Peony (Paeonia officinalis)

Peony (Paeonia officinalis) syn. Paeonia Corallina

Other common names: Paeony, peony root, common peony, farmers peony, chi shao, moutan, udsalam

*In herbal journals, there are references to a “male peony” and “female peony”…these are in fact two different varieties, and their root structures and location of origin are different. Both are used for similar purposes medicinally. Historically the female root was used for women and the male root for men (according to Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician.) However, it is the “male” variety that is most commonly used in general herbal medicine.

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Family: Paeoniaceae (or according to some classifications,

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Kurt Stüber

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Kurt Stüber

Ranunculaceae)

Actions: 

Antispasmodic, sedative, antimicrobial, astringent, bitter, nervous system tonic, blood thinner, cholagogue, antitumorigenic, uterine stimulant, emmenagogue, female hormone balancer, analgesic, circulatory stimulant/tonic, antitussive, decongestant, stomachic, abortifacient, febrifuge, vulnerary, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, alterative, digestive stimulant.

Harvest:

Roots are harvested in autumn, rinsed briefly in cold water and then laid out to dry until thoroughly brittle before powdering. The plant must be at least two years old before harvesting roots.

Part used: 

Root (dried and powdered). Historically the seeds were used, but this seems uncommon now.

Constituents: 

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/barockschloss

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/barockschloss

Flavonoids, phenols, paeonols, steroids, triterpenoids, stilbenoids, tannins, monoterpenoid glucosides,  and other compounds. The related Paeonia lactiflora species contains paeoniflorin and paeonol, and is also used in medicine.

Indications: 

Liver and gallbladder health, fever, seizures, dry cracked skin, hemorrhoids, muscle spasms, tumours, heart health, nervous system disorders, promoting menstruation, cirrhosis, PCOS, menstrual cramps, respiratory infections, aid in detoxification, cough, indigestion, migraines and other headaches, chronic fatigue syndrome, artherosclerosis, gout, neuralgia, asthma, blood clots (reducing risk), osteoarthritis.

Medicinal preparations:

Internal

The dried root is used in a tea decoction, extract, capsules or tincture.

External

The powdered root and its liquid preparations can be incorporated into salves and other topical formulae.

Contraindications:

Do not use while pregnant, trying to conceive or nursing. May interact with medications, such as blood thinners (including NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen), heart medication, or anticonvulsants. It has a known interaction with phenytoin (Dilantin) – when taken together, the risk of seizures may increase. Due to its blood thinning properties, do not take peony for two weeks prior to undergoing surgery.

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.

Energetic/traditional use:

The peony, sometimes referred to as the King of Flowers, has a prominent place in Asian lore and artwork, and has for many centuries. There was a myth that one had to be cautious when digging up the roots, because if a woodpecker caught you in the act, it would peck out your eyes! It is celebrated in China as a symbol of lavish feminine beauty, masculine bravery, wealth and good fortune. In fact, if a peony withers prematurely, that is considered a sign of impending poverty or bad luck. There are specimens in China which are estimated to be more than 300 years old.

Energetically, peony is welcoming, and nurturing. This flower accepts all flaws, settles anger, and encourages a community vibe, with understanding and forgiveness.

As a flower essence, peony is indicated for those who have suffered abuse, feel their bodies disconnected from their souls, or those who are suffering from emotional rawness or sensitivity. It has gentle, soft energy that heals in a comforting way rather than taking an assertive approach. It encourages self-love, and forgiveness. Peony has a cool, wet, bitter constitution.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.  

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