What is Magnolia Extract?
Did you know that most common drugs and medicine derived from plants? It is true — of the top 150 prescribed drugs in the United States, at least 118 of them have active components derived from natural sources (x). One recent candidate for a viable medicinal plant is magnolia.
Magnolia extract is a medicinal compound from the bark and flower buds of the magnolia tree. The extract is made with an oil infusion method that steeps crushed and scraped plant material in an oil solution. Magnolia has a long history as a traditional medicine and for its therapeutic properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, magnolia bark is called “houpu” and it is a very common ingredient (x).
Magnolia extract apparently offers several beneficial properties. There is a growing body of evidence that it may act as an effective anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antithrombotic and anti-tumorigenic agent. Magnolia extract is used to address several common ailments, such as nasal congestion, indigestion, inflammation, anxiety, headaches, sinus pain, toothaches and sleep disturbances.
There are two active compounds in magnolia extract responsible for the bulk of its beneficial properties — honokiol and magnolol, two types of compounds called lignans. Clinical studies describe honokiol and magnolol as pleiotropic compounds, meaning that they can affect the body through a number of chemical pathways. Specifically, honokiol can readily cross the blood-brain and the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barriers, which makes it a potent therapy with high bioavailability (x).
Benefits of Magnolia Extract
Because the two active components in magnolia extract can influence many different pathways in the body, magnolia extract may present a diverse set of benefits against the several different conditions.
Magnolia extract may be effective at combating gingivitis and bad breath. Many separate studies have verified that toothpaste and gum that contains magnolia extract reduces the amount of gingivitis on the gums and kills bacteria that cause bad breath (x, x). Studies show that both honokiol and magnolol may have potent antimicrobial effects and have the potential to treat periodontal pathogens (x).
Anxiety & Depression
Magnolia extract may also have connection with anxiety. Researchers believe that honokiol acts on GABA receptors in the brain in a similar manner to benzodiazepines and Z-drugs (x). However, honokiol has fewer motor and cognitive side effects than traditional anxiety medications, such as Xanax and Klonopin. Thus, honokiol is more selective in the receptors it binds to, which enables it to produce a similar anxiolytic effect with fewer detrimental side effects.
One particular study found that an active dose as small as 0.2 mg/kg can possibly significantly increase exploratory behavior and decrease anxiety-related behavior in animal models. The same study also found that honokiol is effective at combating the anxiety-producing effects of large doses of caffeine (x). Additionally, studies show that a blend of honokiol and magnolol may reduce corticosterone concentration in the brain, which is associated with symptoms of depression (x).
Medical researchers found that in mice studies, honokiol increases GABA neurotransmitter synthesis in the hippocampal regions in the brain (x). However, there are no studies on human subjects. Studies suggest that honokiol’s neuroprotective properties make it a viable candidate for treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers have also expressed magnolia extract’s potential as an effective management tool for menopause symptoms in women. One study demonstrated that a nutraceutical cocktail with magnolia extract significantly reduced the occurrence and severity of postmenopausal hot flashes and contributed to better sleep and psychophysical wellness in individuals compared to control groups (x).
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that honokiol also has antioxidant properties. Cellular processes in the body produce waste products called reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROSs are highly ionized and bounce around the body, causing cellular damage. In fact, researchers believe that cellular damage from ROSs is one of the main causes of aging. Research posits that honokiol may reduce ROSs by interfering with their production and migration (x). Therefore, consuming magnolia extract may contribute to healing cellular damage and facilitate healthier skin, easier digestion and strong hair and nails.
Several studies have confirmed that magnolia extract and honokiol are moderately potent anti-inflammatory agents. Honokiol may help reduce lymphocytes production from T-cells, the main agents that cause inflammation in affected sites. One study discovered that honokiol is particularly effective at preventing swelling and inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis and effective for reducing inflammation associated with severe cases of acne (x, x).
According to recent research, honokiol may have anti-tumorigenic properties. For example, one study found that honokiol can target signaling pathways and transcription factors involved in cancer initiation and progression (x). The same study labeled honokiol as a viable clinical treatment for forms of skin cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer and gastrointestinal cancers. Honokiol is potentially effective against so many different types of cancer because of the multitude of its interactive, biological pathways.
Honokiol may have potential in dermatological medicine. The antioxidant properties can reduce free radicals from UV-exposure, which is the number one cause of skin damage. Honokiol may also have potent microbial properties that may make it effective at fighting skin and fungal infections (x).
Magnolia extract may also help address a number of smaller disparate medical conditions. Magnolia extract is a common tool for weight loss, headaches, congestion, toothaches, digestive problems and even the common cold (x). Researchers have not verified the overall efficacy of many of these uses, but there are several anecdotal reports that indicate that magnolia extract has strong potential to address a wide variety of conditions.
Side Effects of Magnolia Extract
In general, magnolia extract is a generally safe compound and it usually does not cause any severe side effects with short-term use. However, side effects do exist and they can be serious in some cases (x).
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should refrain from magnolia extract. There is some evidence that links honokiol to miscarriage. There is not enough research to determine its effects on unborn infants (x).
Be careful taking magnolia extract in conjunction with sleep medication. The combination of the two can have a feedback effect that prompts drowsiness and lethargy. Interestingly, small doses of magnolia extract alone may promote better sleep, but large doses can cause drowsiness (x).
Too much magnolia extract can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea, especially in those who already suffer from digestive problems. Avoid taking magnolia extract with blood thinning medication. The combination can lead to hemorrhaging or internal bleeding in severe cases. According to a study, the supplement may also cause heartburn, headache, sexual problems or thyroid problems. As always, consult a doctor before taking magnolia extract (x).
Since magnolia extract interacts with many bodily systems, there is a risk for adverse effects from drug interactions (x).
Both alcohol and the extract can cause sleepiness and drowsiness, so it may be risky to combine the two in large quantities, since they both have sedative effects. Take caution and speak with a healthcare provider.
Common barbiturate compounds such as mephobarbital, pentobarbital, secobarbital and amobarbital can cause extreme drowsiness because they are sedative medications. Be careful taking magnolia extract with any barbiturates and consult a doctor to determine a safe combination.
Anticoagulants, also called blood thinners, are drugs that slow blood clotting. Magnolia extract may also slow blood clotting. Taking the extract in conjunction with anticoagulants can increase the risk of bruising and internal bleeding.
Dosage for Magnolia Extract
Magnolia is generally safe for consumption, barring certain exceptions. However, there are few clinical studies to determine an effective dose and relative toxicity levels in humans. One study found that a toothpaste with 0.3 percent magnolia extract sufficiently reduced plaque and gingivitis by 60 percent (x). Another study showed that 94 percent of participants tolerated a 50 mg preparation with no side effects over a 24 week period. A separate study showed that doses up to 2,500 mg/kg had no toxic effects in mice (x).
The FDA does not regulate sale or production for the extract, so blend concentrations and dosages can vary greatly. The recommended dosage for magnolia extract powder is 1,600 mg (⅔ teaspoon) daily with meals.
Keep in mind that while supplements aim to promote general well-being, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Before taking any supplements, make sure to consult a doctor about any existing medical conditions.
The Bottom Line
Magnolia extract comes from the magnolia tree and for thousands of years it was part of traditional Chinese medicine to manage a wide variety of conditions, including gingivitis, stress and anxiety, pain, inflammation, menopause symptoms and skin irritation. Honokiol and magnolol are the active components in magnolia extract. Research shows that both compounds have numerous therapeutic properties and may have the potential for medicinal use.
Adding the extract to a daily routine may help promote healthy skin, reduce inflammation, generate better sleep and work as an antioxidant. Magnolia is generally safe for consumption, with few side effects. However, it is best to speak to a doctor before using this supplement. It is not a cure for any medical condition. Instead, supplements aim to benefit overall health.