Huang Bai (Huang Bo or Cortex Phellodendri)

What Is Huang Bai

Huang Bai commonly known as Huang Bo or Cortex Phellodendri is the bark of Phellodendron chinense or Phellodendron amurense, which is a deciduous tree belonging to the family Rutaceae. It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Shennong Ben Cao Jing> in the late Western Han Dynasty (around 100 BCE).

There are 4 species of Phellodendron, which are distributed in eastern Asia. They have a certain economic value and can be used as industrial materials and building materials.

Phellodendron chinense is shade-tolerant and cold-tolerant. They often grow in mixed woods, hillsides, or river valleys above 900 meters above sea level. They are mainly distributed in Sichuan, Guizhou, Hubei, Hunan, and Yunnan.

Phellodendron amurense likes the sun and is resistant to severe cold. They often grow in mountains, forests, mountains, and river banks at an altitude of 700-1,500 meters. They can be found in China, North Korea, Japan, Russia, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Phellodendron chinense

After the Qingming Festival, people peel the bark of Phellodendron chinense or Phellodendron amurense, remove the rough skin inside, dry them in the sun, flatten them, cut them into slices, use them directly, or stir-fry them with saline water or carbonize them, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Huang Bai contains berberine, jatrorrhizine, palmatine, berberubine, tetrahydrojiatrorrhizine, phellodendrine, tetrahydroberberine, tetrahydropalmatine, oxyberberine, magnoflorine, menisperine, quinoline alkaloids, indole alkaloids, phellamurin, amuresin, phellochinin A, phellavin, phellatin, hyperin, dihydrokaempferol, syringin, amurenlaetone A, amurenlaetone B, amurenamide A, coniferin, dictamnolide, nomilin, obakunone, obakunonic acid, obaeulaetone, 7- dehydro-stigmasterol, β-sitosterol, γ-sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, ferulic acid, adenosine, terpenoids, polysaccharides, and volatile oils.

Generally, the yellow-brown Huang Bai with a fibrous cross-section and an extremely bitter taste is preferred.

According to the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, the medicinal nature of Huang Bai is relatively cold, with a bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the kidney, bladder, and large intestine meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often used to clear heat and dry dampness, reduce fire and remove toxins, treat bacillary dysentery, chronic colitis, skin ulcers, paederus dermatitis, jaundice hepatitis, prostatitis, semen inefficiency, chronic diabetes, and chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, bronchitis, impetigo, herpes zoster, pharyngitis, otitis media, and epidemic encephalomyelitis.

There are about 200 kinds of traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions containing Huang Bai, such as Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan, Huang Lian Shang Qing Wan, and Da Bu Yin Wan.


  • Anti-inflammation, inhibiting xylene-induced ear swelling in mice and carrageenan-induced toe swelling in rats.
  • Anti-oxidation, scavenging superoxide anion free radicals and hydroxyl free radicals.
  • Promoting liver glycogen synthesis, lowering blood glucose concentration and blood pressure.
  • Inhibit gastric juice secretion and indomethacin-induced reduction of PGE2 in gastric mucosa in rats, increasing PGE2 in gastric mucosa of normal mice, and inhibiting gastric ulcer.
  • Immunosuppression, inhibiting the host response of local transplanted tissues in mice and SRBC-induced delayed-type hypersensitivity and IgM production in mice.
  • Clearing damp-heat in lower energizer, treating abnormal leucorrhea, scanty dark urine, and urodynia.
  • Clearing damp-heat in the large intestine, treating jaundice and diarrhea caused by damp-heat.
  • Treating beriberi, foot swelling and pain, flaccid paralysis caused by the downward flow of damp-heat.
  • Treating hot flashes, night sweats, soreness of the waist, and spermatorrhea caused by the flaming of fire from yin deficiency.
  • Reducing fire and removing toxins, treating skin ulcers, abscesses, and eczema.
  • A small dose of berberine can excite the heart, enhance the contractility of the heart, and increase coronary blood flow.
  • Large doses of berberine can inhibit the heart and weaken the contractility of the heart.
  • A small dose of berberine has a strengthening effect on the excitatory process of the cerebral cortex of animals, and a large dose of berberine has a strengthening effect on the inhibitory process of the cerebral cortex.
  • Inhibiting Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus Albicans, Streptococcus A, Streptococcus B, Helicobacter pylori, Pneumococcus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Shigella, Typhoid, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Streptococcus hemolyticus, and Leptospira.
  • It can reduce the serum uric acid level of mice with hyperuricemia, inhibit the activity of xanthine oxidase in the liver of mice, and have an anti-gout effect.
  • Studies have found that it has a certain penetration effect on the prostate of experimental rats.


Side Effects

  • Long-term or overdose of it may cause damage to the spleen and stomach.
  • A small number of people taking it may cause an allergic drug eruption.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Huang Bai should be controlled between 3-12g.
  • It can be made into decoctions or ground into powder for external use.
  • People who are allergic to Huang Bai should not take it.
  • It should not be taken with medicines containing digoxin or Gan Qi (Resina Toxicodendri).
  • Patients with poor appetite or loose stools should not take it.
  • Patients with deficiency-cold in the spleen and stomach should not take it.
  • Patients with no fire syndromes should not take it.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take it.