The root and rhizome of peonies, including red peony (Chi Shao Yao) and white peony (Bai Shao Yao), have been used medicinally in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for a long time. From botanical point of view, both of them are Ranunculaceae plants. As a matter of fact, they are almost the same species. However, these are two entirely different Chinese herbal medicines, at least from the eye of modern TCM pharmacology.
What is red peony root?
Also known as Radix Paeoniae Rubra in Latin, in TCM’s opinion it refers to the dried root of Paeonia lactiflora Pall. or Paeonia veitchii Lynch. This herb is produced in most parts of China. Usually the medicinal roots are harvested in spring and autumn. The processes involved are removing fibrous roots and dirt, drying in the sun, and slicing. Usually it is used in both crude and fried forms.
What is red peony used for?
TCM considers this herb bitter and slightly cool in nature. It covers liver channel. In TCM practices, its basic functions are to remove pathogenic heat from blood and invigorate blood to Remove blood stasis. Its most important uses and indications are measles in epidemic heat syndrome, hematemesis, nosebleed, discharging fresh blood stool, sore red swollen eyes, swelling, abscesses and boils, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, morbid vaginal discharge, flank pain due to stagnation, hernia syndrome, and injuries from falls, fractures, contusions and strains. Usual dosage is from 6 to 12 grams, generally in decoction.
Red peony bulbs contains paeoniflorin, oxy-paeoniflorin, benzoylpaooniflorin, albi-florin, paeoniflorigenone, galloylpaeoniflorin, z-1s, 5R-β-pinen-10-yl-β-vicianoside, lacioflorinm, paeoni-lactone A, B, C, β-siiosierol, and daucos-terol. And also the isolated matter from the root tannins are 1,2,3,6-tetra-O-galloyl-β-D-glucose, 1,2,3,4,6-penta-O-galloyl-β-D-glucose, and the corresponding 6 gallic acid glucose and 7 galloyl glucose. What’s more, it contains also catechin and volatile oil, which mainly include benzoic acid, Paeonol, and total 33 types of other alcohols and phenolic compounds.
- Red peony can expand coronary artery and increase coronary blood flow;
- The inhibition of platelet aggregation is possessed by its water extract, glycosides, components, and ingredients and its derivatives;
- Its decoction can extend the in-vitro thrombosis time, and thus reduce the dry weight of thrombus;
- The paeoniflorin contained has sedative, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects;
- The peony fluidextract and the paeoniflorin have anticonvulsant effect;
- Its paeoniflorin has antispasmodic effect;
- Red peony has an enhanced role on the synthesis of liver cell DNA;
- It has a strong inhibitory effect on a variety of pathogenic microorganisms.
Main Chinese herbal formulas including Chi Shao
Chi Shao is widely used in tons of ancient proven formulas. Here are some most common ones for your reference, to name but a few.
Chi Shao Yao San
This formula, from Tai ping sheng hui fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief), is basically used in treatment of dysentery accompanied with unbearable abdominal pain. Other herb is Huang Bai (Phellodendron).
Shao Yao Tang
This prescription, from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence), is exclusively designed for dysentery with bloody stool combined with abdominal pain. The other two herbal ingredients are Huang Bai and Di Yu (Bloodwort Root).
Ru Shen Tang
Ru Sheng Tang is from Tai ping sheng hui fang. This formula is primarily for profuse uterine bleeding and leukorrhea with reddish discharge. Other herb includes Xiang Fu (Nut Grass Rhizome).
Shao Yao Qing Gan San
It comes from Yuan Ji Qi Wei (Orthodox Ophthalmology: Revealing the Mystery of Eye Disease). This formula is good at treating sore red swollen eyes due to wind-heat of liver channel, photophobia, and excessive eyes gum. Other major herbs are Jing Jie (Schizonepeta Stem), Bo He (Field Mint, Mentha), and Huang Qin (Scutellaria).
Potential red peonies’ side effects and contraindications
Though this herb has provided a great deal of health benefits, red peony is not a panacea. In other words, it can’t be used in treatments of all diseases. For example, in TCM practices it should avoid in the case of amenorrhea due to cold in blood. And it contradicts to Li Lu (Veratrum) too. So, great care should be taken when formulating with this herb.