Answer to 2023 3rd Quarter “What Herb am I?

What Herb am I? - Amy Watson, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, CCRT, CVA

This herb is the root of the flower that was the national flower of China during the Qing dynasty.

Until recently it was a member of the Ranunculaceae family though has now been moved to its own

family, the Paeoniaceae. It is produced in most parts of China. These roots are usually harvested in Autumn and Spring. After the removal of fibrous roots and dirt, the roots are dried under the sun, sliced and then used in both crude and dried forms.

This herb is a herb that invigorates the Blood and dispels Blood stasis. It also clears Heat and cools the Blood. It is considered to reduce swelling from sores and abscesses and clears Heat and relieves eye pain. It is a bitter, sour and cooling herb and enters the Liver and Spleen channel. it is contraindicated in patients with Deficiency and cold.

By activating Blood to resolve Blood stasis, this herb can be excellent at stopping pain caused by Blood stasis. It is thought that one compound within the herb, Paeoniflorin, may calm nerves and reduce the incidence of muscle spasms.

By clearing Liver Fire it can be used to treat blood-shot, swollen painful eyes, as well as helping in cases of photophobia with profuse eye secretion.  It is usually combined with Liver Fire clearing and vision-improving herbs.

Pharmacologically it has been shown to have anti-platelet effects, inhibit thrombus formation in rats, reduce blood pressure and dilate the coronary artery without impacting/increasing heart rate. It has an antispasmodic effect on smooth muscles found in the uterus and intestines, as well has having a mild sedative, anti-seizure and antipyretic effect. Additionally, it has been shown to have some antimicrobial effects on some bacteria as well as some viruses and dermatophytes.

Given it’s effects on platelets, care must be taken when using alongside any anticoagulant or anti-platelet medication. Additionally, it may be prudent to stop using formulas containing this herb in anticipation of any surgery, to avoid any coagulation issues during the surgical procedure. However, there is no documentation of cases of this potential interaction between anticoagulants such as warfarin and this herb.

Another herb from within the Family, a white variety from this genus rather than this red variety in the genus, has different functions. The herb we are trying to determine invigorates Blood and relieves stagnation, sedates Liver Fire and is dispersing in nature, whereas the white variety nourishes Blood and Yin, softens the Liver and is tonifying and consolidating in nature. They are sometimes used together however, in cases where there are concurrent excess and deficient conditions.

Answer: Red Peony root (Chi Shao)

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