English: Houpu Magnolia flowers

Chinese: 厚朴花

Parts used: Dried flower buds

TCM category: Herbs that regulate Qi

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Organ affinity: Spleen Lung

Scientific name: Magnolia officinalis

Use of Hou Po Hua (houpu magnolia flowers) 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: Collect flower buds in spring, remove impurities, wash, steam slightly and dry under low temperature.

Dosage: 3 -9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Regulates Qi flow and resolves Dampness.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Hou Po Hua may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Chest congestion Loss of appetite Depression

Contraindications*: Not recommended for those with Heat due to Yin deficiency.

Key TCM concepts behind Hou Po Hua's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Hou Po Hua belongs to the 'Herbs that regulate Qi' category. Herbs in this category typically treat a TCM condition called 'Qi Stagnation'. Concretely it means that Qi is blocked in the body's Organs and Meridians, most typically the Stomach, Liver, and to a lesser extent, the Lungs. In modern medicine terms, Qi Stagnation often translates into psychological consequences such as depression, irritability or mood swings. It's also frequently associated with conditions such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopausal symptoms, the development of breast swellings as well as various digestive disorders.

Furthermore Hou Po Hua is Warm in nature. This means that Hou Po Hua tends 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 Hou Po Hua can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Hou Po Hua also tastes Bitter. 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 Hou Po Hua tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Hou Po Hua is thought to target the Spleen and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. 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 Hou Po Hua

Magnolol and Honokiol extracted from Magnolia officinalis have central-depressant effects and produced sedation, ataxia, muscle relaxation and a loss of the righting reflex on mice. 1

Honokiol and magnolol, compounds from Magnolia officinalis, have a neuroprotective effect and there could be a scientific rationale for the clinical use of honokiol and magnolol in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.2


1. 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

2. Hoi, C. P., Ho, Y. P., Baum, L. and Chow, A. H. (2010), Neuroprotective effect of honokiol and magnolol, compounds from Magnolia officinalis, on beta‐amyloid‐induced toxicity in PC12 cells. Phytother. Res., 24: 1538-1542. doi:10.1002/ptr.3178