Phellodendron has moved in and out of popularity in the natural health world and has managed to make its way back into diet pill formulas in recent years. This ingredient is sometimes listed under the name phellodendron, but it may also be found in ingredients lists under any of over a dozen other names.
Among the names that can also be used for this substance are: huang bai, phellodendri cortex, amur corktree, huang bo, amur cork tree, amur cork bark, phellodendron amurense, and many others.
This substance is actually a plant. It is the bark from this plant that is used for medicinal purposes. That said, it’s important not to confuse this plant with the similarly named philodendron, which is a houseplant. Those two plants may have names that sound quite like each other, but they are unrelated and do not produce the same effects if used medicinally.
Aside from being used as a natural weight loss aid for people with obesity, phellodendron is also used for diarrhea, osteoarthritis, peptic ulcers, pneumonia, meningitis, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, tuberculosis and even eye infections.
Some people will also use this ingredient topically in order to help to kill germs, treat psoriasis and as an inflammation reducer in areas of swelling and redness. Very early research has indicated that some of the chemicals in this plant may have the potential to have anti-inflammatory properties. This means that it could one day be found that it can be used for swelling and redness reduction.
Another chemical found in the bark of this plant is called berberine. This may one day be shown to effectively lower blood sugar and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” form) levels. This substance might also provide the liver with added toxin protection. It has been studied as an agent that works against tumors but nothing conclusive has yet been found.
Equally, it should be pointed out that berberine and other active chemicals in this plant have been found to be potentially harmful. Therefore, it is highly recommended that a doctor be consulted before taking a product containing this ingredient as it may pose a health risk if taken improperly.
At the moment, there is insufficient evidence to prove that phellodendron can be safely used to treat any condition. There are some very early studies by Next Pharmaceuticals and Relora) indicating that when overweight women took products containing this ingredient and magnolia for six weeks, they were less likely to gain weight than women who didn’t take those supplements. It is believed that this might have been the result of its impact on stress eating and cortisol’s effects. However that study was exceptionally preliminary and far from proof of safe and effective use.