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Magnolia

The bark from some species of magnolia trees is used as a popular herbal treatment in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine. In China, the herb is called Houpu.

The bitter-tasting bark contains at least 250 chemicals, several of which may be useful in treating health problems.

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Why do people take magnolia?

People have traditionally used magnolia to try to treat:

Anxiety. In one study, a treatment containing magnolia extract was linked to less anxiety in menopausal women.

Digestive problems. In some studies, a treatment that contained magnolia lessened pain and constipation in people with a type of indigestion.

Allergies. Some studies suggest it has anti-allergy effects.

In addition, some research -- in humans and animals -- suggests magnolia may also be useful in these ways:

  • As an antioxidant
  • Lessen inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis
  • Improve heart health. Magnolia may protect blood vessels from damage from LDL "bad" cholesterol and other causes.
  • For liver protection
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce the growth of bacteria

Some research has suggested some other possible benefits for magnolia: It might also help treat or prevent:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Asthma
  • Cancer. Chemicals from magnolia have been useful against numerous types of cancer in lab tests. For example, studies found that they reduced tumor size and increased life span in mice with colorectal cancer.
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Stroke. A chemical in magnolia reduced damage in the brain in mice after oxygen loss, such as occurs with stroke.
  • Ulcers

Supplement makers may suggest varying amounts of their product for different purposes. However, optimal doses of magnolia have not been set for any condition. And the quality and active ingredients in supplements may vary widely from maker to maker. This makes it hard to set a standard dose.

Can you get magnolia naturally from foods?

You cannot get magnolia naturally from foods.

Magnolia bark extract has been tested in studies as an ingredient in chewing gum. Chewing gum with magnolia bark extract may promote better breath and gum health. These findings might lead to the development of brands of gum that contain this ingredient.

What are the risks of taking magnolia?

Risks.  Avoid using magnolia during pregnancy. And use caution if you take medicine to help you sleep or lessen your anxiety.

Interactions. Taking magnolia bark along with drugs that promote sleep or treat anxiety may cause drowsiness. This can make it unsafe for you to drive a vehicle or use heavy machinery.

Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with any medications.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on January 10, 2013

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