Shaun Ward MSc ANutr
Mulungu bark is an extract from the mulungu tree that is native to South America.
This extract is now sold as a dietary supplement due to its common use in Brazilian medicine and claims that it is a natural remedy for many health conditions.
The most popular uses are for sedative purposes, and to treat anxiety, insomnia and depression.
Other reported uses that are less common are to treat high blood pressure, insomnia, and reduce pain.
1. Mulungu Bark May Reduce Anxiety
The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension and worried thoughts. However, although anxiety is a natural emotion, some people are more susceptible to great amounts of anxiety that can seriously hinder their day-to-day life.
Due to this, liquid forms of mulungu leaves and bark are sometimes used to promote calmness and treat this type of disorder.
So far, scientific evidence has shown that mulungu extracts may have mild anxiolytic effects when animals are subjected to stress-inducing tasks . This behavioral effect is thought to be due to an inhibition of central nervous system nicotinic acetylcholine receptors  .
The compounds within this extract that are responsible for this are probably the mulungu alkaloids (a type of compound) as they are structurally similar to nicotine alkaloids that are known to act on nicotinic receptors .
These alkaloids may benefit anxiety by inhibiting neurotransmitter activity in the brain and slowing down signals between neurons and thus making them less electrically excitable .
The significance of these anti-anxiety effects are mentioned to be similar to the prescription drug Valium which is a strong anxiolytic compound, although more evidence is needed.
Importantly, the effects of mulungu extract and its isolated alkaloids are not associated with any noticeable impairment of motor neurons (nerve cells that pass impulses from the brain to a muscle or gland) . This is a rare finding for a potentially anxiolytic compound.
However, these effects on reducing anxiety are yet to be empirically tested or analyzed in human studies.
2. Mulungu Bark May Reduce Inflammation
Chronic inflammation refers to a prolonged inflammatory response that involves a progressive change in the type of cells present at the site of inflammation. This is characterized by the destruction of tissue from the inflammatory process.
Studies have shown that mulungu extracts may have anti-inflammatory properties, however the compounds and mechanisms which cause these effects are currently unknown.
One study indicated that these effects seem to originate from the chloroformic and ethyl acetate fractions in the root of the plant .
Other evidence also shows that mulungu bark may help to modulate inflammatory responses and specifically improve bronchial hyperresponsiveness and any inflammatory infiltration within lung tissue .
3. Mulungu Bark May Reduce Pain
Mulungu bark has shown antinociceptive effects - the action of blocking detection of a painful stimuli by sensory neurons .
The reasons it can achieve this are unknown, but it is thought to act independent from the opioid system, which is one of the most studied innate pain-relieving systems.
More studies are needed to confirm this relationship.
4. Mulungu Bark May Prevent Epileptic Seizures
Seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affect brain function. Seizures can cause different reactions including:
- Jerking and shaking (known as a “fit”)
- Losing awareness
- Inability to move
- Extreme and unnatural sensations
Limited evidence in animal studies suggest that mulungu extracts can be used as anticonvulsants (a diverse group of pharmacological agents used in the treatment of epileptic seizures) .
Mulungu bark is an extract from the mulungu tree that is sold as a dietary supplement.
The compound has many potential health benefits such as reducing anxiety, inflammation, pain, and preventing epileptic seizures.
However, this supplement has not been tested in humans, and therefore its benefits and safety are not conclusive at this stage.