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Botanical Description & Habitat

Magnolia acuminata or Magnolia virginiana


Common names

Beaver treeHolly bay
Red laurelSwamp laurel
Swamp sassafrasSweet magnolia
White bay

Found along the eastern seaboard of the United States, the Midwest and the South. It is an evergreen tree usually found in swamps and morasses, widely dispersed west of the Rocky Mountains.

Magnolia can grow up to 40 feet in height and has smooth ash-colored bark. The leaves are oval, alternate, petiolate, and glabrous with a yellow-green upper surface and a pale glaucous color beneath. The flowers are cream-colored, large, terminal, solitary, with a strong scent and bloom from May to August.

Medicinal parts
Bark of stem and root

Historical Properties & Uses

Magnolia bark is a rich source of tannin, which is responsible for the herb's astringent properties. In folk medicine, magnolia bark is used to treat dysentery, diarrhea, erysipelas, and various skin disorders. Its astringent tannins make the herb effective as a douche for leukorrhea, and when taken internally to help stop hemorrhaging.

Diaphoretic, febrifuge, and stimulant properties of the herb, though often observed clinically, have not been experimentally investigated. Marked hypotensive activity has also been found in magnolia bark components, but it is unknown how this effect translates into therapeutic benefits.

Magnolia is nontoxic in normal dosages and is often used as a tonic. Magnolia tea is also used as a tobacco substitute, but its effect is unsubstantiated.

Method of Action

Magnolia is an astringent herb
The astringent property of magnolia is undoubtedly due to its tannin content.

Magnolia has marked hypotensive activity
Extracts of magnolia leaf have a marked hypotensive action. The alkaloids magnolin and magnolamin, both benzylisochinolines, have been found to inhibit the vasomotor center and exhibit peripheral adrenolytic activity. Magnolin also inhibits cholinesterase. Magnolamin's hypotensive action is nearly five times stronger than magnolin: in dogs it lasts for 5-6 hours. The hypotensive action of the two alkaloids is due primarily to vasomotor center inhibition and adrenolytic action.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
The topical application of the astringent herb magnolia, in conjunction with the acne product Tretinoin (retinoic acid, vitamin A acid), may adversely affect the skin.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

The toxicity level of magnolia has not been determined at this time.

Preparation & Administration

Three times a day

Powdered bark
2-4 grams

made from 1 tsp of powdered bark

1:8 in 45% alcohol, 8-15 ml

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


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Culbreth, D.M.R. A Manual of Materia Medica and Pharmacology. reprinted by Eclectic Medical Publications: Portland, Or, 1983

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Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

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