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Phellodendron (huang bai)

What is phellodendron? What is it used for?

Also known as the amur cork, phellodendron is a type of tree. The name "huang bai" comes from the bright yellow color of the plant's inner bark, which is used in herbal preparations.

The bark is peeled from the tree during the late spring (after the rough outer bark is removed), then allowed to dry in the sun. The bark can be used either raw, or after being fried with salt.

In traditional Chinese medicine, phellodendron bark is considered to have bitter and cold properties, and is associated with the Kidney and Bladder meridians. Its main functions are to drain damp heat and kidney fire. Among the conditions it is used to treat are diarrhea, dysentery, swollen joints in the legs, and jaundice. Phellodendron bark is often used in conjunction with other herbs, such as atractylodes, akebia stems, and plantain seeds.

How much phellodendron should I take?

The typical dosage of phellodendron bark is between 3 and 12 grams of powdered herb, boiled in water and taken as a bolus or infusion. It is often used with other herbs (depending on the condition being treated).

What forms of phellodendron are available?

Sliced, dried phellodendron bark can be found at some Asian markets and herbal shops. Many stores also sell phellodendron powders and capsules.

What can happen if I take too much phellodendron? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Phellodendron should not be taken by patients diagnosed with spleen and/or stomach problems. High doses of phellodendron may cause nausea and vomiting; in these instances, patients should discontinue use. In addition, the American Herbal Products Association has given phellodendron bark a class 2B rating due to its high berberine content, meaning that it should not be taken by women during pregnancy.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with phellodendron bark. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking phellodendron or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Chevallier A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1996. ISBN# 9-780751-303148.
  • Kuo PC, Hsu MY, Damu AG, et al. Flavonoids and coumarins from leaves of phellodendron chinense. Planta Med Feb 2004;70(2):183-5.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 84.
  • Tsai JC, Tsai S, Chang WC. Comparison of two Chinese medical herbs, huangbai and qianniuzi, on influence of short circuit current across the rat intestinal epithelia. J Ethnopharmacol Jul 2004;93(1):21-5.
  • Yuan LM, Wu P, Xia T, et al. Preparative separation of alkaloids from cortex phellodendri by high-speed countercurrent chromatography. Se Pu Mar 2002;20(2):185-6.
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