Phellodendron

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What other names is Phellodendron known by?

Amur Cork Bark, Amur Cork Tree, Amur Corktree, Arbre à Liège de l'Amour, Arbre au Liège de l'Amour, Arbre de Liège de Chine, Corktree, Cortex Phellodendri, Huang Bai, Huang Bo, Phellodendri Cortex, Phellodendron amurense, Phellodendron de l'Amour.

What is Phellodendron?

Phellodendron is a plant. The bark is used to make medicine. Be careful not to confuse phellodendron with the houseplant called philodendron. The names are similar but the plants are unrelated.

Phellodendron is used for osteoarthritis, weight loss and obesity, diarrhea, ulcers in the stomach or upper part of the small intestine (peptic ulcers), diabetes, meningitis, pneumonia, eye infections, tuberculosis, and cirrhosis of the liver.

Some people apply phellodendron to the skin for psoriasis, to kill germs, and to reduce redness and swelling.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Weight loss. Some research suggests that overweight women who take a specific product containing a combination of extracts of phellodendron plus magnolia (Relora, Next Pharmaceuticals) for 6 weeks have less weight gain than other women who did not receive the product. Women taking this product also seem to eat fewer calories than the control group. One possible explanation is that this product reduced stress and stress-related eating. But that theory doesn't stand up, because so far there is no evidence that this product reduces the stress hormone called cortisol.
  • Psoriasis. There is a report that an ointment containing phellodendron plus isatis and Baikal skullcap improved psoriasis in an 8-year-old boy with psoriasis that responded poorly to other treatments.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Ulcers.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Obesity.
  • Diabetes.
  • Meningitis.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Eye infections.
  • Tuberculosis.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of phellodendron for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does Phellodendron work?

Some chemicals in phellodendron might reduce redness and swelling (inflammation). Another chemical, berberine, might be able to lower blood sugar and "bad" LDL cholesterol as well as protect the liver against toxic materials. Berberine might also be active against tumors. However, berberine can be harmful as well.

Are there safety concerns?

Phellodendron appears to be safe in adults when used short-term. The safety of phellodendron use for more than 6 weeks is unknown. In one study, one person experienced heartburn, shaking hands, sexual dysfunction, and thyroid dysfunction. Another person experienced fatigue and headache. But it is not known if these side effects were caused by phellodendron or some other factor.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It's UNSAFE to use phellodendron if you are pregnant. Phellodendron contains a chemical called berberine, which can cross the placenta and might harm the fetus. It's also UNSAFE to use phellodendron if you are breast-feeding. Berberine can be transferred to the infant through breast milk and can cause brain damage in newborns, especially in premature newborns with jaundice. Jaundice is a yellowing of the eyes and skin due to bile pigments in the blood.

Children: Phellodendron is UNSAFE in newborn infants. It can cause brain damage, especially in premature infants with jaundice.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The body breaks down cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) to get rid of it. Phellodendron might decrease how fast the body breaks down cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune). Taking phellodendron along with cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) might increase the chance of side effects.



Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Phellodendron might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking phellodendron along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking phellodendron, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications changed by the liver include cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), lovastatin (Mevacor), clarithromycin (Biaxin), indinavir (Crixivan), sildenafil (Viagra), triazolam (Halcion), and many others.

Dosing considerations for Phellodendron.

The appropriate dose of phellodendron depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for phellodendron. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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