Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on September 07, 2023
3 min read


The extract of the bark of Magnolia trees (Magnolia officianalis) has been used for some 1,000 years in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for treatment of maladies ranging from asthma to depression to headaches to muscle pain. It is generally considered safe if taken orally and for the short term.

It also has a place in Native American medicine as an antimalarial. 

More than 250 ingredients can be found in the bark, flowers and leaves of the Magnolia, but two of the main compounds used in dietary supplements are magnolol and honokiol. They are used in cosmetic and weight loss products, and their use as anti-cancer, antioxidative, and anti-inflammatory agents is being studied.

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
  • Diabetes. In lab tests using rats fed a high-fat diet, magnolol and honokiol reduced fat and protected against insulin resistance.
  • 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.

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.

Risks. Avoid using magnolia during pregnancy. And use caution if you take medicine to help you sleep or lessen your anxiety. Magnolia bark can also be toxic and has been linked to kidney disease and permanent kidney failure.

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

Other interactions: Taking magnolia bark with blood thinners, including aspirin, is not recommended. It may increase the risk of bleeding.

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.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market.