Peony, Paeonia officinalis, herb

Paeonia officinalis, P. lactiflora (albiflora), P. suffruticosa Paeoniaceae


The large, showy flowers if this herbaceous perennial can be bright red, red-purple or white, and appear against the brilliant green leaves in early summer. Peony has a long history of medicinal use and takes its name from Paeon, the physician of the Greek gods. The source if the peony's medicinal properties lies in its swollen, tuberous roots. The peony has been used in Japanese and Chinese herbal medicine since ancient times, although it has long been cultivated for its ornamental qualities as well. Superstitions associated with the plant include the beliif that its seeds can ward off evil spirits.


Harvesting of the roots takes place in October and November from plants that are four or five years old.

The roots are dried, broken into fragments and used for infusions and decoctions.


Chinese peony (P. /actif/ora) contains paeoniflorin (a monoterpenic glycoside). The mountain peony(P. suffruticosa) contains paeonol and its glycosides, as well as suffruticosides. The common peony (P. officina lis) contains paeonine (an essential oil), tannins and resin.

Medicinal uses

The common peony has a sedative effect and is a remedy for nervous agitation and excitability. It acts on the sympathetic nervous system (which controls the body's involuntary activities) to relieve spasms in the smooth muscle of the gut.

By constricting the blood vessels peony has a beneficial effect on haemorrhoids and varicose veins. It can also be used to treat a lack of periods and period pains. In certain preparations, the plant can also be combined with other herbs such as Chinese anise and mugwort.

Like the common peony, the Chinese peony has a sedative, antispasmodic effect. In 2001 Chinese scientists demonstrated that paeniflorin found in Chinese peony prevented blood clot formation. The anti-inflammatory properties of this variety make it useful in treating rheumatism and other inflammatory conditions. Paeniflorin has also been used to treat eczema.

The paeonol compound found in the mountain peony kills bacteria and helps to prevent blood clots. A Taiwanese paper published in 2001 found that mountain peony exerted antiviral activity against the herpes simplex virus.


Preparations such as decoctions. tinctures and infusions of peony can treat rheumatic,gastrointestinal and menstrual problems, and externally peony is used to soothe atopic eczema and rheumatic pains.

However, preparations should only ever be taken as prescribed by a qualified medical herbalist and with the consent of your doctor.



Plant in rich, well-drained soil in a sunny or lightly shaded location. Once established, do not move. Do not use in home preparations.


  • This herb should only be taken under medical supervision.
  • An overdose of the roots can cause gastroenteritis.
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid peony.


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