Early this summer I realized my beautiful Mimosa tree was growing kind of out of control. This is an extremely fast growing tree that had risen to about 50 feet high and was intermingling its branches amongst the power lines. Time to prune. And since I was going to prune, this was also a perfect time to gather medicine from the bark.
Mimosa has been valued highly for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine as a botanical that can improve mood, wellbeing, decrease anxiety and bring a sense of peaceful calm, especially to those with a troubled heart and those who have experienced a great deal of stress and trauma. It is so highly valued that it is surprising to me that it hasn’t been appreciated more in the West and is relatively unknown outside of herbalist circles.
There are a number of species of Albizia but the one that is most commonly used for medicine is Albizia julibrissin, known as Mimosa or Full Happiness tree. Take a look at its beautiful flowers and gentle leaves that float and sway gently in the wind and you can already visually feel its relaxing and uplifting qualities. The main medicinal portions are the flowers (huan hua) and the tree bark (he juan pi). While the flowers tend to have more uplifting and mood enhancing properties, the bark is more sedative and “anchors” the heart and the spirit when there is grief, sorrow, insomnia and anxiety. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is also known for gently moving qi and blood, which is deeply helpful for those who feel stagnant, tense and have “liver qi stagnation.”
With that in mind, my family spent the day pruning, and then gently stripping the bark and cutting it up to prepare as a tea and as a tincture. I would have liked to make medicine from the tree before it leafed out and the energy of the tree hadn’t been dispersed as much, but well…I didn’t get to the pruning until now and I wasn’t about to let all the medicine go to waste. It hadn’t flowered yet so I have time to make medicine from the flowers as well later this season.
I prefer to use the older bark as the inner portion of the bark is the most potent medicinally and older branches carry more inner bark. Stripping is an easy job and just involves a sharp knife. Once the branch is peeled about a half inch it starts to come off in long strips. My eight year old, Isabel, is a champ. She peeled off the bark from a long one and we have a huge staff from one of the branches.
Once it is all peeled, I cut some fresh pieces for tincture and layed out the rest on a hot table and let the hot sun do its work, drying all the bark within a couple days. I then cut the bark into small pieces to preserve for tea. Here is a shot of the plant once it has been cut up and put in a glass jar for tea.
To make a folk style tincture, simply fill up a mason jar with the cut up root bark to about an inch below the top and then add 75 % alcohol. I dilute some everclear and fill up the jar, cap it and then let it sit about a moon cycle (4 weeks). The stronger alcohol percentage is needed to extract the gums and resins, but can taste a little sharp after it is made. Then I decant the tincture and compost the herb. The tincture has a nice light greenish hew to it.
If you make it simply as a tea, the bark can taste a little sweet, acerbic/puckery (tannins), earthy with a slight flavor of citrus. So to get a clear picture of the herb:
Taste: Sweet, sour, drying
Organs: Heart, Liver
Properties: Mood stabilizing, calming, gentle sedative, anti-inflammatory, analgesic
Uses: Insomnia, grief, post traumatic stress, poor memory. anger, irritability, pre-menstrual tension, pain relief, regenerates tissue for healing fractures, bone injuries.
Contraindications: This plant does not seem to generally be contraindicated with psychiatric drugs. So unlike St. John’s Wort that has a lot of contraindications with western pharmaceuticals, Albizia seems to not cause complications. There are no strong indications of contraindications in the literature but like every herb, caution is always encouraged.
Tea: As an herb to use as a tea, mimosa bark is not the yummiest beverage by itself. I definitely recommend adding in modifying herbs to bring out the plant’s medicine and to modulate its taste. It is not an extremely potent herb so one can take a little more than other plants. Michael Tierra recommends about 9 to 15 grams a day in tea form- or about a quarter to a half ounce of the plant.
So, the way I like to make it is to take a small handful of mimosa bark, and a pinch of licorice and schizandra berries and put them in a pot with a pint of hot water. Bring the water to a boil, let it simmer about 20 minutes and then strain out the herb and drink the tea. Pretty nice.
Tincture: Try taking about 3 droppers full three times a day and increase up to 5 droppers 3 dx/day. Tierra suggests taking up to a tablespoon three times a day for severe cases (thats around 12 droppers full)- a definitely strong dose.
Please note that there are several western herbalists who have noted that Albizia has caused people susceptible to mania to become manic. This was surprising to me as there is no evidence of this in modern or traditional Chinese herbal literature. In fact it is one of the most commonly prescribed herbs for insomnia, disturbed and vivid dreaming in Chinese medicine. But notable herbalists David Winston, Thomas Easley and Janet Kent have all reported this to me so I must make mention if it here.
This is an herb that is highly undervalued, especially for helping people improve emotional wellbeing. It is easily grown, grows quickly and is not rare like some plants that are highly prized for their effects on emotional wellbeing (the ginsengs, etc). In general, I notice its subtle qualities of bringing greater peace and well being, a feeling of being grounded and stronger. On a certain level it feels like it is building, strengthening and tonifying- especially helpful for people who feel floaty, dissociative, confused, scattered and anxious. We have focused strongly on herbs such as St. John’s Wort, kava and valerian which have complications and a wider amount of contraindications for helping people with mild to moderate depression, anxiety and insomnia but I feel this plant is one that could be deeply beneficial for many people.
I will leave you with author, acupuncturist and naturopath Michael Tierra’s remarks on this incredible plant from his article…
“As well as giving albizia to many patients suffering from acute and chronic depression and anxiety I’ve also given it to those who complain of high stress, with noticed marked improvement ‘”even after a single day of use. While there are undoubtedly many individuals who will require stronger medication (and for these pharmaceuticals may be of value), albizia is a good choice for probably greater than 50% of those who are presently taking a pharmaceutical drug. At a mere fraction of the price, albizia is devoid of the adverse side effects of the drugs and can be easily stopped at anytime. It seems reasonable to conclude that before one resorts to the use of drugs, that nature’s own gift from the ‘tree of collective happiness’ should be given a try instead.”
You can also find me at the Facebook group Herbs for Mental Health.