He Huan Pi is a Chinese herbal remedy derived from the back of the albizia tree, also known as the mimosa tree or ‘silk tree’.
Mimosa trees thrive in warm climates and full sunlight. Their silky pink flowers bloom in high summer, attracting hummingbirds, and they are exceptionally sensitive to light, with long feathery leaves that fold up in the evening. The Chinese name, He Hua, captures the warm, bright essence of the plant, translating to ‘conjoined happiness’, in reference to the way the leaves fold like a couple in bed.
Mimosa Herb in Chinese Medicine
In China, the bark is known as ‘collective happiness bark’, indicating its traditional use for lifting the mood and calming the body. Its earliest recorded medicinal use stretches back to the 2nd century.
The bark of the mimosa tree has sweet and neutral properties and is categorized as a herb that ‘nourishes the heart and calms the Shen.’ The Chinese concept ‘Shen’ has many translations but generally refers to spirit, mind, consciousness, vitality, soul, energy, or expression. This herbal remedy is used not only to calm the spirit and nerves but to promote circulation and relieve suppressed emotions such as depression, irritability, vexation, and malaise. It has also been used to treat cases of insomnia and traumatic injury.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), mimosa bark remedies enter the heart and liver meridians. Meridians are channels in the body that form a network through which vital energy (qi) can flow. Stagnated qi can cause disease and imbalance in the body. TCM practitioners attempt to restore the flow of qi through the meridians with a range of techniques including needles, pressure, suction, or heat at particular points along the meridians.
Mimosa Bark Benefits for Stress (Does it work?)
The main ingredient of Mimosa Bark is called Albizzia julibrissin Durazz, which has come under clinical study as a potential therapy for anxiety and stress. At this point, researchers are focusing on animal studies in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms at work.
One animal study found that treatment with A.julibrissin on stress-induced rats regulated monoamine neurotransmitters and their metabolites, alleviating certain behaviors driven by stress and fear. Monoamine transmitters include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are largely responsible for modulating our mood.
A.julibrissin was found to have anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects due to its ability to activate the 5-HT1A receptor. This is a subtype of the serotonin receptor which appears to be vital in managing anxiety and panic.
The HPA Axis & Stress
A.julibrissin was also found in the same animal model to work through the HPA axis.
One of the ways the brain reacts to stress is by activating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. A number of brain pathways control this axis, including the hippocampus and amygdala.
The hippocampus can inhibit the influence of hypothalamic CRF-containing neurons – key players in the way we respond to stress. According to the research, CRF plays a vital role in fear and emotional memory. Chronic stress can increase CRF levels, and this is the target of many anxiolytic drugs.
The rats in this study had high levels of CRF from induced stress, but when treated with A.julibrissin, CRF levels decreased. So did their cortisol levels. The researchers did admit to using quite a low dose of A.julibrissin and called for research with higher doses to further understand and harness its true potential.
Flavonol Glycosides & Stress Relief
When researchers studied the compounds within Mimosa bark, they found flavonol glycosides that may benefit those with chronic stress or anxiety.
Flavonols are a subclass of flavonoids, which are found in many plants and exert anti-inflammatory effects that protect our cells from oxidative damage. Not only does oxidative stress lead to the development of depression and anxiety, but inflammation and stress are closely related. Inflammation is a natural response to stress, and stress can also cause chronic inflammation.
Quercetin and Isoquecitirn, the two flavonol glycosides found within Mimosa, may be further beneficial for anxiety in particular. Studies have shown that Quercetin exerts anxiolytic and cognitive enhancing effects and can impact depressive-like and anxiety-like responses induced by stress. Isoquencitirin was found to produce a sedative-like response in animal studies.
How to Take Mimosa Bark for Stress
Mimosa bark can be taken in liquid or capsule form. The recommended dosage is 10 to 15 grams, with meals. Alternatively, you can add the flowers into a brew or tea for a soothing effect.
Experts advise using with caution during pregnancy, as it may stimulate uterine contractions.