Magnolia officinalis

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Magnolia officinalis
Magnolia officinalis habit.jpg
Magnolia officinalis[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Magnoliales
Family: Magnoliaceae
Genus: Magnolia
Subgenus: Magnolia
Section: Rhytidospermum
Species: M. officinalis
Binomial name
Magnolia officinalis
Rehder & Wilson

Magnolia officinalis (commonly called houpu magnolia or magnolia-bark) is a species of Magnolia native to the mountains and valleys of China at altitudes of 300–1500 m.


It is a deciduous tree growing to 20 m in height. The bark is thick and brown, but does not fissure. The leaves are broad, ovate, 20–40 cm long, and 11–20 cm broad. The flowers are fragrant and 10–15 cm wide, with 9-12 (rarely to 17) white tepals, and appear from May to June.

The two varieties are:

  • Magnolia officinalis var. officinalis has leaves with an acute apex.
  • Magnolia officinalis var. biloba has leaves with a notch at the apex. This variety does not appear in the wild, and is only known in cultivation. It is possibly not a true variety at all, but actually a cultigen instead, though this has yet to be determined.

M. officinalis differs very little from Magnolia obovata; the only difference consistently observed between the two is hat the fruit aggregate of M. officinalis has a rounded base, while that of M. obovata has an acute base. Further research may or may not eventually determine if M. officinalis should be treated as a subspecies of M. obovata. [2]


The highly aromatic bark is stripped from the stems, branches, and roots and used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as hou po (thus the common name). The traditional use indications are to eliminate damp and phlegm, and relieve distension.[3]

Today, the bulk of bark used for commercial and domestic use is supplied by plants in cultivation.

Pharmaceutical potential[edit]

The bark contains magnolol[4] and honokiol,[5] two polyphenolic compounds that have been demonstrated as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR gamma) agonists and GABAA modulators. Preclinical studies have evaluated their various potential applications including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and antimicrobial properties.[6]


  1. ^ Cirrus Digital: Houpu Magnolia - Magnolia officinalis
  2. ^ Hunt, D. (ed). (1998). Magnolias and their allies. International Dendrology Society and Magnolia Society. ISBN 0-9517234-8-0
  3. ^ Wang L, Waltenberger B, Pferschy-Wenzig EM, et al. (November 2014). "Natural product agonists of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ): a review". Biochemical Pharmacology 92 (1): 73–89. doi:10.1016/j.bcp.2014.07.018. PMC 4212005. PMID 25083916. 
  4. ^ Fakhrudin N, Ladurner A, Atanasov AG, et al. (April 2010). "Computer-aided discovery, validation, and mechanistic characterization of novel neolignan activators of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma". Molecular Pharmacology 77 (4): 559–66. doi:10.1124/mol.109.062141. PMC 3523390. PMID 20064974. 
  5. ^ Atanasov AG, Wang JN, Gu SP, et al. (October 2013). "Honokiol: a non-adipogenic PPARγ agonist from nature". Biochimica Et Biophysica Acta 1830 (10): 4813–9. doi:10.1016/j.bbagen.2013.06.021. PMC 3790966. PMID 23811337. 
  6. ^ "Honokiol and magnolol as multifunctional antioxidative molecules for dermatologic disorders.". Molecules. 15: 6452–65. Sep 16, 2010. doi:10.3390/molecules15096452. PMID 20877235. 

External links[edit]