Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is a gorgeous evergreen tree with thick, broad leaves and fragrant flowers. Before the seeds develop fully, the fruits are light green; they later turn darker/pink, and later, bright red, glossy seeds cover the drying cones.
Over a series of conversations on magnolia medicine, I gathered these thoughts from my herbalist friends and teachers:
Phyllis Light: “I work with bark and seeds. Short version: anti-inflammatory, pain killer, stimulating, relieves constriction, helps with weight loss, lowers fever.” Visit Phyllis at her website: Phyllis D. Light – Herbal Studies the Appalachian Center for Natural Health.
Mandi Sanders uses the bark for digestive bitters. Visit Mandi at Sons and Moon Botanicals!
Karen Kimrey: “TCM trained herbalists use it too….to move stagnations primarily.”
Darryl Patton: “In the last few years, I have begun using the green fruit with a lot of success although the standard inner bark has always worked well. My order of preference is unripe fruit, flower buds, bark and then leaves. I actually prefer Deciduous Magnolias and Sweet bay as being more efficacious though. Tincture works great as an anti-inflammatory but I prefer the decoction for other purposes such as liver etc.” He uses magnolia for chronic digestive conditions quite often. He also added, “I feel it works on a multi-pronged approach. Combines well with other herbs for stubborn issues that just don’t seem to want to heal.” Visit Darryl at The Southern Herbalist.
Photographer: Susan Marynowski
Flower *bud* tincture of M. grandiflora (unopened flower buds, some of them were pretty small)
Susan Marynowski stated, “I would bet this would be a fairly good allergy remedy, judging from my sense of it. Magnolia used in southern herbalism as a tonic, digestive, bitter, anti-anxiety, for chest complaints. It is used traditionally in TCM to reduce inflammation of arthritic and rheumatic complaints. It’s a very old plant! I’m just learning more. Bark, cones, and flowers can be used in similar ways. Leaves have antiseptic properties. Phyllis D. Light uses the cones when possible.” Susan generously sent me a few ounces of this tincture. She’s a fantastic herbalist. She can be reached at her Facebook profile.
Sabrina Lutes used the buds tinctured for migraine, anxiety, and excess nasal mucous.
Jessica Belden: “I work with the bud and flower tincture/elixir as well as the flower essence. Energetically, I find it warming and slightly moistening constitutionally. I find it stimulating, yet relaxing in the way that aromatic spp. do so well. I find personally it has affinities for the heart, respiratory, tummy, and womb spaces. It was a really lovely relaxing and uplifting uterine tonic for me postpartum with my first. It helped me to relax into motherhood and release much held tension and closed-off feeling I had after a traumatic birth and the shock and trauma of being a single first-time mother. I also have slightly cold/dry tummy which I felt it helped with as well.” Jessica is the HerbanVagabond and I adore her products.
Kelli Hughart: “I use the flower essence to help the body ‘process’ strong negative emotions so it doesn’t get ‘stuck’. Birth workers use the flower essence to help with birthing. I use the bark in spasm and pain remedies (or as a simple)… The flower tincture or elixir is used for respiratory issues (I have never used it like that though personally) I use it more for digestion type things in remedies. I also use it in my spirit water (Florida Water).” Visit Kelli at her website: MawMaw Kelli. When you visit Kelli, pester her about her amazing tree essences. She might have some for sale.
Katie Smith with Tumbleweed Apothecary wrote an incredible monograph on her experiences and research on Magnolia. Magnolia: Herbal Allies and Wild Medicine. In it, she includes research that shows promise for magnolia to be used for cancer and HIV patients. ( !!!!! )
Many thanks to my herbalist friends who were so generous with their knowledge and experiences.
In July, 2015, Darrell Martin and I made sweetbay magnolia essential oil. Actually, his lovely granddaughter and I helped him harvest it and he distilled it.
How many herbalists does it take to create magnolia essential oil? 2 !!!
Darrell is a very kind and generous friend. Visit his website at Blue Boy Herbs.
In April, 2016, I made a healing body oil with the Sweetbay Magnolia essential oil, and I also included SBM in this ceremonial blend:
Ceremonial oil: frankincense, myrrh, spikenard, palo santo, agar wood, white sage, cacao, vanilla and sweetbay magnolia.
Additional information as a flower essence: Magnolia essence is fantastic for emotional shock and the inability to adjust to new life circumstances (even the “good” changes can feel daunting). Magnolia helps us to process stuck emotions, and brings a sense of movement to old thought and belief patterns. This movement can make us feel vulnerable as we learn to accept something new, and Magnolia helps support those uncovered, “soft belly” places that need protection as we adjust and settle into a place of acceptance.
Please note: flower essences can be experienced in different ways with different people, depending on your constitution, your life experiences, the way in which you process life material, etc. The information on flower essences has come from personal experiences and observations, and are not necessarily true for everyone.
A resource for you:
Henriette’s Herbal Homepage: King’s Herbal Dispensatory, 1898: Magnolia