Bark, leaves, and cones from the magnolia tree (Magnolia officinalis) have been used in traditional Chinese and Japanese herbal medicines for centuries. Magnolia bark extract is still used as a constituent in traditional formulas for gastrointestinal ailments, viral infections, depression, and anxiety. Magnolia bark extract is gaining recognition in the West for its antioxidant activity and its effects on neurotransmitters as scientific research on traditional remedies increases.

The active constituents in magnolia, primarily honokiol and magnolol, modulate neurotransmitter receptors in the brain, including adenosine, benzodiazepine, cannabinoid, dopamine, and serotonin receptors. This activity results in tranquillo-sedative effects; normalization of serotonin, corticosterone, and adrenaline levels; and improvements in memory, mood, and pain sensations. Magnolia bark extract also reduces inflammation and oxidative stress through inhibition of multiple signaling pathways that inhibit advanced glycation end product (AGE) formation, reduce reactive oxygen species, increase destruction of hydroxyl radicals, and more. Magnolia bark extract may reduce symptoms of asthma by suppressing lymphocyte-mediated allergic reactions, inducing bronchodilatation through calcium ion antagonist effect that results in muscle relaxation,  and inhibiting  acetylcholine-induced contraction of muscles. Most of the research on magnolia bark extract is still in the pre-clinial stages, though clinical trials are underway on its effects on Alzheimer’s disease, depression, cancer, and more. In clinical trials on populations with sleep disturbances, including postmenopausal women, magnolia bark extract induced sleepiness, reduced time to fall asleep (sleep latency), increased REM and non-REM sleep duration, and improved overall mood. In clinical trials mood disorders, magnolia bark extract improved symptoms of acute, transitory anxiety, but had no effects on depression or long-standing feelings of anxiety. In clinical trials on patients with mild to moderate asthma, magnolia bark extract along with inhaled corticosteroids had better asthma control than those using inhaled corticosteroids alone.

Side-effects may include acid reflux, constipation, dizziness, headache, stomach pain, tirednes, and tremors. Contraindications include blood clotting disorders, surgery, pregnancy and lactation, alcohol, anticoagulant and antiplatelet medications, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and CNS depressants. Some traditional herbal formulas which include magnolia bark extract have been shown to be hepatotoxic; use caution with herbal blends that include magnolia bark. There is some concern that vulnerable individuals may misuse magnolia bark extract due to its effects on neurotransmitters, but currently no research supports it. There are reports that sustained use results in lower sensitivity to the therapeutic effects of magnolia bark extracts, making it less effective long-term.

Standard dosing for sleep disorders is 200-400mg of standardized extract once daily an hour before bed. 600mg standardized extract once daily has been used in clinical trials as adjunct treatment for asthma along with inhaled corticosteroids.

Disclaimer: The content herein is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is not meant to diagnosis, cure, or treat any medical condition. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with questions regarding a medical condition and before starting new diets and dietary supplements. Not all diets or supplements are appropriate for all people or all health conditions.


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