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Phellodendron, also called Huang bai, is one of the 50 most important herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.  It is derived from the two species of Phellodendron tree; one found mostly in Northern China, and the other found in central and lowland China.   Huang means yellow in Chinese, and the color comes from an alkaloid berberine that phellodendron contains, which is very powerful and even toxic in large amounts.

Portions of the root, berry, twig or bark are cut out and made into a fine mesh powder, which can then be easily capsuled.  Phellodendron has many health properties because of the numerous anti-oxidants it contains. It works great to calm the mind, and when stacked with other supplements, works great as a sleep formula before bed.   This makes phellodendron a great option for athletes who are desperate for crucial sleep at night to help them recover, grow and repair muscles.


Fig 1. Phellodendron

Table of Contents

History in Chinese medicine

Phellodendron's use dates back to around 200BCE, and it can be found in Shennong Bencaojing - a Chinese book on agriculture and medicinal plants containing 365 entries.   It is also theorized that its use has been documented even further back to around 700BCE.

If you understand Chinese traditional medicine, different herbs and foods are grouped and categorized by organs and taste (bitter, cold, hot, etc.).   Phellodendron is categorized in Chinese medicine as Wu Xing (bitter and cold), meaning that it has to clear heat, dry dampness, reduce fire and release toxins.

How it Works

The secret to how Phellodendron works is that it contains certain chemicals (some unique) that have holistic and medical benefits.  One of them, berberine has been shown to lower blood sugar and bad cholesterol, as well as protect the liver from toxicity.

Palmatine, another chemical found in phellodendron, has been shown to reduce Candida growth; in fact, the unique phytonutrients it contains have natural anti-depressant and emotional well being properties.  This makes phellodendron useful to take before bed to calm the mind and block out negative thoughts.

Other Uses

Phellodendron has over 20 different chemicals, all of which have such health properties as tumors reduction,  immune system boosting, airway inflammation improvement, and uric acid reduction in the blood.


Bodybuilding is both physically and emotionally stressful on the body.  To combat this, in recent years many athletes have turned to natural remedies that can benefit them not just physically, but also psychologically.

Phellodendron contains many alkaloids and phytonutrients that will strengthen the immune system, calm the mind, and help the athlete sleep.  That's why phellodendron is now used by bodybuilders.

Sleep is extremely crucial for athletes; studies have shown bodybuilders need at least 7 hours of sleep per night on average to help repair muscles and recover from their grueling workouts.  Those that fail to get enough sleep are wasting potential gains and put their bodies under further strain.

Add to that the use and abuse of anabolic steroids, which can affect sleep, and there can be a domino effect:  lack of recovery, injuries piling up, and mental exhaustion.  Certain anabolic steroids (such as trenbolone, testosterone, anadrol, halotestin, etc) can negatively affect organ health and cause insomnia.  Phellodendron is a great option before bed to help relax and cleanse the body, so the athlete sleeps soundly, and is ready to work hard the next day in the gym.

Side Effects

Phellodendron should be avoided during pregnancy and breast feeding due to a chemical it contains called berberine, which may harm the fetus or be transferred through breast milk.   Young children should not take this compound either.

With adults, side effects are rare.   However, long term use can be counter productive and using too high of a dose can cause heartburn, headache, or fatigue.  If taken at a proper dose, and cycled 6-8 weeks at a time, Phellodendron is perfectly safe for adult use.

Where to Find it

Phellodendron can be easily found through holistic doctors, and is legal over the counter as a supplement, sold in just about any health food store or vitamin shop.  However, usually lax regulations in the supplement industry allow companies to use fillers and cheaper ingredients, so it is crucial for you to choose wisely in order to get the best bang for your buck.

A trusted supplement company called N2BM sells a supplement called N2Sleep, which contains 50 milligrams (mgs) of Phellodendron, as well as 6 additional ingredients that will help relax mood and improve sleep.


The dosage for Phellodendron taken by itself is usually 400mgs or even higher.   It is important not to use this supplement for long periods of time, just like all emotional wellness supplements, keeping it under 6 weeks straight.  In fact, it works best as part of a supplemental stack at a lower dose.

For sleep properties, it should be taken before bedtime, and it works well when stacked with GABA and melatonin.

Other names

  • Arbre de Liège de Chine
  • Corktree
  • Cortex Phellodendri
  • Huang Bai
  • Huang Bo
  • Phellodendri Cortex
  • Phellodendron, Phellodendron amurense
  • Phellodendron de l’Amour
  • Amur Cork Bark
  • Amur Cork Tree
  • Amur Corktree
  • Arbre à Liège de l’Amour
  • Arbre au Liège de l’Amour


Want to read about Phellodendron on our forums? check out these threads:


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Written by
Steve Smi (Also known as Steve Smith), has over 12 years of experience in the bodybuilding and fitness industry. He's the co-Host of the popular Evolutionary Radio Podcast - over 500,000 listens! He has been a personal trainer and writer for the last 10 years with over 1000 articles written. He's been a moderator on forums for over 10 years. Steve holds the following certifications and records: NASM Personal Trainer NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist Florida Local Powerlifting champion Top writer for 2019 Fitness rated

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