Phellodendron amurense Rupr

Last updated: 14 June 2017

Scientific Name

Phellodendron amurense Rupr


No synonyms[1]

Vernacular Name

English Amur corktree, Chinese corktree, phellodendron, phellodendron-bark [2]
China Huang bo [2]
Korea Hwangbyeognamu [2]
Japan Kihada [2]
Sweden Japanskt korkträd, sachalinkorkträd, sibiriskt korkträd. [2]

Geographical Distributions

Phellodendron amurense can be found natively in China (Anhui, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Jilin, Liaoning, Nei Mongol, Shandong, Shanxi), Taiwan, North Korea, South Korea, Japan (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu), Russian Far East (Sakhalin, Amur). It was also introduced into Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Caucasus, Transcaucasus, C-Asia, Taiwan, USA (Illinois, Ohio), Canada (Quebec). [2]

Botanical Description

P. amurense is a member of the citrus family (Rutaceae) that hails from Korea, northern China (the Amur River near Siberia), and Japan. Like many members of this family, its leaves and fruits give off a strong odor. Its corky bark gives it its common name. Large specimens of this striking tree often produce long, stout lower branches. [2][3]

P. amurense is a deciduous tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a medium rate and the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns. [3]

It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. It is in flower in June, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required)The plant is not self-fertile. [3]

The leaf blade is compound and measured up to 254–381 mm (i.e., made up of two or more discrete leaflets). There are two leaves per node along the stem; the edge of the leaf blade has teeth and leaf stalks. [3]


Seed - best sown in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 2 months cold stratification, sow in late winter in a cold frame. Germination is usually good. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 – 10 cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up in autumn and over winter in a cold frame. Fair to good percentage. Root cuttings - obtain in December and store in leafmold in a warm place for 3 weeks. Cut into 4 cm lengths and plant horizontally in pots. Grow on in a warm greenhouse. [3]

Soil Suitability and Climate Requirement

P. amurense prefer light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. [3]

Chemical Constituent

P. amurense has been reported to contain protoberberine alkaloids including berberine, [4][5][6][7] palmatine [7][8], flavonoids such as limonoids including limonin, obakunone and nomilin, [8] indolopyridoquinazoline-type alkaloids 7,8-dihydroxyrutaecarpine and 7-hydroxyrutaecarpine. [9] and flavone glycosides. [10]

Plant Part Used

Bark, cortex. [11][12]

Traditional Use

For thousands of years the bark from the P. amurense tree has been used as an ingredient in herbal formulas in Chinese medicine. Traditionally these formulas have been used for gastroenteritis, abdominal pain and diarrhea. It has also been used as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. [11]

In addition, the bark of P. amurense was commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine for moisten dryness, purge fire and clear heat. [12] Also, this plant has potential in detoxifying and lowering blood sugar. [13]

The extractions of P. amurense have established important antimicrobial activity against a diversity of organisms together with bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses, helminthes and Chlamydia. Others, protoberberine alkaloids extract from P. amurense act as inhibition of smooth muscle contraction. [14]

Preclinical Data


P. amurense has been used to treat gastric ulcers, bacterial infections, fungal infections, and diabetes. It has also been used for immunosuppression and as a topical anti-inflammatory agent. A group of Japanese investigators isolated a fraction of phellodendri cortex extract that was berberine-free. This fraction has demonstrated some anit-inflammatory activity as well as anti-ulcer activity in rats. This extract significantly inhibited the formation of ulcers induced by ethanol, aspirin, stress and pylorus-ligation. Pylorus-ligated rats also demonstrated a reduction in gastric acid secretion when the fraction was administered via subcutaneous or intraduodenal routes. [11]

A study evaluated as many as 12 medicinal plants for their ability to inhibit the growth of candida species. A methanol extract of Phellodendron amurense caused significant inhibition of growth of Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, Candida krusei and Candida parapsilosis. Berberine and palmatine were identified as the predominant active ingredients in the extract. It is believed that one of the cellular targets for the antifungal activity of the protoberberines is 24-methyl transferase (24-SMT). In-vitro evaluation demonstrated that both berberine and palmatine inhibited the activity of 24-SMT in a non-competitive manner in the growth of the mycelial form of C. albicans and to lesser extent the yeast growth form of C. albicans. It is also suggested that palmatine inhibited chitin synthetase in both growth forms of C. albicans as well. [15]

Numerous plants traditionally used in East Asian medicine were evaluated for their topical anti-inflammatory activity. One of the plants evaluated in this study was P. amurense. P. amurense demonstrated significant inhibition of the edema caused by TPA (12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate), oxalozone and arachidonic acid. No activity was noted against phospholipase A2. [16]

Animal studies have indicated that Phellodendri cortex and principles isolated from Phellodendri cortex can suppress local Graft v. Host (GvH) reactions as well as systemic allogeneic GvH reactions in mice. [17]

Phellodendron cortex water extract in a 1:1 ratio with Arlia cortex extract may help reduce the damaging effects of diabetes. Multiple animal studies have evaluated this herbal combination. In one of these studies, the damaging effect of oxidation and lipid peroxidation on the kidney in diabetic rats was evaluated. These extracts were able to exert an antioxidant effect by reducing the lipid peroxidation and protein carbonylation in the kidneys of these rats. [18] The same activity was noted in a similar rat study to be beneficial in reducing the oxidative damage that can occur on the lenses of diabetics. [19]

It has been reported that berberine has the ability in reducing body weight. The research in mice and rats indicated that berberine not reduced cell number but it reduced the adipocyte size of the body. It has been proved by metabolic gene expression measurements in adipose and muscle tissue which it is represented that berberine up regulated genes involved in energy expenditure and down regulated the expression of genes involved in lipogenesis. Besides, berberine also reduced accumulation of lipid in 3T3-L1 cells by increased AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activity in 3T3-L1 adipocytes and L6 myotubes. [20]

Berberine is a well-documented constituent found within P. amurense as well as several other medicinal plants, including goldenseal. Berberine has well documented pharmacological activity that provide both beneficial effects as well as effects that may warrant concern. [21][22][23]

Berberine has been shown to possess antimicrobial activity. The antibacterial activity berberine may benefit individuals suffering from diarrhea caused by Vibrio cholerae and Escherichia coli. [24][25][26] Berberine possesses activity against fungi, especially various species of Candida, [27] chlamydia trachomatis [28] and has demonstrated activity against protozoans as well. [29]

Berberine possesses cardiovascular effects. A review of the medical literature has indicated positive inotropic, negative chronotropic, antiarrhythmic, and vasodilator properties. [30] These properties may provide some benefit in patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) [31] or in patients with arrhythmias. [32]

Berberine in numerous ways has demonstrated activity against the development and the progression of various types of cancer. Berberine has demonstrated inhibition of DNA-synthesis in activated lymphocytes [33] and dose-dependent inhibition of N-acetyltransferase (NAT) activity and 2-aminofluorene (AF)-DNA adduct formation in human leukemia cells. [34] Via down-regulation of nucleophosmin/B23 and telomerase activity, berberine induces apoptosis in human leukemia cells. [35] NAT has also been inhibited in a dose-dependent manner by berberine in human colon tumor cell lines. [36] The cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme is expressed in colon cancer cells and plays a role in colon tumor formation. Berberine has demonstrated dose- and time-dependent inhibition of this enzyme in colon cancer cell lines. [37] Studies in rats and mice have demonstrated berberine's ability to inhibit 20-methylcholanthrene induced carcinogenesis [38] as well as protect against cyclophosphamide-induced cystitis with pre-treatment of berberine. [39] Berberine has also been noted to have anti-tumor promoting activity. A laboratory study involving human hepatoma cells was completed to evaluate the effect of berberine on a transcription factor, activator protein 1 (AP-1). AP-1 plays a role in inflammation and carcinogenesis and was inhibited in a dose and time dependent manner by berberine. [40]

A study done in rabbits found a dose-dependent inhibition of collagen-, ADP-, and arachidonic acid-induced Thromboxane A2 release from platelets by berberine, suggesting that berberine inhibits AA release from cell membrane phospholipids. [41] Utilizing the effects of berberine on collagen, ADP and arachidonic acid another study in rats with 24 hour reversible middle cerebral artery occlusion, berberine inhibited platelet aggregation and platelet adhesiveness. [42]

Recently, the laboratory animal study has elucidated that nexrutine extraction from P. amurense has the ability to prevent prostate cancer. The result reported that nexrutine capable to protect transgenic adenocarcinoma of mouse prostate (TRAMP) from emerging proliferation of prostate cancer. [10]

Another animal study has reported that P. amurense bark has effectiveness in treating urinary tract disorders. The P. amurense mechanism has inhibited contractility of prostate gland and therefore it is useful in the treatment of urological disorders such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) that has caused by prostatic urethral obstruction. [12]


No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation


Though no interactions have been identified, studies have reported that the berberine found in P. amurense can affect the heart and blood vessels. This activity may alter the effects of these medications possibly altering the dose needed for treatment. Use with caution under the supervision of your health care professional. These drugs include inotropes (digoxin), antiarrhythmics, ace inhibitors, beta-blockers and other antiadrenergics, calcium channel blockers, vasodilators, angiotensin ii receptor antagonists, vasopressors. [30]

Animal studies have reported that berberine, which is contained in P. amurense can affect the blood's clotting ability and may alter the effects of these medications and possibly the dose needed for treatment. Use with caution. These drugs include aspirin, dipyridamole, anagrelide, cilostazol, clopidogrel, ticlopidine, abciximab, tirofiban, eptifibatide. [41][42]

Side effects

Side effects are possible with any dietary supplement. A published review of berberine literature notes the following side effects can occur: decrease in blood pressure, shortness of breath, flu-like symptoms, stomach upset and possible heart damage. Tell your doctor if any of these side effects occur. [43]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Do not use berberine and berberine containing products while pregnant or breast-feeding. Berberine has the ability to displace bilirubin, a pigment found in bile from the breakdown of waste products in the liver. Berberine has also traditionally been used as a stimulant for the uterus and could adversely affect the pregnancy. [44][45]

Age limitation

Due to berberine's ability to displace bilirubin, a pigment found in bile from the breakdown of waste products in the liver, berberine and berberine containing products should not be used in newborns, especially jaundiced newborns. Also, since young children may have undiagnosed allergies or medical conditions, this dietary supplement should not be used in children under 10 years of age unless recommended by a physician. [44][45]

Adverse reaction

No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


Berberine can affect the heart and blood vessels in numerous ways. If you have a cardiovascular condition including congestive heart failure, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) or high blood pressure do not use berberine containing products unless closely monitored by a health care professional. [46]

Case Report

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


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