Swamp sassafras is a nonprescription ingredient often used for medicinal purposes such as for weight loss. It is obtained from the magnolia plant, including its flower buds and bark.
When used in a supplement, the company may call it any of several different names in its ingredients list. Some of those names include xin yi hua, Indian bark, Japanese whitebark magnolia, ho-no-ki, red bay, white bay, sweet bay, xin ye hua, hou po, holly bay, cortex magnolia officinalis, beaver tree, or several others.
Aside from weight loss, swamp sassafras is also used for treating constipation, digestion issues, anxiety, inflammation, headache, depression, stress, fever, asthma and stroke. Some people use the flower to treat the common cold, runny or stuffy nose, sinus pain, facial dark spots, hay fever or headache. It is also applied directly to the gums in order to help treat a toothache.
More recently, it has been used as a skin whitener in topical products or may be used in other topical formulas to help counteract potential skin irritations caused by other ingredients withint he formula.
Swamp sassafras is used quite commonly in traditional Japanese (Kampo) and Chinese medicine. Some research has been conducted to investigate its impact on the human body. Those studies point to a chemical within the bark of the plant, called honokiol, which may be the active ingredient.
There is some evidence from animal studies that swamp sassafras may help reduce anxiety. It may also assist in lowering steroid production to help in asthma treatment. That said, all research conducted on this ingredient is currently limited to laboratories. No human studies have been conducted, particularly not on any large scale.
As a result, its use for weight loss supplements is considered to be insufficient. Among the lab studies that have been conducted, there is very limited evidence to indicate that using it could lead to weight loss.
Some research has indicated that overweight women who use a very specific and branded version of this ingredient in combination with phellodendron did not gain as much weight as women in a placebo group. However, this study was very limited and is far from solid evidence that the ingredient works. There is some indication that swamp sassafras may help to reduce stress-related eating, but again, that has not reached the point that it is considered proven. Many products containing this ingredient say it reduces cortisol levels but there has yet to be any evidence linking its use to lower cortisol levels. In fact, there is some research suggesting it may increase the release of that “stress” hormone.