Peony (Bai Shao and Chi Shao)

Botanical Name: Paeoniae lactiflorae

A beautiful garden favorite, this flower is also a wonderful medicinal herb. It is especially known for treating female conditions associated with menstruation or menopause. It has a long history in Traditional Chinese Medicine for helping to Nourish Liver Blood and Calm Yang.

Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – White v. Red Peony…

Below is an overview of peony, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of peony.

How to take FULL advantage of Peony's healing powers...

JOIN ME in an exploration of the healing herb, Peony (Bai Shao and Chi Shao). Explore the benefits and applications of Jojoba, from Eastern and Western perspectives, and so much more!


Western Name: Peony

Also Known As: White Peony

Organs/Systems: Cardiovascular, Liver

Key Actions: Antioxidant, Antitumor, Immune Enhancing, Antispasmodic, Febrifuge, Vulnerary, Emmenagogue, Tonic, Astringent, Anti-inflammatory, Antiseptic, Anti-aging

Key Medicinal Uses: Female disorders, headaches, lowers blood pressure, expands blood vessels, inhibits platelet clotting, regulates blood sugar, diabetes, fever, muscle pain, strengthens bones.


Pin Yin: Shaoyao (“peony”)

Also Known As: White Peony/Bai Shao, Red Peony/Chi Shao

Meridians: Liver, Spleen

Key Actions: Tonifies Qi, Nourishes Liver Blood, Calms Liver Yang, Preserves and Purifies Yin, Cools Blood

Key Medicinal Uses: Relieves pain in the chest or abdomen due to Stagnant Liver Qi. Regulates blood pressure, and blood sugar (excellent blood tonic). Arrests sweating and night sweats. Builds bones. Counters aging. Treats female disorders, systemic lupus, hepatitis, autoimmune disorders, PMS, irregular menses, excessive menses, blurry vision, acne, arthritis, weak tendons, restless legs, and female hormonal disorders, skin disorders.

Basic Habitat / Botany:

Peony is in the Ranunculaceae family. There are anywhere from 25-40 different peony species, and many hundreds of cultivars. Most are herbaceous perennial plants, with some resembling trees. The flowering plants grow to be about 20-28 inches tall with glabrous branched stems.

They are native to Asia, southern Europe, and western America. Peonies like deep, rich, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Root without the bark, Root with the bark, Petal

Flavors/Temps: White Peony: Bitter, Salty, Coldl, Slightly Astringent. Red Peony: Bitter, Acrid, Cold

Caution: Considered safe used in proper dosing.

Key Constituents: Monoterpene Glycosides (including Paeoniflorin, and Albiflorin), Paeonol, Calcium, Copper, Astragalin, Tannins, Flavonoids


In the Chinese tradition, it is said that women who use peony root teas regularly will become as radiant and beautiful as the flower itself. It is said to make the skin elastic and silky. White peony is one of the oldest remedies in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is always used with other herbs to support their function or as a counterbalance to their possible too-strong actions.

Both white peony (Bai Shao) and red peony ( Chi Shao) are from the same plant paeonia lactiflora. While the two herbs are very similar in function, here are a few distinctions worth noting. White peony is the inner whitish root without the bark and red peony is the same root with the reddish outer bark left on. Typically white peony is obtained from cultivated sources, whereas red peony is often wild-crafted. Red peony is cut and left to dry in the sun. White peony root is cooked slightly in boiling water and then dried in the sun. Both are bitter in flavor, with white peony considered slightly cooler and more sour than red peony. It is also said that white peony more generally supplements and red peony disperses. Both have been commonly used to treat abdominal pain. Red peony’s cool and bitter properties help it to reduce Heat in the Liver and Blood as well as Move Stagnant Blood. It is often used to treat pain caused by Stagnant Blood. White peony is considered less cold and bitter with a sour taste leaning more towards its properties to Stabilize and Nourish Yin and the Liver. It is more commonly used when Yin is Deficient. White peony’s slightly sour taste also indicates its more astringent qualities than red peony.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), white peony is highly regarded for its emotional stabilizing benefits and ability to improve mental focus. In TCM, the Liver is associated with the Hun, your ethereal soul, that part of your being and psyche that is intuitive, and psychic, and wanders at night in your dreams to bring back inspiration. By nourishing Liver Blood, white peony helps strengthen this important aspect of Liver function helping to calm, strengthen, and improve mental and emotional clarity.

White peony is most often used as a blood tonic for treating stagnant Liver Qi, with symptoms that include muscle spasms, irregular periods, and abdominal pain. It is also used to treat infertility associated with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), ovarian failure, and endometriosis. It is commonly paired with Licorice to promote fertility.

White peony is effective at supporting Liver Blood. Anemia, irregular menses, muscle spasms, cramping, restless leg syndrome, inflamed tendons, numbness, and muscle weakness, are all associated with weak Liver Blood. White peony is a premier herb for treating musculoskeletal problems associated with Liver Blood Deficiency. It is again, often
combined with licorice root to help treat these kinds of conditions.

White peony is also often used to counter the effects of Blood Deficiency caused by excessive use of draining herbs. It will be added to many formulas to help counter the effects of these kinds of herbs when you need them.

White peony also has a unique ability to both nourish Liver Blood and subdue Liver Yang, making it the best remedy for headaches caused by Liver Blood deficiency and Liver Yang Rising. As a comparison, lavender can also direct Liver Qi (Yang) Downwards, but it does not also Nourish the Blood like white peony does.

White peony has astringent properties that aid excess sweating and night sweats.

White peony is understood in Traditional Chinese Medicine to Pacify the Liver. This means it helps Calm and Cool the Liver, allowing the Liver to effectively fulfill its function of Regulating the Flow of Qi, and therefore also Blood, throughout the Body.

White peony helps Nourish Liver Qi and Blood so there is enough of each to properly move through the body and for neither to become stagnant due to deficiency. The herb is often combined with bupleurum (Chai Hu) for this reason. Bupleurum has powerful draining and moving properties that can deplete blood over time. By adding white peony, Blood is nourished and replenished allowing bupleurum to do a better job of getting things moving again, without causing depletion.

White peony roots are the peeled root and are white to pink in color, red peony root (aka Chi Shao) is from the same root but is unpeeled, retaining the outer layer, and is red. White peony root is used most often. Both varieties have similar properties as well as slightly different strengths. White peony is considered more of a tonic to Blood and Yin; the red variety is considered a better hemostatic and better at promoting circulation.

The name, peony, derives from the Greek name, Paeon, the physician of the gods, reputed to have discovered the medicinal properties of plants in this genus.

In China, peony petals are parboiled and sweetened for use as a tea-time delicacy, in summer salads, jams, or as a garnish in drinks. In the West, peony petals can be dried and used in potpourri or bath scents.

White peony tea is made from the leaves of paeonia suffruticosa (Bai Mu Tan), a member of the peony family but a different plant from the flowers (Paeoniae lactiflorae). White peony tea is a popular type of white tea that can also boost the immune system and support heart health. The bark of this peony tree (paeonia suffruticosa) is also used as a medicine.

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Two Variations

Not to be confused with peony tree (cortex moutan/paeonia suffruticosa/Mu Dan Pi), peony flowers (paeoniae lactiflorae), come in two commonly used varieties, white and red. White peony is considered to be more of a tonic to Blood and Yin energy; the red variety is considered a better hemostatic and better at promoting circulation.


Paeoniaceae Family

Over 262 compounds have been obtained so far from the Paeoniaceae plant family.

Fun fact!

900 BC

Cultivated in China since 900 BC, peonies are one of the oldest remedies in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Take FULL advantage of Peony (Bai Shao and Chi Shao)!

Connecting Eastern and Western perspectives on HOW and WHY this herb works. Find out how to safely and effectively use this healing herb for treating conditions and for your Body, Mind, and Spirit. Find True Health. Explore uses, safety information, benefits, history, recipes, gardening tips, essential oil information, if it applies, and much, much more in this online course.

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ATTENTION: All material provided on this website is for informational or educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your healthcare professional or physician. Redistribution permitted with attribution. Be Healthy. Be Happy. Be Whole. Be Free.

ATENCIÓN: Todo el material proporcionado en este sitio web es sólo con fines informativos o educativos. No es sustituto del consejo de su profesional de la salud o médico. Esté sano. Sea feliz. Siéntase completo. Sea libre.

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