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Herbs & Botanicals

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White peony (bai saho)

What is white peony? What is it used for?

White peony is one of several herbs that belong to the paeonia family. There are literally hundreds of varieties of peony; other well-known versions are the red peony (chi shao) and the tree peony. Peonies are a rather tall plant, with some varieties reaching a height of five feet (white peony usually grows no higher than three feet).

A peony resembles a tall shrub, with branching stems that produce, glossy, deep green leaves, and flowers that grow at the end of the stems. Peony root is brownish in color and resembles a small, thin potato; the root is used in various herbal remedies.

White peony is one of the most oft-used herbs in Chinese herbal medicine. It is an extremely effective tonic herb and is used to purify the blood, which in turn purifies the skin; in fact, one of the most oft-used blood tonics has white peony as one of its prime ingredients. White peony is also used to relax muscles; lower blood pressure; relieve cramps and spasms (especially menstrual cramps); and reduce pain. Its antispasmodic and analgesic qualities are magnified when used with licorice root.

How much white peony should I take?

The recommended dosage for white peony root 5-10 grams daily, boiled in water for oral use. Dosage may vary depending on the condition being treated and the severity of the condition.

What forms of white peony are available?

White peony root is most often available as a powder, either as a standalone herb or as part of an herbal formula.

What can happen if I take too much white peony? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Since white peony is considered "cold" in traditional Chinese medicine, it should be used with great caution when treating patients with excess cold or yang deficiency. Most herbalists would advise against taking white peony root when cold-deficiency diarrhea is present.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with white peony root. As always, make sure to consult with a qualified health care provider before taking white peony or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Blumenthal M, et al. (eds.) The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, p. 364.
  • Phillips E, Colston Burrell C. Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc., 1993.
  • Reid D. A Handbook of Chinese Healing Herbs. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1995.
  • Schonbeck J. White peony root. Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Gale Group, 2001.
  • Teeguarden R. Radiant Health: The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs. New York: Warner Books, 1998, pp. 192-193.

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