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Herbs & Botanicals

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Mulberry Bark (sang bai pi)

What is mulberry bark? What is it used for?

Mulberry bark comes from the branches of the mulberry tree (Morus alba L.), a member of the moraceae family. Native to east Asia, the mulberry tree is now grown worldwide. It can reach a height of more than 30 feet, and typically flowers in may, when the tree's fruit ripens. Mulberry trees are rather hardy; they can live in semi-shade or no-shade climates, and can tolerate both drought and high winds.

The typical mulberry tree bark is yellowish-brown and thin in appearance. The bark of the mulberry tree is collected during the winter by peeling it off the branches. It is cleaned, cut into pieces, then dried in the sun, and is used either raw or after being fried with honey.

In traditional Chinese medicine, mulberry bark has sweet and cold properties, and is associated with the Lung and Spleen meridians. Its main functions are to reduce heat from the lungs, to promote urination and to reduce edema. Mulberry bark is employed to treat a variety of disorders, such as coughing, asthma, excessive phlegm, and dysuria.

How much mulberry bark should I take?

The typical dosage of mulberry bark is between 10 and 15 grams, decocted in water. Raw mulberry bark should be used to induce diuresis, calm the liver and clear away fire. Honey-fried mulberry bark should be used to treat coughs caused by deficiency of the lungs.

What forms of mulberry bark are available?

Whole slices of dried mulberry bark can be found at many Asian markets and specialty stores. Some markets also sell powdered bark, which can be used in decoctions.

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

Mulberry bark is considered extremely safe; the American Herbal Products Association has given mulberry bark a class 1 rating, meaning that it can be consumed safely when used appropriately. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions or side-effects associated with mulberry bark. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking mulberry bark or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Hsu HY, Hsu CS. Commonly Used Chinese Herb Formulas With Illustrations. Oriental Healing Arts Institute 1990, p. 339.
  • Huang KC. The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1993, pp. 290-291.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 77.
  • Nomura T. In: Herz W, Grisebach H, Kirby GW, et al. (eds.) Fortschritte der Chemie Orhanischer Naturstoffe. Wien: Springer-Verlag, 1988, p. 87.
  • Nomura T, Hano Y, Ueda S. In: Atta-ur-Rahman (ed.) Studies in Natural Products Chemistry, vol. 17. Elsevier, 1995, p. 451.

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