White peony roots

Chinese: 白芍

Pinyin: Bái Sháo

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): BitterSour

Meridian affinity: SpleenLiver

Scientific name: Paeonia lactiflora

Other names: Chinese peony, Common garden peony, Shao Yao, Bai Shao Yao

Use of white peony roots (Bai Shao) 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: Wash, remove head and tail and smaller roots, cook in boiling water, remove skin or peel, dry.

Dosage: 3 - 12 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which white peony roots may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Headache Abdominal pain Spasmodic pain Anemia Irregular menstruation Night sweats

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with diarrhea and Spleen and Stomach Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which white peony roots are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind white peony roots (Bai Shao)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), white peony roots are plants that belong to the 'Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Blood tonics tend to be bitter-sweet with either a Warm or neutral nature. Because the Liver stores Blood, all Blood tonics enter that Organ meridian.

As suggested by its category white peony roots are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that white peony roots typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin excess. The Neutral nature of white peony roots means that you don't have to worry about that!

White peony roots also taste Bitter and Sour. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like white peony roots 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 Sour ingredients help with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such white peony roots are thought to target the Spleen and the Liver. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on white peony roots(Bai Shao)

Paeoniflorin and 8-debenzoylpaeoniflorin isolated from the dried root of Paeonia lactiflora produced a significant blood sugar lowering effect in streptozotocin-treated rats. It could therefore have similar effects in human and help treat diabetes.1

The root of Paeonia lactiflora has antipyretic and anti-inflammatory effects in that it can improve IgE-induced anaphylaxis and scratching behaviors. That may be due to the effect of its constituents, paeoniflorin and paeonol.2


1. FL Hsu, CW Lai, JT Cheng (1997). Antihyperglycemic Effects of Paeoniflorin and 8-Debenzoylpaeoniflorin, Glucosides from the Root of Paeonia lactiflora. Planta Med, 63(4): 323-325. DOI: 10.1055/s-2006-957692.

2. Lee, B., Shin, YW., Bae, EA. et al. Arch. Pharm. Res. (2008) 31: 445. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12272-001-1177-6