Life is full of stressful moments and situations. Nobody is immune to occasional mood disturbances and anxiety. However, just because you're stressed isn't necessarily a good reason to resort to powerful medications. Many medicines-for-your-mind have horrible side effects that are worse than the disorders they are intended to correct. If your mood needs a pick-up, there are many natural, narcotic-free remedies that promote relaxation without terrible side effects – exercise, aromatherapy, meditation, yoga, and sauna bathing are just a few. Additionally, many people turn to herbal remedies. In Brazil, one of the more popular herbal remedies for anxiety and nervousness is the bark from the Erythrina mulungu tree, commonly known as mulungu.
What is Mulungu Bark?
Mulungu grows natively in the tropical wetlands of South and Central America. The bark and root of the tree have been used by indigenous people to promote relaxation. If you haven't heard of it before, you're not alone. Aside from appearing in a limited number of nutritional supplements, mulungu bark hasn't gotten a lot of mainstream attention in North America. Now, however, Western herbalists are beginning to use and recommend it more. Not only does it have mood-elevating effects, but it also supports healthy sleep patterns.
How Does Mulungu Bark Support a Healthy Mood?
Plants steeped in traditional medicine have garnered attention from researchers who seek to identify the active compounds. It's no surprise that Brazil, where mulungu is popular as a tranquilizer, has been the location of many of its scientific inquiries.  The research has discovered that mulungu contains high levels of flavonoids, which have an antioxidant effect, and potent alkaloids, which may help reduce anxiety.  When the Department of Biotechnology at Brazil's University of Ribeirão Preto used animal models to evaluate erysothrine, one of the alkaloids, they found it to inhibit anxiety without producing ugly side effects.  Other research has reported similar examples of mulungu relieving anxiety, even being compared to diazepam. However, unlike diazepam, mulungu does not affect motor skills. 
What's Causing Your Anxiety?
Although it's exciting to learn about the potential of mulungu, dealing with anxiety requires a multi-tiered approach, not one single magic bullet. Additionally, before you can get rid of your anxiety, it's important to understand what's causing it and fix it from the source. Is your job bothering you? Relationship concerns? Financial stresses? Issues such as these need to be confronted head on, no medication or herbal therapy will correct these concerns.
Mulungu Bark as Part of the Solution
To combat occasional anxiety with less concrete causes, there are a number of habits and behaviors you can start, or stop. Some people find relief by reducing their ingestion of stimulants (coffee, soda, etc.) and alcohol. Some people exercise, some meditate, some practice yoga, some look to breathing exercises and other coping strategies. I suggest incorporating all of these practices into your life. Having your nutrition and activity levels in check is one of the best things you can do to set yourself up for good health all around – physical and mental. And, the evidence suggests that mulungu bark may be a worthwhile part of your nutritional plan.
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- Vasconcelos SM, Lima NM, Sales GT, Cunha GM, Aguiar LM, Silveira ER, Rodrigues AC, Macedo DS, Fonteles MM, Sousa FC, Viana GS. Anticonvulsant activity of hydroalcoholic extracts from Erythrina velutina and Erythrina mulungu. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Mar 21;110(2):271-4. Epub 2006 Sep 26.
- Flausino OA Jr, Pereira AM, da Silva Bolzani V, Nunes-de-Souza RL. Effects of erythrinian alkaloids isolated from Erythrina mulungu (Papilionaceae) in mice submitted to animal models of anxiety. Biol Pharm Bull. 2007 Feb;30(2):375-8.
- Santos Rosa D, Faggion SA, Gavin AS, Anderson de Souza M, Fachim HA, Ferreira dos Santos W, Soares Pereira AM, Cunha AO, Beleboni RO. Erysothrine, an alkaloid extracted from flowers of Erythrina mulungu Mart. ex Benth: evaluating its anticonvulsant and anxiolytic potential. Epilepsy Behav. 2012 Mar;23(3):205-12. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2012.01.003. Epub 2012 Feb 29.
- Onusic GM, Nogueira RL, Pereira AM, Viana MB. Effect of acute treatment with a water-alcohol extract of Erythrina mulungu on anxiety-related responses in rats. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2002 Apr;35(4):473-7.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.