Botanical: Paeonia lactiflora
Family: Paeoniaceae (peony) formerly Ranunculaceae (buttercup/crowfoot)
Other common names: Chinese Peony, Moutan, Tree Peony, White Peony, Red Peony
If you thought the Peony was only a beautiful flower, think again! Peony Root has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years for its tranquilizing effect on the nerves, pain relieving effect on muscles and purifying effect on the blood. It is also an old remedy for "female complaints," both physical and emotional; but men have also enjoyed its benefits for an overall feeling of well-being.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
The Peony is an extremely hardy and ornamental flower that is native to China, but grows wild in southern Europe and is cultivated for its beauty in gardens everywhere. The Peony is the sole genus in the flowering Paeoniaceae plant family, but in the past, the Peonies were often classified in the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family. Most species are herbaceous perennial plants, but some are woody shrubs. Because of its hardiness, it can grow in almost any soil but prefers deep, rich, well-drained loam in sun or partial shade, avoiding positions where frost damage is likely, and it propagates very quickly. In the autumn, the root is lifted from cultivated plants of at least two (preferably four to five) years of age; and after the root bark is stripped away (called White Peony Root, as with Red Peony Root, the bark remains in place), it is boiled and dried for use in herbal medicine - and has been for thousands of years - as a pungent, bitter, analgesic herb that cleanses and cools both the blood and liver and reduces pain. The genus, Paeonia, is supposed to have been named after the Greek god of healing, the mythical physician, Paeos, who used Peony Root to cure Pluto and other gods for wounds received during the Trojan War. He is said to have obtained the plant on Mount Olympus from the mother of Apollo. In ancient times Peony was thought to be of divine origin, an emanation from the moon, and it was advised to harvest the plant only at night. The Peony was first mentioned in Chinese medicine in Pouch of Pearls, a twelfth-century work; and well into the Middle Ages, the plant was associated with dispelling evil and averting tempests. It was worn as a necklace to protect against evil spirits and disease and used medicinally to dispel nightmares and calm "nervous affections" and convulsions. In Europe, Peony Root is used as an old remedy for jaundice and kidney and bladder problems. Some of the constituents included in Peony Root are monoterpene glycosides (including the most active and bitter paeoniflorin), proanthocyanidins, flavonoids, tannins, polysaccharides, asparagi and sitosterol.
Peony Root has been used for centuries as an antispasmodic that relaxes smooth muscle and is said to be effective in helping cramps and muscle spasms of all kinds, including leg cramps, spasms of calf muscles, cramps of the limbs, abdominal cramps after diarrhea, asthma with cramps, epilepsy, convulsions and menstrual cramps, among others.
As a diuretic, Peony Root has been thought to remove obstructions and help many kidney and bladder problems. This quality is believed to be useful in relieving gout by removing uric acid through increased urine flow.
Peony Root is said to be a fine herbal sedative and tranquilizer with effects that are helpful in calming the nerves, and treating irritability and other nervous conditions. It is also thought to relieve nightmares and was used at one time to treat dementia. Traditional Chinese herbalists used Peony Root with other herbs as an "immunomodulator" or means to restore balance to the immune system, rather than to stimulate it; thus, it was thought to be useful in cases of systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease, as a cooling tonic against inflammation. Moderating immune function may be useful in all cases of autoimmune ailments.
As an analgesic and herbal pain reliever, Peony Root is believed to alleviate abdominal pain, headache and muscle pain. The herb is thought to be very helpful to women, because it treats menstrual disorders and is said to relieve dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) and treat amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation). It was once used to relieve the pains of labor by relaxing muscle tension while stimulating the uterus.
Peony has been used as a blood purifier and cooler since ancient times. It is thought to nourish the blood, and as an anticoagulant, remove congealed blood and the pain of blood stagnation.
Some research claims that Peony Root may help reduce blood pressure by thinning blood and perhaps preventing calcium from entering cells of the heart and blood vessel walls. This may be helpful in cases of eclampsia, a severe form of pregnancy-induced hypertension, resulting in seizures, but a physician should always be consulted before this application is considered.
Peony Root is said to cool and remove obstructions from the liver. Peony helps to cleanse the liver and is an old remedy for jaundice and said to be helpful in some cases of liver disease.
Peony Root is believed to possess antibacterial, antifungal and antiallergenic properties and has been useful for treating gastrointestinal infections; and when used topically, it is useful for boils and other skin problems. Many people use Peony Root to achieve healthier and younger looking skin.
Pregnant and nursing women should not use Peony Root, and it is always advisable to use this herb in consultation with a health care provider for specific conditions.