Phellodendron Introduction

Phellodendron is actually a tree native to China, Manchuria, and Japan. The herb phellodendron should not be confused with the houseplant philodendron, as they are completely unrelated. Phellodendron has been used by the Chinese medical system for thousands of years, and continues to be a common ingredient in various Chinese herbal combinations. Phellodendron was found mainly in formulas that were directed at treating stomach problems and diarrhea; other uses were for inflammatory issues and as an antibacterial. [1] While this herb has had extensive use in Chinese medicine, when based on modern scientific investigation, the therapeutic properties of this ‘herb’ remain relatively ignored.

Phellodendron Food Sources

Parts Used

Bark is taken from the tree and comprises the key medicinal substance, or component. Phellodendron contains several alkaloid constituents, the main ones being berberine, palmitine, and phellodendrine. Berberine is, in all probability, the most active ingredient phellodendron, as it is well known for its antifungal, antiparasitic, and antiinflammatory effects. [2]

Phellodendron Uses

Phellodendron has been employed for several conditions in addition to those previously mentioned. These include; diabetes, meningitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, infections of the eye, and liver cirrhosis. Applied topically, phellodendron has been shown to exhibit certain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.

As an antifungal agent, phellodendron has been studied for its effectiveness in treating various strains of candida, or yeast. Phellodendron shows remarkable effectiveness against many different types of candida. [3] Investigators attribute the strong antifungal effect of the herb to the berberine and palmitine constituents.

Phellodendron may also have useful immunosuppressive effects; when given to laboratory animals that underwent transplantation, those treated with phellodendron had fewer organ rejection reactions. [4] In another similar study, phellodendron was thought to work in a different way on the immune system when compared to standard immunosuppressive drugs, making it a useful adjunctive treatment in this regard. [5]

Phellodendrom is perhaps best known as an effective anti-inflammatory agent. Several studies have been conducted that support such effects. The main constituent of phellodendron, berberine, is thought to prevent the production cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 enzymes, which are potent initiators of inflammatory processes in the body. [6] Despite these findings, other studies have shown that the herb has anti-inflammatory properties when it has had the berberine removed from the preparation. [7] When applied as a topical treatment for tissue swelling, phellodendron was able to effectively reduce several agents that are responsible for swelling in the skin. [8]

As an anti-ulcer treatment (which phellodendron has been used for hundreds of years), researchers have highlighted the herb’s effectiveness in treating ulcers. [7] Other studies investigating phellodendron’s effectiveness in diabetes treatment showed that the herb was able to decrease the amount of damage done to the eyes and kidneys as a direct result of disease progression. [9-10]

Phellodendron Dosages

There is no accurate dosing information available for phellodendron at this time. Typically, it is available as part of combination herbal formulas.

Phellodendron Toxicities and Contraindications

Phellodendron Side effects

Side effects of phellodendron are not known at this time. However, such instances may be attributable to its most active constituent, berberine. Known side effects of berberine include lowering of blood pressure and general malaise. [11]

Phellodendron General interactions (supplement, herb, food, lab)

There are no known interactions between phellodendron and any other supplement, herb, food, or lab test.

Phellodendron Drug interactions

There are no known interactions between phellodendron and any pharmaceutical drugs.

Phellodendron Disease conditions

There is concern that berberine can adversely affect the heart and circulatory system; therefore phellodendron (and berberine) should be avoided by people with cardiovascular conditions. [12]


1. Uchiyama T, Kamikawa H, Ogita Z. Anti-ulcer effect of extract from phellodendri cortex. Yakugaku Zasshi. Sep1989;109(9):672-6.

2. Kim JS, Tanaka H, Shoyama Y. Immunoquantitative analysis for berberine and its related compounds using monoclonal antibodies in herbal medicines. Analyst 2004;129:87-91.

3. Park KS, Kang KC, Kim JH, Adams DJ, Johng TN, Paik YK. Differential inhibitory effects of protoberberines on sterol and chitin biosyntheses in Candida albicans. J Antimicrob Chemother. May1999;43(5):667-74.

4. Mori H, Fuchigami M, Inoue N, Nagai H, Koda A, Nishioka I. Principle of the bark of Phellodendron amurense to suppress the cellular immune response. Planta Med. Oct1994;60(5):445-9.

5. Mori H, Fuchigami M, Inoue N, Nagai H, Koda A, Nishioka I, et al. Principle of the bark of Phellodendron amurense to suppress the cellular immune response: effect of phellodendrine on cellular and humoral immune responses. Planta Med. Feb1995;61(1):45-9.

6. Fukuda K, Hibiya Y, Mutoh M, et al. Inhibition by berberine of cyclooxygenase-2 transcriptional activity in human colon cancer cells. J Ethnopharmacol 1999;66:227-33.

7. Uchiyama T, Kamikawa H, Ogita Z. [Anti-ulcer effect of extract from phellodendri cortex]. [Article in Japanese]. Yakugaku Zasshi 1989;109:672-6.

8. Cuellar MJ, Giner RM, Recio MC, et al. Topical anti-inflammatory activity of some Asian medicinal plants used in dermatological disorders. Fitoterapia 2001;72:221-9. 7 Ibid

9. Lee YM, Kim H, Hong EK, Kang BH, Kim SJ. Water extract of 1:1 mixture of Phellodendron cortex and Aralia cortex has inhibitory effects on oxidative stress in kidney of diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. Dec2000;73(3):429-36.

10. Lee Y, Kim H, Choi HS, Kang BH, Han YB, Kim SJ. Effects of water extract of 1:1 mixture of Phellodendron cortex and Aralia cortex on polyol pathway and oxidative damage in lenses of diabetic rats. Phytother Res. Nov1999;13(7):555-60.

11. Birdsall TC, Kelly GS. Berberine: Therapeutic potential of an alkaloid in several medicinal plants. Altern Med Review. 1997;2(2):94-103.

12. Lau CW, Yao XQ, Chen ZY, Ko WH, Huang Y. Cardiovascular actions of berberine. Cardiovasc Drug Rev. Sep2001;19(3):234-44.


Top Ten Reviews