Honokiol is a lignan isolated from the barks, seed cones, and leaves of trees belonging to the genus Magnolia. It has been identified as one of the active compounds in traditional eastern medicinal formulas along with, magnolol, 4-O-methylhonokiol, and obovatol. It has been shown to have antidepressant, anxiolytic, antiemetic, analgesic, anti-inflamatory, antibacterial, anti-tumorigenic, antithrombotic, neuroprotective, neurotrophic, and serotonergic effects.
|Jmol-3D images||Image 1|
|Molar mass||266.334 g/mol|
|Solubility in water||sparingly (25 °C)|
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Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C (77 °F), 100 kPa)
- 1 Introduction
- 2 History
- 3 Medical Uses
- 3.1 Side Effects and Contraindications
- 3.2 Pharmacology
- 3.3 Pharmokinetics
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External Links
Honokiol has been extracted from a number of species of Magnolia native to many regions of the globe. Magnolia grandiflora which if native to the American South as well as Mexican species like Magnolia dealbata have found to be sources of honokiol. Traditionally in Asian medicine, the Magnolia biondii, Magnolia obovata, and Magnolia officinalis are commonly used. The compound itself has a spicy odor.
Because of its physical properties, honokiol can readily cross the blood brain barrier and the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier.  As a result, honokiol is a potentially potent therapy with high bioavailability.
Honokiol belongs to a class of neolignan biphenols. As a polyphenol it is relatively small and can interact with cell membrane proteins through intermolecular interactions like hydrogen bonding, hydrophobic interactions, or aromatic pi orbital co-valency. It is hydrophobic and readily dissolved in lipids. It is structurally similar to propofol.
There are several methods for purifying and isolating honokiol. In nature, honokiol exists with its structural isomer magnolol, which differs from honokiol only by the position of one hydroxyl group. Because of the very similar properties of magnolol and honokiol, purification has often been limited to a HPLC or electromigration. However, methods developed in 2006 by workers in the lab of Jack L. Arbiser, took advantage of the proximity of the phenolic hydroxyl groups in magnolol, which form a protectable diol, to generate a magnolol acetonide (Figure 1), with a subsequent simple purification via flash chromatography over silica.
Additionally a rapid separation approach was published in the Journal of Chromatography A in 2007. The process uses high-capacity high-speed countercurrent chromatography (high-capacity HSCCC). Through this method honokiol can be separated and purified to above 98% purity with a high yield in under an hour.
Extracts from the bark or seed cones of the Magnolia tree have been widely used in traditional medicine in China, Korea, and Japan.
Honokiol has traditionally been used in Eastern medicine as analgesic and to treat anxiety and mood disorders. However, it has been shown to treat a number of other conditions. In China, magnolia bark is called Houpu and is most commonly taken from the Magnolia obovata and the Magnolia officinalis species. Some Chinese traditional formulas containing Houpu include Banxia Houpu Tang (半夏厚朴丸), Xiao Zhengai Tang, Ping Wei San(平胃散) and Shenmi Tang. Japanese Kampo formulas include, Hange-koboku-to (半夏厚朴湯) and Sai-boku-to (柴朴湯).
In the late 1990s, honokiol saw a revival in western countries as a potent and highly tolerable antitumorigenic and neurotrophic compound. Currently there are a large number of supplements containing honokiol on the market, and its use has been widely well received among practitioners of new age, homeopathic, and holistic medicine. Research into the mechanisms of action of magnolia derived compounds has grown significantly in the past ten years with particular emphasis on its anti-convulsive, anti-cancer, and analgesic effects.
Honokiol is a pleiotropic compound meaning it is able to act on the body through a number of pathways. This diversity of interaction makes it a viable therapy for a number of conditions in the CNS, cardiovascular system, and gastrointestinal system. It has been shown to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant effects as well.
Side Effects and Contraindications
All prior research has shown a fairly limited side effect profile for honokiol and it appears to be fairly well tolerated. However its anti-thrombotic effects could cause hemorrhage especially in patients with conditions that would put them at a higher risk like hemophilia or Von Willebrand disease. Additionally, patients already taking anticoagulants should talk to their doctor before taking honokiol supplements. Honokiol is also neurotoxic at high concentrations. In a 2002 study, researchers induced cell death in fetal rat cortical neurons by directly applying 100μM in vitro
Honokiol has shown pro-apoptotic effects in melanoma, sarcoma, myeloma, leukemia, bladder, lung, prostate, oral squamous cell carcinoma and colon cancer cell lines. Honokiol inhibits phosphorylation of Akt, p44/42 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), and src. Additionally, honokiol regulates the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) activation pathway, an upstream effector of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), MCL1, and cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2), all significant pro-angiogenic and survival factors. Honokiol induces caspase-dependent apoptosis in a TRAIL-mediated manner, and potentiates the pro-apoptotic effects of doxorubicin and other etoposides. So potent is honokiol's pro-apoptotic effects that it overcomes even notoriously drug resistant neoplasms such as multiple myeloma and chronic B-cell leukemia. Honokiol also acts on the PI3K/mTOR pathway in tumor cells while maintaining pathway activity in T cells.
Honokiol has been shown to promote neurite outgrowth and have neuroprotective effects in rat cortical neurons. Additionally, honokiol increases free cytoplasmic Ca2+ in rat cortical neurons. Honokiol is a weak cannabinoid CB2 receptor ligand but the naturally occurring derivative 4-O-methylhonokiol was shown to be a potent and selective cannabinoid CB2 receptor inverse agonist and to possess antiosteoclastic effects.
Honokiol inhibits platelet aggregation in rabbits in a dose-dependent manner, and protects cultured RAEC against oxidized low density lipoprotein injury. Honokiol significantly increases the prostacyclin metabolite 6-keto-PGF1alpha, potentially the key factor in honokiol's anti-thrombotic activity.
Studies examining honokiol as a protective therapy against focal cerebral ischemia-reperfusion injury have identified a number of anti-inflammatory pathways. Neutrophil infiltration of injured tissues can cause further damage and issues with healing. In 'in-vitro studies honokiol reduced fMLP (N-formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine) and PMA (phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate) induced neutrophil firm adhesion which is an integral step for infiltration.  Honokiol also inhibits ROS production in neutrophils. Honokiol also blocks inflammatory factor production in glial cells through the inhibition on NF-κB activation. This mechanism is believed to suppress production of NO, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and RANTES/CCL5.
Honokiol has also been proposed as an antioxidant. The compound protects against lipid peroxidation by interfering with ROS production and migration. Accumulation of ROS extracellularly causes macromolecular damage while intracellular accumulation may induce cytokine activation.
One way that honokiol acts as a neuroprotective is through cellular regulation and subsequent inhibition of cytotoxicity. Two mechanisms used to achieve this inhibition are GABAA Modulation and Ca2+ Inhibition. Cytotoxicity inhibition may be the neuroprotective mechanism of honokiol. Honokiol has also been shown to inhibit repetitive firing by blocking glutamate.
It is believed that honokiol acts on GABAA receptors similarly to benzodiazepines and Z-drugs. However honokiol has been shown to achieve anxiolysis with less motor or cognitive side effects than GABAA receptor antagonists, such as flumazenil and diazepam. It has been shown that honokiol likely has a higher selectivity for different GABAA receptor subtypes and both magnolol and honokiol showed higher efficacy when acting on receptors containing δ subunits. GABAA receptors control ligand-gated Cl- channels that can help increase seizure thresholds through the influx of chloride anions. Honokiol may also affect the synthesis of GABA. In a study where mice received seven daily injections of honokiol, researchers observed a significant increase in hippocampal levels of GAD (67) a precursor to GABA. 
A high concentration of Ca2+ induces excitotoxicity which is believed to be the main mechanism behind movement disorders such as ALS, Parkinson's disease, and convulsive disorders like epilepsy. Honokiol disrupts the interfaces post synaptic density protein (PSD95) and neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). PSD95 and nNOS coupling to the NMDA receptor causes a conformational change responsible for the intracellular influx of Ca2+ which could in turn be a pathway for neurotoxicity. Calcium overloading can also cause damage by over-activation of calcium-stimulated enzymes. Honokiol can reduce calcium influx through inhibition of the fMLP, AlF4-, and thapsigargin G-protein pathways.
The pharmokinetics of honokiol have been explored in rats and mice; however further research must be done in humans. Intravenous delivery of 5-10 mg/kg in rodent models has shown a plasma half-life of around 40-60 minutes; while intraperitoneal injections of 250 mg/kg had a plasma half-life around 4-6 hours with a maximum plasma concentration occurring between 20-30 minutes.
In both Eastern and Western medicine honokiol is most commonly taken orally. There are a number of supplements available currently containing honokiol. Magnolia tea made from the bark of the tree is also a common delivery method of honokiol. Both Native Americans and Japanese medicine use tea gargles to treat toothaches and sore throats. Because honokiol is highly hydrophobic it must be dissolved in a lipid for many delivery methods. In many current animal studies the compound is delivered through intraperitoneal injections dissolved in a lipid emollient. There is ongoing work developing liposomal emulsions for IV delivery.
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