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Houpu Magnolia bark

Chinese: 厚朴

Pinyin: Hòu Pǔ

Parts used: Dried stem bark, root bark or branch bark

TCM category: Aromatic herbs that transform Dampness

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach Lung

Scientific name: Magnolia officinalis

Other names: Hou Po

Use of houpu magnolia bark (Hou Pu) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Scrape off the rough skin, wash, break into sections and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Moves Rebellious Qi downward, dries Dampness and relieves Food Stagnation. Transforms Phlegm and redirects Rebellious Qi of the Lung.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which houpu magnolia bark may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Abdominal pain Abdominal bloating Constipation Dyspnea Coughing Vomiting Diarrhea

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by pregnant women or by those with Stomach or Spleen Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which houpu magnolia bark (Hou Pu) are used*

Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm. Clears Phlegm.

Conditions targeted*: Globus hystericusNeurosis and others

Hou Pu is a king ingredient in Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, Hou Pu eliminates the stifling sensation and assists the other key herb (Crow-dipper rhizome) in dissipating the clumps and directing the Rebellious Qi downward. Its ability to regulate the Qi and dry Dampness supports Crow-dipper rhizome in transforming the Phlegm.

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Da Cheng Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Purges Heat from the Stomach and Intestines. Relieves constipation.

Conditions targeted*: PancreatisAppendicitis and others

Hou Pu is an assistant ingredient in Da Cheng Qi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Da Cheng Qi Tang, Hou Pu disseminates the Qi and relieves the sensation of fullness.

Together with Immature bitter orange (Zhi Shi), the other assistant, they assists in the expulsion of stool by moving the Qi. Even though the root of the condition is Heat, the resultant clumping leads to severe Qi Stagnation. Moving the Qi is thus an important aspect of the formula.

Read more about Da Cheng Qi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind houpu magnolia bark (Hou Pu)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), houpu magnolia bark are plants that belong to the 'Aromatic herbs that transform Dampness' category. This category of herbs resolves a TCM condition called 'Cold Damp Stagnation', especially as it affects the Stomach and Spleen. In modern medicine this often translates into symptoms such as distended chest and abdomen, lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting

As suggested by its category houpu magnolia bark are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that houpu magnolia bark tend to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess(because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition houpu magnolia bark can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Houpu Magnolia bark also taste Bitter and Pungent. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like houpu magnolia bark tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such houpu magnolia bark are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach on the other hand is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Research on houpu magnolia bark (Hou Pu)

Honokiol and magnolol, the main constituents identified in the barks of Magnolia officinalis, show a significant antimicrobial activity for periodontal pathogens. Hence they might have the potential to be an adjunct in the treatment of periodontitis. 1

Honokiol and magnolol extracted from the barks of Magnolia officinalis have antidepressant-like effects in well-validated models of depression in rodents.2

Magnolol and honokiol , neolignane derivatives extracted from Magnolia officinalis, produced sedation, ataxia, muscle relaxation and a loss of the righting reflex. Magnolol and hõnokiol at a dose of 50 mg/kg suppressed spinal reflexes in young chicks in a similar manner, but with a much longer duration of action than mephenesin. These results suggest that magnolol causes a depression of the ascending activating systems as well as of the spinal cord.3


1. Ho, K. , Tsai, C. , Chen, C. , Huang, J. and Lin, C. (2001), Antimicrobial activity of honokiol and magnolol isolated from Magnolia officinalis. Phytother. Res., 15: 139-141. doi:10.1002/ptr.736

2. Q Xu, LT Yi, Y Pan, X Wang, YC Li, JM Li et al. (2008). Antidepressant-like effects of the mixture of honokiol and magnolol from the barks of Magnolia officinalis in stressed rodents. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 32(3): 715-725. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2007.11.020

3. K. Watanabe, H. Watanabe, Y. Goto, M. Yamaguchi, N. Yamamoto, K. Hagino (1983). Pharmacological Properties of Magnolol and Hōnokiol Extracted from Magnolia officinalis: Central Depressant Effects. Planta Med, 49(10): 103-108. DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-969825