Perennial growing to 2 ft (60 cm). Has a tuberous root, upright stems, oval to lance shaped leaflets, and attractive large red, red-purple or white flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
A native of southern Europe, peony grows in mountain woodlands and is widely cultivated. The root is unearthed in autumn.
Peony is thought to contain alkaloids, tannins, saponins, flavonoids and triterpenoids, and a volatile oil.
History & Folklore
Since the time of Hippocrates (470–377 BCE), peony has been used to treat epilepsy. Ibn el Beitar, a medieval Arab physician, recommended a necklace of peony seeds to ward off epilepsy in children. Mrs. Grieve, the author of A Modern Herbal (1931), recounted how “in ancient times, peony was thought to be of divine origin, an emanation from the moon, and to shine during the night protecting the shepherds and their flocks.”
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Though little used in contemporary European herbal medicine, Peony is greatly valued within Unani herbal medicine from the Middle East. It has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and sedative activity, and is prescribed for conditions as varied as nervous debility, epilepsy, and high blood pressure, and as a heart tonic. The root has also been taken to treat whooping cough, and suppositories are made of the root to relive anal and intestinal spasms.
Chinese peony (Paeonia lactiflora) is much used in Chinese herbal medicine.
Take peony only under professional supervision. Do not take during pregnancy.