Herb: Hou Po

Latin name: Magnolia officinalis

Family: Magnoliaceae (Magnolia Family)

Medicinal use of Hou Po:

Hou Po has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for at least 2,000 years. The aromatic, pungent and warming bark is used in the treatment of various disorders of the digestive system. Ophthalmic. The flowers are an aromatic digestive tonic. A decoction of the flower buds is an esteemed emmenagogue in China, their use is therefore contraindicated for pregnant women. The flowers are used in the treatment of abdominal distension, shortness of breath etc. They are harvested in the summer and can be used fresh or dried. The stem bark is antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, appetizer, diuretic, expectorant, hypotensive, stomachic and tonic. The bark is used internally in the treatment of abdominal distension, loss of appetite, gastro-enteritis, vomiting, diarrhoea, asthma and coughs with acute phlegm. The bark is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. It does not store well so stocks should be renewed annually. The plant is digestive and stomachic. Extracts of the plant contain bactericidal compounds and an essential oil, they are effective against salmonella.

Description of the plant:


20 m
(66 feet)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Alpine and hilly areas. Forests at elevations of 300 - 1500 metres.

Other uses of Hou Po:

Wood - fine grained. It is said to be a useful wood.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed must be kept cold over the winter and should be sown in late winter in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates in the spring but it can take 18 months. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse for at least their first winter. They can be planted out into their permanent positions when they are more than 15cm tall, though should be well mulched and given some protection from winter cold for their first winter or two outdoors. Layering in early spring.

Cultivation of Hou Po:

Alpine and hilly areas. Forests at elevations of 300 - 1500 metres.

Known hazards of Magnolia officinalis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.