He Huan Pi : Cortex Albiziae

He Huan Pi is a traditional Chinese herb prepared from the bark of the mimosa tree, Albizia julibrissin.  Although this tree is native to China and Korea, it is a favorite ornamental plant in the Southwestern United States because of its feathery red and pink flowers that bloom all summer. Also known as Albizia or Cortex Albizae, this herb is in the general category of “herbs that calm the spirit.” Traditional Chinese Medicine used He Huan Pi as a “sweet” herb to make emotions sweeter. It was said to release constrained emotions that cause bad temper, and to release pain and swelling in fractures and abscesses.

Described in the Shen Nong (The Divine Husbandman’s Guide to the Materia Medica) over 1800 years ago, He Huan Pi became known as the “Tree of Happiness” for people who suffered emotional pain.Modern practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as many conventionally trained doctors in China, most often include He Huan Pi in herbal prescriptions for insomnia.[1] It’s also used in herbal formulas for treating anxiety, memory loss, confusion, and depression. The American herbalist Michael Tierra goes so far as to describe He Huan PI as “herbal Prozac.” But surely there’s no scientific evidence that this herb has any functions analogous to its understanding in ancient herbal medicine—or is there?

He Huan Pi May Stop the Spread of Cancerous Tumors

He Huan Pi is a “Yin” herb. It helps the body restain and redirect fluids, tissues, and energies that might go astray. One of the things He Huan Pi might restrain and redirect is cancer.

Angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, is an important step in the spread of cancer. Cancerous tumors have to build new capillaries to provide them nutrients and oxygen, as well as to form a path for cancer cells to travel to other locations in the body.  He Huan Pi, the whole herb, not just a single chemical found in the herb, stops angiogenesis in laboratory tests.[2] A single chemical found in the herb called julibroside J(21) kills cancer cells inside the tumor.[3]

He Huan Pi Is Mildly Sedative

Laboratory studies confirm that He Huan Pi causes mild sedation and sleepiness.[4] It’s the kind of herb that you might take when you wanted sleep without the grogginess the next morning or the risk of sleepwalking at night. The problem is that the combination of He Huan Pi and any of the following medications for insomnia might be too much: Ambien (zolpidem), Ativan (lorazepam), Klonipin (clorazepam), or Seconal (secobarbital). It’s probably also a good idea not to combine He Huan Pi with calamus, California poppy, hops, kava, or St. John’s wort.

He Huan Pi Fights Aging and Anxiety

Scientists In Hong Kong obtained lab rats with a metabolic condition similar to type 2 diabetes in humans .When they fed the animals small doses of He Huan Pi , they noticed that the rats did not lose their whiskers as they got older. They also noticed that the rats did not lose their ability to run through several different kinds of three-dimensional mazes to get food. When they killed the rats and examined their brains, they found that He Huan Pi had an antioxidant effect that protected against the kinds of protein tangles that occur in Alzheimer’s disease. And not surprisingly, given that a large part of what rats do with their lives is to hunt for food, the ability to find food in a three-dimensional maze greatly reduced signs of anxiety.[5]

A laboratory experiment with rats is never proof that an herb or medicine works in humans. However, we’ll never have experiments that put people in three-dimensional mazes to see if they can remember the path to lunch. And it’s utterly unethical and illegal to examine human brains in this kind of experiment. However, these experiments hint that He Huan Pi might have anti-aging effects in people, especially in people who have type 2 diabetes.

So is He Huan Pi something you need to track down at the natural products store? The truth is, no one needs to take an He Huan Pi supplement. But when it is given to you by a physician or an herbalist trained in Traditional Chinese medicine, you can be sure that it is safe and it is supportive of your good health.


[1] Chen FP, Jong MS, Chen YC, Kung YY, Chen TJ, Chen FJ, Hwang SJ. Prescriptions of Chinese Herbal Medicines for Insomnia in Taiwan during 2002. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:236341. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nep018. Epub 2010 Oct 20. PMID: 19339485.

[2] Cai W, Li Y, Yi Q, Xie F, Du B, Feng L, Qiu L. Total saponins from Albizia julibrissin inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor-mediated angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Mol Med Rep. 2015 May;11(5):3405-13. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2015.3228. Epub 2015 Jan 20. PMID: 25607254.

[3] Zou K, Zhao YY, Zhang RY. A cytotoxic saponin from Albizia julibrissin. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2006 Aug;54(8):1211-2. PMID: 16880673.

[4] Kang, T. H., Jeong, S. J., Kim, N. Y., Higuchi, R., and Kim, Y. C. Sedative activity of two flavonol glycosides isolated from the flowers of Albizzia julibrissin Durazz. J Ethnopharmacol 2000;71(1-2):321-323.

[5] Li R, Chan W, Mat W, Ho Y, Yeung RK, Tsang S, Xue H. Antiaging and Anxiolytic Effects of Combinatory Formulas Based on Four Medicinal Herbs. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:4624069. doi: 10.1155/2017/4624069. Epub 2017 Mar 28. PMID: 28458714.


The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient’s own physician. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care.

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Sydney Acupuncture & Sydney Chinese Herbal Medicine