Mudan peony bark

Chinese: 牡丹皮

Pinyin: Mǔ Dān Pí

Parts used: Root barks

TCM category: Herbs that cool the Blood

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Heart Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Paeonia suffruticosa

Other names: Moutan peony

Use of mudan peony bark (Mu Dan Pi) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash, soak in water, cut in thick slices and dry.

Dosage: 6-12 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Cools the Blood, activates Blood circulation and resolves Blood stasis.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which mudan peony bark may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Hematemesis Nosebleed Amenorrhea Dysmenorrhea Sores Carbuncles

Contraindications*: Not recommended for patients with weak Spleen and Stomach.

Common TCM formulas in which mudan peony bark (Mu Dan Pi) are used*

Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang

Source date: 1576 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Expel Dampness. Relieve pain. Move Qi and Blood.

Mu Dan Pi is a king ingredient in Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang, Mu Dan Pi clears Heat and cools Blood

Read more about Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang

Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San

Source date: 2002 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Liver Fire from Stagnant Liver Qi.

Mu Dan Pi is a king ingredient in Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San, Mu Dan Pi clears Heat

Read more about Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San

Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Stagnant Heat in the intestines. Reduces swelling and disperses lumps.

Conditions targeted*: AppendicitisPelvic inflammatory disease and others

Mu Dan Pi is a deputy ingredient in Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang, Mu Dan Pi cools the Blood and eliminates masses due to Blood Stagnation.

Read more about Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Promotes Blood and lymphatic circulation, thus eleminates Blood Stagnation. Softens and resolves hard lumps such as cysts and fibroids.

Conditions targeted*: InfertilityDysmenorrhea and others

Mu Dan Pi is an assistant ingredient in Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan, Mu Dan Pi works, together with Peach Kernels (the other assistant in this formula), to cool and invigorate the Blood (thereby breaking Stagnation), reduce abdominal masses and disperse accumulations. 

Read more about Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan

Qing Wei San

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Drains Stomach Fire. Cools the Blood. Nourishes the Yin.

Conditions targeted*: StomatitisPeriodontitis and others

Mu Dan Pi is an assistant ingredient in Qing Wei San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Qing Wei San, Mu Dan Pi works together with Unprepared Rehmannia (Sheng Di Huang), another assistant herb here, to cool the Blood and nourish the Yin

Read more about Qing Wei San

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Conditions targeted*: Chronic nephritisProstate diseases and others

Mu Dan Pi is an assistant ingredient in Liu Wei Di Huang Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, Mu Dan Pi clears and drains Liver Fire and is used here to counterbalance the warm properties of Cornelian cherries (Shan Zhu Yu).

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Ba Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Yang. Warms the Kidneys and lower extremities.

Conditions targeted*: Diabetes mellitusDiabetes insipidus and others

Mu Dan Pi is an assistant ingredient in Ba Wei Di Huang Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, Mu Dan Pi clears and drains Liver Fire and is used here to counterbalance the warm properties of Cornelian cherries (Shan Zhu Yu).

Read more about Ba Wei Di Huang Wan

Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1350 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin. Improves vision.

Conditions targeted*: Diabetes mellitusDiabetes insipidus and others

Mu Dan Pi is an assistant ingredient in Qi Ju Di Huang Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Qi Ju Di Huang Wan, Mu Dan Pi clears and drains Liver Fire and is used here to counterbalance the warm properties of Cornelian cherries (Shan Zhu Yu).

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Wen Jing Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Uterus and vessels. Nourishes Blood. Dispels Cold. Dispels Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Dysfunctional uterine bleedingUterine hypoplasia and others

Mu Dan Pi is an assistant ingredient in Wen Jing Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Wen Jing Tang, Mu Dan Pi dispels Blood Stagnation and facilitates the menses, clear any Empty Heat which might arise from Blood Deficiency

Read more about Wen Jing Tang

Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang

Source date: the 18th century

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Improves throat. Resolves toxicity. Clears the Lungs.

Conditions targeted*: DiphtheriaTonsillitis and others

Mu Dan Pi is an assistant ingredient in Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang, Mu Dan Pi cools the Blood, reduces swelling, and thereby supports the functions of the key herb. Chuan Bei Mu (Fritillary bulbs), Mu Dan Pi (Mudan peony bark) and Bai Shao (White peony root) together disperse the swelling in the throat and stops the pain.

Read more about Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang

Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1584 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Yin. Drains Fire.

Mu Dan Pi is an assistant ingredient in Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan, Mu Dan Pi clears and drains Liver Fire and is used here to counterbalance the warm properties of Cornelian cherries (Shan Zhu Yu).

Read more about Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan

Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes the Yin and clears Heat.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic pyelonephritisPulmonary tuberculosis and others

Mu Dan Pi is an assistant ingredient in Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang, Mu Dan Pi drains Heat from the Yin and assists the king herbs in venting and dispersing the Heat.

Read more about Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang

Jia Wei Xiao Yao San

Source date: Ming dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Liver and Spleen Qi Stagnation. Tonifies Spleen. Clears Deficient Heat. Nourishes the blood.

Conditions targeted*: InfertilityMenorrhagia and others

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San

Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Treats severe fevers and Heat in the Blood system. Removes Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Acute leukemiaUremia and others

In Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, Mu Dan Pi drains Heat to cool the Blood and stops bleeding by dispersing stagnant Blood.

Read more about Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang

Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates Blood. Eliminates Blood Stagnation below the diaphragm. Stops pain. Promotes Qi movement.

Conditions targeted*: AmenorrheaPainful menstruations and others

In Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang, Mu Dan Pi invigorates Blood, eliminates Stagnation and stop pain

Read more about Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Pacifies the Liver. Removes Stagnation. Drains Fire. Unblocks the Meridians.

In Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang, Mu Dan Pi clears Liver Heat

Read more about Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang

Gui Shao Di Huang Tang

Source date: 1706 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Blood. Nourishes Yin.

In Gui Shao Di Huang Tang, Mu Dan Pi nourishes Liver and Kidney Yin

Read more about Gui Shao Di Huang Tang

Qing Jing San

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Blood-Heat. Stops bleeding.

In Qing Jing San, Mu Dan Pi cools Blood and stops bleeding

Read more about Qing Jing San

Di Gu Pi Yin

Source date: 1742 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Stops bleeding.

In Di Gu Pi Yin, Mu Dan Pi clears Heat and cools Blood

Read more about Di Gu Pi Yin

Shen Qi Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and warms Kidney Yang.

Conditions targeted*: Diabetes mellitusHyperaldosteronism and others

In Shen Qi Wan, Mu Dan Pi clears and drains Liver Fire and is used here to counterbalance the warm properties of Prepared aconite.

Read more about Shen Qi Wan

Zhu Yu Zhi Xue Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates Blood. Stops bleeding.

In Zhu Yu Zhi Xue Tang, Mu Dan Pi invigorates Blood and removes Stagnation.

Read more about Zhu Yu Zhi Xue Tang

Key TCM concepts behind mudan peony bark (Mu Dan Pi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), mudan peony bark are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that cool the Blood' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Internal Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an Excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that cool the Blood treat the latter and as such tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category mudan peony bark are plants that are Cool in nature. This means that mudan peony bark tend to help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition mudan peony bark can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Mudan peony bark also taste Bitter and Pungent. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like mudan peony bark tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such mudan peony bark are thought to target the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver. In addition to regulating Blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. The Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on mudan peony bark (Mu Dan Pi)

Guizhi Fuling capsules (consisting of Mudan peony bark) achieved obvious effects in the treatment of uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, dysmenorrheal, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, breast hyperplasia and other gynecological diseases.1

Sources:

1. Su ZZ, Li N, Cao L, Wang TJ, Zhang CF, Ding G, Wang ZZ, Xiao W. (2015). Main progress on studies of pharmacological activities and clinical applications of Guizhi Fuling capsule. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. , 40(6):989-92.