Hou Po – Magnolia Bark

Nature: bitter, acrid, warm

Enters: Spleen, Stomach, Lung, Large Intestine

Actions: Promotes Qi circulation; transforms dampness, resolves stagnation; relieves asthma; descends the Qi of the Lungs, stomach, and large intestine (directs upward-rebelling Qi downward); warms and transforms phlegm.

• Accumulation of damp or food causing stagnation of Qi in the middle Jiao: distention and fullness of epigastrium, abdomen, and chest, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea. This is a key herb for eliminating distention and fullness.
• Lung phlegm: wheezing, cough with difficult breathing, stifling sensation in the chest, copious sputum.
• Most effective herb to promote Qi circulation in this category.
• Binds to GABA receptors, produces calming effect.
• Reduces allergic and asthmatic reactions.
• Counters effects of excessive cortisol, beneficial for insomnia and anxiety with high cortisol.
MLT: Gently stimulates intestinal peristalsis – for damp stagnation with either diarrhea or constipation.
Antimicrobial (though significantly weaker than the yellow herbs/berberine).
PCBDP: Stimulant, tonic, aromatic, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory.
Hsu: Antispasmodic, antibacterial, stomachic.
Weil: An Italian study published in February, 2011, compared a magnolia bark extract to soy isoflavones for treatment of anxiety, irritability and insomnia in menopausal women. The researchers found that the isoflavones effectively lessened the severity of classic menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, while magnolia bark eased the participants’ anxiety. Dr. Low Dog noted that an earlier study from Italy found that magnolia bark extract combined with magnesium improved sleep, mood, depression and anxiety in menopausal women.
Honokiol, a Multifunctional Antiangiogenic and Antitumor Agent: [ANTIOXIDANTS & REDOX SIGNALING. Volume 11, Number 5, 2009] Honokiol is a small-molecule polyphenol isolated from the genus Magnolia. It is accompanied by other related polyphenols, including magnolol, with which it shares certain biologic properties. Recently, honokiol has been found to have antiangiogenic, antiinflammatory, and antitumor properties in preclinical models, without appreciable toxicity. These findings have increased interest in bringing honokiol to the clinic as a novel chemotherapeutic agent. In addition, mechanistic studies have tried to find the mechanism(s) of action of honokiol, for two major reasons. First, knowledge of the mechanisms of action may assist development of novel synthetic analogues. Second, mechanistic actions of honokiol may lead to rational combinations with conventional chemotherapy or radiation for enhanced response to systemic cancers. In this review, we describe the findings that honokiol has two major mechanisms of action. First, it blocks signaling in tumors with defective p53 function and activated ras by directly blocking the activation of phospholipase D by activated ras. Second, honokiol induces cyclophilin D, thus potentiating the mitochondrial permeability transition pore, and causing death in cells with wild-type p53. Knowledge of the dual activities of honokiol can assist with the development of honokiol derivatives and the design of clinical trials that will maximize the potential benefit of honokiol in the patient setting.
Wiki: Honokiol is a lignan present in the cones, bark, and leaves of Magnolia grandiflora that has been used in the traditional Japanese medicine Saiboku-to as an anxiolytic, antithrombotic, antidepressant, antiemetic, and antibacterial. While early research on the effective compounds in traditional remedies have simply used whole magnolia bark extracts, known as houpu magnolia, recent work has identified honokiol and its structural isomer magnolol as the active compounds in magnolia bark. In the late 1990s, honokiol saw a revival in western countries as a potent and highly tolerable antitumorigenic and neurotrophic compound.
Anti-tumorigenic activities:
Honokiol has shown pro-apoptotic effects in melanoma, sarcoma, myeloma, leukemia, bladder, lung, prostate, oral squamous cell carcinoma[1] and colon cancer cell lines.[2][3][4][5] Honokiol inhibits phosphorylation of Akt, p44/42 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), and src. Additionally, honokiol regulates the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-?B) activation pathway, an upstream effector of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), MCL1, and cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2), all significant pro-angiogenic and survival factors. Honokiol induces caspase-dependent apoptosis in a TRAIL-mediated manner, and potentiates the pro-apoptotic effects of doxorubicin and other etoposides. So potent is honokiol’s pro-apoptotic effects that it overcomes even notoriously drug resistant neoplasms such as multiple myeloma and chronic B-cell leukemia.
Neurotrophic activity:
Honokiol has been shown to promote neurite outgrowth and have neuroprotective effects in rat cortical neurons. Additionally, honokiol increases free cytoplasmic Ca2+ in rat cortical neurons.[6] Honokiol is a weak cannabinoid CB2 receptor ligand but the naturally occurring derivative 4-O-methylhonokiol was shown to be a potent and selective cannabinoid CB2 receptor inverse agonist and to possess antiosteoclastic effects.[7]
Anti-thrombotic activity:
Honokiol inhibits platelet aggregation in rabbits in a dose-dependent manner, and protects cultured RAEC against oxidized low density lipoprotein injury. Honokiol significantly increases the prostacyclin metabolite 6-keto-PGF1alpha, potentially the key factor in honokiol’s anti-thrombotic activity.[8]
Examine.com presents a pretty comprehensive review of existing scientific data on this herb (click here).

Dose: 3-9g

Hou Po Hua: flower (different species than Xin yi hua, also magnolia flower)
• Acrid, warm, aromatic.
• Similar to, but weaker than the bark.
• Focuses more on the upper and middle Jiao, and regulates liver Qi.
• For a stifling sensation in the chest.
• Stomach ache due to liver/stomach disharmony.
Dose: 3-6g

7 comments on “Hou Po – Magnolia Bark

  1. Anonymous says:

    Is this herb harshly drying like Cang Zhu or less drying like Bai Zhu?

  2. imbuebod says:

    It’s more like Cang Zhu in effect. Though I wouldn’t say either cang zhu or hou po is “harsh.” When there is dampness present they’re indicated and shouldn’t cause damage to yin unless dosed too high or taken too long. In comparison, some of the diuretic (damp draining) herbs can have a much more drying effect.

  3. ML says:

    I am trying to find out why it not recommended for pregnancy and don’t seem to be able to find any plausible reason. would 1 gram per day be harmful in a pregnancy over 30 weeks?

    • Peter Borten says:

      I think 1 gram, especially if there is stagnation / dampness, should be fine. Also I always add appropriate herbs from those that stabilize the fetus as a safeguard. In this case maybe Bai Zhu or zi su ye.

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