlife women experiencing menopausal symptoms were assigned to 24 weeks of treatment with either a combination of calcium and vitamin D, or a supplement containing calcium and vitamin D, plus magnolia bark, soy, probiotics and magnesium.

Study results revealed that the supplement containing magnolia bark was more effective than the combination of calcium and vitamin D in relieving hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, depression, irritability, vagina dryness, and loss of libido. But it's not yet known whether magnolia bark on its own might have a significant benefit in relieving symptoms associated with menopause.

2) Depression

Preliminary research suggests that magnolia bark may aid in treatment of depression. In a 2009 study published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, for instance, tests on mice found that a combination of magnolia bark extract and essential oil of ginger produced anti-depressant effects by moderating abnormalities in certain brain chemicals.

3) Anxiety

Magnolia bark shows promise for anxiety relief, according to a 1999 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. In tests on mice, scientists determined that honokiol extracted from magnolia bark may help reduce anxiety without triggering the side effects associated with diazepam (a drug commonly used in the treatment of anxiety disorders).

4) Bad Breath

Magnolia bark may help fight bad breath, suggests a small study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2007. For the study, nine healthy volunteers were given either Listerine mouthwash or a mint containing magnolia bark after eating lunch. Tests on saliva samples showed that magnolia bark was effective in destroying several types of bacteria known to cause bad breath.

Uses for Magnolia Bark

Magnolia bark is said to aid in the treatment or prevention of the following health problems:

  • anxiety
  • asthma
  • bad breath
  • constipation
  • depression
  • headache
  • inflammation
  • menopausal symptoms
  • stroke

In addition, magnolia bark is said to promote sleep, support weight loss, stimulate the digestive system, protect against cancer, and reduce stress.

Safety

Although little is known about the safety of long-term use of magnolia bark, there's some concern that it may trigger certain side effects (such as nausea, headaches, and drowsiness).

Where To Find Magnolia Bark

Widely available for purchase online, supplements containing magnolia bark can be purchased at many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Sources

Greenberg M, Urnezis P, Tian M. "Compressed mints and chewing gum containing magnolia bark extract are effective against bacteria responsible for oral malodor." J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Nov 14;55(23):9465-9.

Kuribara H, Stavinoha WB, Maruyama Y. "Honokiol, a putative anxiolytic agent extracted from magnolia bark, has no diazepam-like side-effects in mice." J Pharm Pharmacol. 1999 Jan;51(1):97-103.

Mucci M, Carraro C, Mancino P, Monti M, Papadia LS, Volpini G, Benvenuti C. "Soy isoflavones, lactobacilli, Magnolia bark extract, vitamin D3 and calcium. Controlled clinical study in menopause." Minerva Ginecol. 2006 Aug;58(4):323-34.

Yi LT, Xu Q, Li YC, Yang L, Kong LD. "Antidepressant-like synergism of extracts from magnolia bark and ginger rhizome alone and in combination in mice." Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Jun 15;33(4):616-24.

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