Honokiol is a highly active compound that is extracted from magnolia bark. It has been used in traditional medicine in Asia for thousands of years. Current research has shown that honokiol has many potential health benefits. (1)
Honokiol is one of the two main compounds extracted from magnolia bark. The other is magnolol. Both honokiol and magnolol are neolignans, a type of polyphenol micronutrient found in plants. Polyphenols tend to have high antioxidant levels. (1, 2)
Honokiol is valued for its potential health benefits, including its sedative, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antispastic effects. It has been used to support inflammation, stomach disorders, asthma, anxiety, and depression. Honokiol continues to be widely researched for its effects on various health issues. (1, 2, 3)
Benefits of Honokiol
Honokiol has been used to benefit the body in a variety of ways in both traditional and modern medicine. Ongoing research continues to reveal new advantages of this polyphenol. (3)
Honokiol’s Effects on Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
Oxidative stress is considered an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in the body. This can lead to chronic inflammation, which can lead to a host of chronic diseases. Oxidative stress is believed to be a contributor to chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. (4)
Polyphenols like honokiol are being researched as a possible therapy for oxidative stress and its inflammatory effects. They may help to obstruct molecular signaling pathways that get activated by oxidative stress. Because of this, honokiol may be helpful in preventing and improving the outcomes of chronic disorders caused by inflammation. (4)
Honokiol also has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Research has shown that this ability allows honokiol to reduce inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. Additionally, several studies have demonstrated honokiol’s neuroprotective effects in the central nervous system. These properties of honokiol suggest that it could be an effective therapy for neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s. (5)
How Honokiol Affects Stress and Anxiety
Honokiol’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier means that it has therapeutic potential for stress, anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. Two studies explored how a combination of magnolia bark, which contains honokiol, and Phellodendron bark would affect stress levels in adults. (6, 7, 8)
The first study involved 40 women between 20 and 50 years of age. The study found that taking 250 mg per day of the magnolia-Phellodendron extract blend reduced temporary, transitory feelings of anxiety in the women. However, the subjects did not experience a reduction of long-standing feelings of anxiety or depression. (7)
In the second study, 56 “moderately stressed” adult subjects took 500 mg of the magnolia-Phellodendron extract blend each day. Researchers measured the subjects’ psychological mood states and salivary cortisol exposure. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and measuring it can indicate if a person’s stress levels have increased or decreased. (8)
The researchers found that taking the magnolia-Phellodendron extract blend decreased cortisol exposure and perceived daily stress. The subjects also reported increased vigor and decreased fatigue, which are markers of an improved mood state. (8)
Honokiol was not the only ingredient used in the blend in these studies. However, as an extract of magnolia bark, it had a role in the results of the studies. The effects of the blend in these two studies suggest that it could provide a natural approach to improving the effects of chronic stress. (8)
Improved Sleep with Honokiol
Another of the many possible benefits of honokiol is improved sleep. In one study, researchers administered honokiol to mice. It decreased the amount of time it took the mice to fall asleep, as well as how long it took them to transition into non-REM sleep. More research is needed to fully explore the implication of honokiol for sleep, but this study suggests that it has applications for insomnia, particularly for humans who struggle to fall and stay asleep. (9)
Anti-Cancer Effects of Honokiol
In vivo and animal studies have demonstrated honokiol’s potential for multiple anticancer actions. It is effective in combating multiple drug resistance (MDR), and works well with other anticancer therapies. (10)
In existing studies, honokiol has demonstrated the ability to promote apoptosis, which is programmed cell death. This is important because there is a failure of apoptosis with cancer. This allows abnormal cells to survive longer and replicate uncontrollably. But research has shown that honokiol causes apoptosis through multiple pathways. (10)
Additionally, studies have shown that honokiol inhibits angiogenesis, which is the development of new blood cells. With cancer, these new blood cells provide blood and nutrients that help tumors grow rapidly. But honokiol is able to inhibit angiogenesis by modulating the NF-kB pathway. (10)
There is also evidence that honokiol is capable of other anticancer actions, such as controlling cancer cell signaling pathways, regulating genetic expression, strengthening the effects of some chemotherapeutic agents, and making cancer cells easier to kill with radiation therapy. In order to understand the full anticancer actions of honokiol, researchers must conduct clinical trials in humans. (1)
Frequently Asked Questions about Honokiol
What is honokiol used for?
Honokiol is considered to have pleiotropic effects, which means that it has multiple uses. Honokiol has been used in traditional medicine in Asia for thousands of years, and researchers are learning more about its potential uses in modern medicine every day!
Honokiol has sedative, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antispastic effects. It has been used to help with inflammation, stomach disorders, asthma, anxiety, and depression.
How do you pronounce honokiol?
Honokiol is pronounced “hon·oki·ol” with emphasis on the o in the middle syllable.
How do I take honokiol?
You can take honokiol as a supplement in pill form. Currently, there aren’t any official recommendations for how much honokiol you should take each day. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions on dosage. And talk to your doctor before starting to take honokiol to learn about how it may interact with medication and supplements you’re already taking.
- Honokiol. Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/honokiol.
- Sarrica, A., Kirika, N., Romeo, M., Salmona, M., & Diomede, L. (2018, June 20). Safety and Toxicology of Magnolol and Honokiol. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29925102/
- Lee, Y., Lee, Y., Lee, C., Jung, J., Han, S., & Hong, J. (2011, January 26). Therapeutic applications of compounds in the Magnolia family. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21277893/
- Hussain, T., Tan, B., Yin, Y., Blachier, F., Tossou, M. C., & Rahu, N. (2016, September 22). Oxidative Stress and Inflammation: What Polyphenols Can Do for Us? Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27738491/
- Talarek, S., Listos, J., Barreca, D., Tellone, E., Sureda, A., Nabavi, S. F., . . . Nabavi, S. M. (2017, August 17). Neuroprotective effects of honokiol: From chemistry to medicine. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28817221/
- Woodbury, A., Yu, S., Wei, L., & García, P. (2013, September 11). Neuro-modulating effects of honokiol: A review. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24062717/
- Kalman, D. S., Feldman, S., Feldman, R., Schwartz, H. I., Krieger, D. R., & Garrison, R. (2008, April 21). Effect of a proprietary Magnolia and Phellodendron extract on stress levels in healthy women: A pilot, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Retrieved December 18, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18426577/
- Talbott, S. M., Talbott, J. A., & Pugh, M. (2013, August 7). Effect of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense (Relora®) on cortisol and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23924268
- Qu, W., Yue, X., Sun, Y., Fan, K., Chen, C., Hou, Y., . . . Huang, Z. (2012, October 16). Honokiol promotes non-rapid eye movement sleep via the benzodiazepine site of the GABA(A) receptor in mice. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22537192/
- Eliaz, I. (2013, July). Honokiol Research Review. Retrieved from https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2013-07/honokiol-research-review