Magnolia officinalis

Magnolia officinalis

Houpu magnolia o magnolia-bark (Magnolia officinalis Rehder & Wilson) is an arboreal species belonging to the Magnoliaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Magnoliophyta Division,
Magnoliopsida class,
Order Magnoliales,
Magnoliaceae family,
Genus Magnolia,
M. officinalis species.
Two subspecies are recognized within the species:
– Magnolia officinalis subsp. officinalis;
– Magnolia officinalis subsp. biloba.

Etymology –
The term Magnolia of the genus was dedicated by Linnaeus to Pierre Magnol (1638-1715) French physician and botanist in Montpellier.
The specific epithet officinalis comes from a medieval laboratory workshop: as plants usable in pharmaceuticals, herbal medicine, liqueurs, perfumery and the like.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Magnolia officinalis is a plant native to the mountains and valleys of China and present in East Asia.
Its habitat is that of alpine and hilly areas and forests at an altitude of 300 – 1500 meters above sea level.

Description –
Magnolia officinalis is a deciduous plant that reaches 20 m in height.
The bark is thick and brown in color, but not cracked.
The leaves are large, ovate in shape, 20-40 cm long and 11-20 cm wide.
The flowers are fragrant and 10-15 cm wide, with 9-12 (rarely to 17) white tepals.
The flowering period is between May and June.

Cultivation –
Magnolia officinalis is a tree that is harvested in its natural state for local use as a medicine and source of materials.
This plant can be grown in warm climates, as it can withstand temperatures of around -10 ° C. and in land with little vegetation that competes with it.
The plant should be placed in a sheltered position as the branches are fragile and subject to breaking under the action of the wind.
It is a very tolerant plant to air pollution.
This plant has fleshy roots that are easily damaged, so any transplant is best done during a period of mild and humid weather in late spring.
Propagation can occur without seed, with sowing to be carried out this is ripe in a cold greenhouse.
The stored seeds must be vernalized during the winter and should be sown at the end of the winter in a cold greenhouse.
The seed usually germinates in the spring but can take up to 18 months. It is advisable to then place the young seedlings in individual pots when they are large enough to be handled, growing them in the light shade in a greenhouse at least for their first winter. The transplant can be carried out when the seedlings have reached a height of 15 cm; it is advisable to mulch the area where the young seedlings are planted to have some protection from the winter cold for their first or two winters outdoors.

Customs and Traditions –
Magnolia officinalis has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for at least 2000 years. The aromatic bark is used in the treatment of various disorders of the digestive system.
The highly aromatic bark is torn from the stems, branches and roots and used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as hou po (厚朴).
Traditional indications for use are to eliminate moisture and phlegm, and relieve distension.
The bark is, in particular: antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, aperitif, diuretic, expectorant, hypotensive, stomachic and tonic.
The whole plant is digestive and stomachic.
Today, most of the bark used for commercial and domestic use is provided by cultivated plants.
The bark is generally used for internal use in the treatment of abdominal distension, loss of appetite, gastroenteritis, vomiting, diarrhea, asthma and cough with acute phlegm.
The flowers of this plant are an aromatic digestive tonic.
From the flower buds a decoction is prepared which, in China, is an appreciated emmenagogue; however, their use is contraindicated for pregnant women.
The flowers are used in the treatment of abdominal distension, shortness of breath, etc.
The extracts of the plant contain bactericidal compounds and an essential oil and are effective against salmonella.
Furthermore, the cortex contains magnolol and honokiol, two polyphenolic compounds whose activity has been demonstrated as agonists of the receptor gamma activated by the peroxisome proliferator (PPAR gamma) and modulators of GABAA. Preclinical studies have evaluated their various potential applications, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and antimicrobial properties.
Among other uses, it should be remembered that the wood of Magnolia officinalis, which is fine-grained, is considered useful for many uses.

Preparation Method –
Various parts of Magnolia officinalis have been used for their particular medicinal applications since ancient times.
The flowers are harvested in the summer and can be used fresh or dried.
The bark is harvested in the fall and dried for later use but as it does not keep well, the stock should be renewed annually.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.




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