Flowers of White Peony, Chinese Peony, Bai Shao Yao (Chinese) - Paeonia Lactiflora syn. P. Albiflora (Paeoniaceae)

Medicinal Use of White Peony, Chinese Peony, Bai Shao Yao (Chinese) – Paeonia Lactiflora syn. P. Albiflora (Paeoniaceae)

White peony’s history of medicinal use in China stretches back for at least 1,500 years. It is known most widely as one of the herbs used to make “Four Things Soup,” a female tonic, and it is also a remedy for gynecological problems and for cramps, pain, and dizziness. Traditionally, it is considered that women who take the herb on a regular basis become as radiant as the flower itself.

Habitat & Cultivation

White peony is cultivated throughout northeastern China and Inner Mongolia. It is propagated from seed in spring, or from root cuttings taken in winter. The root of 4- or 5-year old plants is harvested in spring or autumn.

Related Species

P. suffructicosa, also commonly used in East Asian herbal medicine, and peony (P. officinalis), a European species, have broadly similar properties to white peony.

Key Constituents

  • Monoterpenoid glycosides (paeoniflorin, albiflorin)
  • Benzoic acid
  • Pentagalloyl glucose

Key Actions

  • Antispasmodic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Enhances cognition
  • Lowers blood pressure


Paeoniflorin: White peony has significant anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties, and preclinical research indicates that its traditional use for problems such as rheumatoid arthritis is justified. Paenoniflorin, the constituent most responsible for these effects, is also thought to lower blood pressure and support blood flow to the heart.

Polycystic ovary syndrome: (PCOS) White peony has a hormone-balancing activity that helps to reverse the symptoms of PCOS, which include irregular menstruation and infertility. In combination with licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) it has been shown to support regular ovulation and to lower the raised testosterone levels that typically occur in PCOS.

Supports cognition: There is accumulating evidence that white peony supports mental function, including spatial awareness and memory. Although no clinical trials have yet been published, white peony appears to have a strong neuroprotective effect within the brain.

Cold sores: Pentagalloyl glucose may have an antiviral action against the cold sore virus, herpes simplex.

Traditional & Current Uses

Four Things Soup: White peony is regarded primarily as a women’s herb. Together with rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa), chuan xiong (Ligusticum wallachii), and dong quai (Angelica sinensis), it is an ingredient in “Four Things Soup,” the most widely used female tonic in China.

Gynecological remedy: White peony helps menstrual disorders, including heavy bleeding and bleeding between periods, and is specifically used to treat period pain and cramps. It is a blood and yin tonic and will help “blood deficiency” states, as well as hot flashes and night sweats.