The bark of the Magnolia tree has been in use for more than a thousand years as a natural remedy for several ailments across Asia especially in China. Magnolia officinalis is a species of Magnolia trees native to the mountains of China. The Magnolia genus of trees is an ancient genus that appeared even before bees did. Traditional Chinese medicine has been using the bark of the Magnolia tree for ages to relieve anxiety and stress-related disorders. The Magnolia bark extract is also used as toothpaste to alleviate swelled gums and stop internal bleeding. The chemical compounds in the extract also help to fight bacteria thus ensuring the mouth stays fresh and odorless.

However, recent studies into the potential benefits of the Magnolia bark have revealed its even greater potential as an anti-depressant. Early research indicated that taking a particular product containing magnolia bark extract and Phellodendron improves mood and reduces stress in people dealing with mental fatigue. So let’s take a detailed look at the potential of Magnolia bark extract in treating depression.

Unblocking your Qi

It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that illness is a result of stress that is caused when the qi becomes stagnant or blocked. Qi is the vital force that regulates the body’s metabolism and drinking the tea made from infusing Magnolia bark in hot water can get your qi moving again. Magnolia extracts when used along with Phellodendron may provide relief from nervousness or anxiety caused due to stress.

The Magnolia bark extract is known to activate GABA receptors and is a very potent GABA booster. GABA short for Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter. Boosting the GABA helps to reduce excessive activities in the nervous system. By doing so, it helps to relax and encourage sleep. Sleeping always helps to get relief from stress. Sleeping not only allows the cells of your body to recover but it also provides mental recovery. The extracts may also repress unhealthy levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone. Studies show that the Magnolia extracts are effective as an anxiolytic.

Dealing with Depression

The extract of the Magnolia bark can activate cannabinoid receptors in our brain which help our nervous system respond better to certain hormones and other chemical compounds that help to reduce stress as well as increase happiness. Cannabinoid receptors are cell membrane receptors located throughout our body and are primarily responsible for the calming and euphoric effects of cannabis. By activating the cannabinoid receptors in our brain we can increase the number of cannabinoids (the main chemical compound that gives cannabis its potency) that our brain can accept and process. This helps to relax our minds and lets us better deal with depression and the stress it induces.

In vitro and animal studies in laboratories have shown significant positive effects of certain active compounds in the Magnolia bark extract. One such active compound is honokiol. Experimentally induced depression in mice was inhibited by a mixture of honokiol and magnolol at 20 and 40 mg/kg respectively. The mixture increased the levels of a serotonin metabolite in the hypothalamus, frontal cortex, and striatum of the mice.

A traditional Chinese medicine containing an ethanol extract of Magnolia officinalis showed antidepressant effects in mice similar to fluoxetine. When put in a stress-induced environment, the mixture of honokiol, magnolol, and ginger oil helped to relieve stress in the mice. Honokiol and magnolol increase serotonin levels while ginger reduces serum gastrin levels.

Rich in Anti-oxidants

Active compounds in the extracts of magnolia bark act as antioxidants and can lower oxidative stress in the brain as well as the body. Anti-oxidants also suppress stress-related hormones. In vitro and animal studies revealed high antioxidant activity by a mixture of magnolol and honokiol present in Magnolia bark extract. The extract further protects against myocardial and cerebral ischemia. Anti-oxidants are equally important for both the body and brain as these compounds help to flush toxins from the body and freshen up the cells.

Fresh tea brewed with Magnolia bark can be taken twice a day to get relief from depression and anxiety. Doses differ with age and one should consult a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine for accurate information regarding dosage and side effects. Pregnant women or women who are breast-feeding should avoid it.


Though initial research seems to be very promising, it should be kept in mind that most of the research has been conducted in laboratories. More conclusive research and an in-depth human study need to be done before we conclude.

Magnolia Bark Extract