Antidepressant-like effects of the mixture of honokiol and magnolol from the barks of Magnolia officinalis in stressed rodents

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Apr 1;32(3):715-25. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2007.11.020. Epub 2007 Nov 28.


Honokiol and magnolol are the main constituents simultaneously identified in the barks of Magnolia officinalis, which have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of mental disorders including depression. In the present study, we reported on the antidepressant-like effects of oral administration of the mixture of honokiol and magnolol in well-validated models of depression in rodents: forced swimming test (FST), tail suspension test (TST) and chronic mild stress (CMS) model. The mixture of honokiol and magnolol significantly decreased immobility time in the mouse FST and TST, and reversed CMS-induced reduction in sucrose consumption to prevent anhedonia in rats. However, this mixture was unable to affect ambulatory or rearing behavior in the mouse open-field test. CMS induced alterations in 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and its metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) levels in various brain regions of rats. An increase in serum corticosterone concentrations and a reduction in platelet adenylyl cyclase (AC) activity were simultaneously found in the CMS rats. The mixture of honokiol and magnolol at 20 and 40 mg/kg significantly attenuated CMS-induced decreases of 5-HT levels in frontal cortex, hippocampus, striatum, hypothalamus and nucleus accumbens. And it markedly increased 5-HIAA levels in frontal cortex, striatum and nucleus accumbens at 40 mg/kg and in frontal cortex at 20 mg/kg in the CMS rats. A subsequent reduction in 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio was found in hippocampus and nucleus accumbens in the CMS rats receiving this mixture. Furthermore, the mixture of honokiol and magnolol reduced elevated corticosterone concentrations in serum to normalize the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) hyperactivity in the CMS rats. It also reversed CMS-induced reduction in platelet AC activity, via upregulating the cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) pathway. These results suggested that the mixture of honokiol and magnolol possessed potent antidepressant-like properties in behaviors involved in normalization of biochemical abnormalities in brain 5-HT and 5-HIAA, serum corticosterone levels and platelet AC activity in the CMS rats. Our findings could provide a basis for examining directly the interaction of the serotonergic system, the HPA axis and AC-cAMP pathway underlying the link between depression and treatment with the mixture of honokiol and magnolol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Biphenyl Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Exploratory Behavior / drug effects
  • Hindlimb Suspension / methods
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / blood
  • Lignans / therapeutic use*
  • Magnolia / chemistry*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Phytotherapy / methods*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Serotonin / blood
  • Stress, Physiological / blood
  • Stress, Physiological / drug therapy*
  • Swimming


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Biphenyl Compounds
  • Lignans
  • magnolol
  • honokiol
  • Serotonin
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid
  • Corticosterone