Magnolia bark is a traditional remedy used for centuries to calm the mind, reduce feelings of anxiety, and to improve sleep. And in a modern world where work, stress, and an always-on culture contribute to a hyperconnected and exhausted mind, this herb is making a comeback as my go-to remedy to reduce anxiety and get a more restful night’s sleep.
Thanks to its powerful phytonutrient compounds, magnolia bark brings additional benefits to your mood, energy levels, and weight loss efforts even independent of its impact upon sleep.
In a moment you’ll learn what magnolia bark is, how to use it, and most importantly–how it can benefit you.
What is Magnolia Bark?
Magnolia bark and magnolia bark extract come from the bark of the magnolia plant–most commonly Magnolia officinalis.
There are about 210 flowering magnolia species, but Magnolia officinalis itself is native to the mountains and valleys of China. Other species grow in North and South America, the Himalayas, and East Asia.
Magnolia bark has been traditionally used in Chinese and Japanese medicines for the treatment of anxiety, asthma, depression, gastrointestinal disorders, headache, and more (1).
Its bark contains an estimated 250 plant compounds, including phenols magnolol and honokiol, which are thought to be responsible for many of its health benefits for women.
Magnolia Bark Can Help You Sleep
Magnolia bark is most used as a gentle yet effective sleep aid to help quiet a busy mind and promote a sound, restful night’s sleep.
Magnolia bark supports serotonin production, which then goes on to make melatonin, your body’s main sleep-inducing hormone. Because serotonin is a melatonin precursor, without enough serotonin, your body will struggle to make enough melatonin to get quality sleep.
Additionally, Magnolol, one of the bioactive compounds in magnolia bark, has also been shown to increase the activity of specialized receptors for GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms and relaxes the mind and body (2).
Heavy-hitting sleep aids and relaxants such as Xanax and Lunesta also target GABA receptors, impacting the similar systems as magnolia bark.
Magnolia bark also promotes better sleep by activating the body’s internal endocannabinoid system, which is the network of signals responsible for dozens of functions, including mood, relaxation, and quality sleep (3).
Magnolia bark then plays a role in lowering adrenaline production, the hormone most known for stress and alertness. When it’s time to go to sleep, adrenaline is one hormone you definitely don’t want active in your body.
Calm Anxiety with Magnolia Bark
Studies show magnolia bark supplements can support a stable mood, and decrease feelings of anxiety, especially if they’re associated with stress or an overactive mind.
The bark of M. officinalis is one of the “most important traditional herbal medicines” in China and Japan used to treat depression and anxiety-related problems. In fact, even the oldest known TCM book mentions its calming action (1).
Much of magnolia’s benefits come from its ability to enhance the activity of GABA receptors (4). GABA, or gamma aminobutyric acid is sort of like the brake pedal of your brain. It tells things to slow down and relax.
Then, when you’re stressed or anxious, your HPA axis can go into overdrive. This is the system responsible for initiating a fight or flight response, and producing stress hormones like cortisol.
In one study, the combination of honokiol and magnolol supported a normal HPA response, and even reduced elevated corticosterone (the precursor to cortisol) (1,4).
Other Benefits of Magnolia Bark
Even though magnolia bark is commonly used to promote higher-quality sleep, you’ll likely notice benefits that extend to the rest of your day as well. And because sleep is the #1 benefit for women’s wellness, it can promote a cascade of improvement in weight loss, anti-aging activity for your skin, better energy, and a more stable mood.
Thanks to magnolia’s versatile benefits, here are some other ways magnolia bark is likely to benefit women’s health:
Magnolia bark for reducing pain caused by inflammation
Magnolia bark has been shown to reduce pain triggered by inflammation, and also has anti-inflammatory activity (5).
The way magnolia bark decreases inflammation is by inhibiting the formation of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids, which are lipids responsible for causing pain, like prostaglandins and leukotrienes (1).
Eicosanoids have also been implicated in various diseases, such as those driven by inflammation, including cancer (6).
Magnolia Bark for Cognition
Magnolia bark’s GABA-activating effects and its anti-inflammatory activity means it may deliver natural protection for your brain. Research in mice suggests magnolol and honokiol may help reduce a form of brain cell death that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease (1).
Improve Digestion with Magnolia Bark
Magnolia bark is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for treating GI disorders, and this is likely due to preventing things like spasms and cramps in the digestive system (1).
Magnolia Bark for Depression
Magnolia bark has been shown to impact both serotonin and dopamine, two of your brain’s most powerful neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of wellbeing and happiness.
Studies find that the combination of honokiol and magnolol have antidepressant effects in mice by normalizing serotonin (5-HT), as well as serotonin’s main metabolite (5-HIAA) (4).
Another study shows that magnolol increases dopamine in the hippocampus, thalamus, and hypothalamus, which may improve feelings of depression (7).
Magnolia Bark Supplements, Side-Effects, & Safety
You can find magnolia bark in a capsule or tincture form, and sometimes as a loose herb that you can use to brew tea. Magnolia bark tea is less suited for beginners, as it’s more difficult to control the potency of each dose.
A common dose for magnolia bark is between 200 to 400 mg, with more potent effects the higher you go.
You’ll often see magnolia bark listed under the clinically validated name “Relora,” which is a blend of plant extracts from Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense that has been shown to support the body’s response to occasional stress which can result in nervous tension, irritability, fatigue, sadness, and nervous eating.
Because magnolia bark could make you sleepy, it’s wise not to take magnolia bark and participate in activities like driving a car until you know how magnolia bark affects you.
Magnolia Bark for Women’s Wellness
In our always-on and hyperconnected world, a good night’s sleep is elusive–and so are the benefits that come along with it.
Magnolia bark can help you get a better night’s sleep, so you wake up feeling rested and revitalized. Getting a higher-quality of adequate sleep can also improve your stress levels, allow you to better manage anxiety, and provide significant aid to your weight loss goals and the health of your skin.
Even though magnolia bark is most commonly used for sleep, it can help you achieve numerous other benefits and support holistic women’s wellness at every step of your journey.