|What is magnolia bark?|
Magnolia is a flowering tree (Latin name: magnolia officinalis) that is native to China. The magnolia plant has an ancient history as a therapeutic compound in traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean medicine, used to promote sleep and relaxation, to ease anxiety, and to treat allergies and asthma, among other conditions. Both the bark of the magnolia tree and its flowers are used therapeutically. Magnolia bark extract is found in supplements, tea, toothpaste, and topical oils and cream.
I have a number of patients who use magnolia bark in supplement form to help with their sleep, stress, and anxiety.
How does magnolia bark work?
The bark of the magnolia tree contains several natural, bioactive compounds that function as anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-allergic agents. Among most well-known and well-studied of these compounds are honokiol and magnolol. Magnolia bark works as an anxiolytic, helping to lower anxiety and depression and reduce stress. Magnolia bark can also act as a sedative, directly helping to facilitate sleep. (Of course, it’s anti-stress capabilities also help sleep, indirectly.)
Scientists have identified several other ways magnolia bark functions beneficially in the body. Magnolia is…
A GABA booster. GABA is a neurotransmitter that exerts a calming effect. Increased GABA activity quiets excitatory neurons in the brain, helps reduce anxiety, and promotes sleep.
A powerful antioxidant. Compounds in magnolia bark act as antioxidants, lowering levels of inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain and throughout the body.
An activator of cannabinoid receptors. The bioactive compounds in magnolia bark activate cannabinoid receptors. These receptors, located throughout the body, are part of the endocannabinoid system—which is getting a lot of attention from scientists these days for its role in immune health, pain relief, and disease-prevention. Activation of these receptors helps to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and elevate mood, among many other benefits.
An adrenaline inhibitor. Research suggests that bioactive compounds in magnolia bark can reduce adrenaline, a hormone strongly associated with stress, which stimulates vigilance and alertness. Other research indicates magnolia bark may suppress unhealthful levels of cortisol, another significant stress-related hormone.