White Peony Root

Common Name: White Peony Root

Pinyin Name: Bai Shao

Botanical Name: Paeonia laciflora

Growing & Harvesting: White peony is native to central and eastern Asia and made their way to Europe as prized cut flowers in the 1800’s. The perennial plant is easy to grow from root divided or grafted off established plants. In the U.S., peony plants are hardy from zone 3-7 as it requires a cold winter. Grow in full to partial sun in loamy soil with a neutral Ph. The root is harvested in the fall for use in Chinese medicine

Culinary Uses: Peony flowers are used to make a delicate tea in the late spring and the roots are added to broth and soups to fortify the constitution and enhance beauty.

Properties: Bitter, Sour, Cool, Astringing

Channels entered: Heart, Liver, Spleen

Primary Actions:

Medicinal Uses

White peony has a gentle, soothing nature and us highly nourishing. For this reason, it has many healing applications. Peony is very rarely used as a single herb to treat disorders; rather, it is included in herbal combinations that treat the following:

Emotional Disorders

Because white peony root soothes the Liver and breaks up Liver Qi Stagnation, it is highly prized for emotional disorders such as depression[1] [2], anger, and irritability.

Insomnia and Sleeping Disruptions

In traditional Chinese medicine, abundant Blood is vital for sound sleep as it is grounding for the mind and the Liver, and white peony root nourishes Blood.

Immune Support

Paeoniflorin (PF) a phyto-chemical constituent from the root of Paeonia lactiflora which has been shown to inhibit the growth, invasion, and metastasis of tumors[3]. Another study from 2015 concluded that PF and other compounds found in white peony hold promise as antiviral medications for the common cold[4]. Yet another study from 2016 revealed that PF alleviates psoriatic skin lesions in mice by inhibiting inflammation, thus demonstrating an immunomodulatory effect[5].

Women’s Gynecological Issues

In traditional Chinese medicine, the Liver regulates menstruation and the flow of menstrual blood. Therefore, Liver Qi Stagnation is a major cause of women’s gynecological disorder. In addition to soothing the Liver, white peony root stops hot flashes related to menopause.

Relieves Pain

White peony root contains paeoniflorin (PF) which has been shown in multiple studies to decrease pain[6] [7], muscle spasm [8][9], neuropathic pain[10], and inflammation[11] [12]. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the Liver controls the free flow of Qi throughout the body. Where Qi goes, Blood goes. Pain is caused by Qi and Blood stagnation. Thus, white peony root relieves pain and spasms largely by relieving Liver Qi Constriction. White Peony is used in these pain conditions:

Liver Diseases

One of the main indications of white peony is to soothe and nourish the Liver; therefore, it would be indicated in any liver disease. Modern science is beginning to affirm this knowledge from over 2,00 years ago as a study from 2015 found that a phyto-chemical extracted from white peony root Paeoniflorin, prevented fatty liver disease in mice fed a high fat diet.[13]

Beautiful Skin and Hair

Because white peony nourishes the Blood, it has been used by royalty for thousands of years to retain youthful skin and soft hair.


Chen, J. K. and Chen, T. T. (2003) Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. Art of Medicine Press. Pages 930-934.

Bensky, D., Gamble, A. (1986) Chinese herbal medicine: Materia medica. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press. Pages 331-332

Wang, Y., Sheir,W., OnoM. Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen: Recipes from the East for Health, Healing. (2010) Da Capo Press 

Retrieved May 2017 from http://www.almanac.com/plant/peonies

Retrieved May 2017 from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peony


[1] Qiu F.-M., Zhong X.-M., Mao Q.-Q., Huang Z. The antidepressant-like effects of paeoniflorin in mouse models. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. 2013;5(4)

[2] iu F.-M., Zhong X.-M., Mao Q.-Q., Huang Z. Antidepressant-like effects of paeoniflorin on the behavioural, biochemical, and neurochemical patterns of rats exposed to chronic unpredictable stress. Neuroscience Letters. 2013;541:209–213

[3] Zhou Z1, Wang S1, Song C2, Hu Z. Paeoniflorin prevents hypoxia-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition in human breast cancer cells. Oncology Targets Therapy. 2016 Apr 27;9:2511-8

[4] Luong Thi My Ngan,1 Myeong Jin Jang,2 Min Jung Kwon,2 and Young Joon Ahn2,*  Antiviral Activity and Possible Mechanism of Action of Constituents Identified in Paeonia lactiflora Root toward Human Rhinoviruses. PLoS One. 2015; 10(4): e0121629. Published online 2015 Apr 10.

[5] Sun Y1, Zhang J1, Huo R1, Zhai T1, Li H1, Wu P1, Zhu X1, Zhou Z1, Shen B1, Li N2. Jan 6 2015. Paeoniflorin inhibits skin lesions in imiquimod-induced psoriasis-like mice by downregulating inflammation. Jan 6 2015. International Immunopharmacology. 2015 Feb;24(2):392-9

[6] Yu H.-Y., Mu D.-G., Chen J., Yin W. Suppressive effects of intrathecal paeoniflorin on bee venom-induced pain-related behaviors and spinal neuronal activation. Pharmacology. 2011;88(3-4):159–166

[7] Jiang C., Xu L., Chen L., et al. Selective suppression of microglial activation by paeoniflorin attenuates morphine tolerance. European Journal of Pain. 2015;19(7):908–919

[8] Jiang D., Chen Y., Hou X., Xu J., Mu X., Chen W. Influence of Paeonia lactiflora roots extract on cAMP-phosphodiesterase activity and related anti-inflammatory action. Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

[9]  Nam K.-N., Yae C. G., Hong J.-W., Cho D.-H., Lee J. H., Lee E. H. Paeoniflorin, a monoterpene glycoside, attenuates lipopolysaccharide-induced neuronal injury and brain microglial inflammatory response. Biotechnology Letters. 2013;35(8):1183–1189.

[10] Zhou J1, Wang J1, Li W1, Wang C1, Wu L1, Zhang J1. Paeoniflorin attenuates the neuroinflammatory response in a rat model of chronic constriction injuryMol Med Rep. 2017 May;15(5):3179-3185.

[11] Guo R.-B., Wang G.-F., Zhao A.-P., Gu J., Sun X.-L., Hu G. Paeoniflorin protects against ischemia-induced brain damages in rats via inhibiting MAPKs/NF-κB-mediated inflammatory responses. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(11, article e49701) 

[12]  Zhong M., Song W.-L., Xu Y.-C., Ye Y., Feng L.-Y. Paeoniflorin ameliorates ischemic neuronal damage in vitro via adenosine A1receptor-mediated transactivation of epidermal growth factor receptor. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica. 2015;36(3):298–310.

[13] Zhang L1, Yang B, Yu B.  Paeoniflorin Protects against Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Induced by a High-Fat Diet in MiceBiol Pharm Bull. 2015;38(7):1005-11.

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.