The white peony root comes from the plant with the scientific name Paeonia lactiflora Pall. It belongs to the Peoniaceae family (Paeoniaceae), cultivated in East Asia, Europe and North America. It is also known as “garden peony”, “Chinese peony” or “bai shao”.
According to historical data, the dried root has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 1000 years. In particular, it is a supplement to reduce inflammation, pain and fever. What does science say about it? What are the secondary effects? In this space we detail it.
Benefits and uses of white peony
The medicinal uses of the white peony root are quite well known in China and other Asian countries. Similarly, derived supplements are available in North America, Europe, and various locations around the world. For its part, the flower of the plant is usually used for ornamental purposes.
An article published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences details that peony has important compounds with pharmacological action. Among these, the following should be highlighted:
- Volatile oil,
However, to date there is no solid evidence on the benefits of peony root in humans. Much of the research has been done in animals and the results are inconclusive. Still, scientists believe the findings hold promise for the development of future drugs.
1. Immunomodulatory effects
Compounds known as “total peony glycosides” are obtained from the white peony root. These substances have been studied for their potential as anti-inflammatory. According to a review published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, these properties help regulate the immune system.
Thus, it is believed that it has the ability to mitigate the symptoms of autoimmune disorders, such as the following:
- Oral lichen planus,
- Rheumatoid arthritis,
- Sjögren’s syndrome.
Of course, given the severity of these diseases, the supplement should not be a first-line treatment. It is important to consult the doctor before using it as part of the therapies.
2. Anti-inflammatory activity
In addition to the above, total peony glycosides have potential as anti-inflammatories. A study in Frontiers in Pharmacology suggests that these substances help suppress inflammatory pathways that cause disease. In this way, the risk of kidney disease, liver disease and arthritis, among others, is reduced.
3. Improves Blood flow
In Chinese medicine, the white peony root is used as an anticoagulant. It is believed to help prevent thrombosis. In this regard, an investigation in animals disclosed in Molecular Medicine Reports found that paeoniflorin (one of the glycosides in the plant) increases the action of the urokinase plasminogen activator.
This enzyme helps to solve thrombosis problems naturally. Experts suggest that it prevents clots from forming. It can even help dissolve existing ones. Similar results were seen in a shared review in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
4. Analgesic properties
Paeoniflorin, one of the main active compounds in this root, has a slight analgesic effect on the body. An animal study in Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry determined that the substance acts on the central nervous system and helps reduce pain.
5. Mental health
Another use for white peony root has to do with mental health. It is traditionally used as an ally against the symptoms of depression and anxiety. As a study published in BioMed Research International explains, this is because its extracts decrease the expression of the serotonin transporter.
In other words, it prevents this protein from inhibiting the effects of serotonin, a hormone that contributes to the feeling of well-being. Therefore, it exerts an anxiolytic and antidepressant effect.
In other research, the paeoniflorin from this root helped increase probiotics in the gut. According to a review shared in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, this also favors the relief of mood disorders.
6. Skin health
Anecdotal data shows that white peony root extracts are helpful in preventing premature aging. Its followers point out that it slows down the appearance of wrinkles, spots and other age-related imperfections. Still, evidence is lacking to prove it.
On this, a laboratory study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science highlights that paeoniflorin has potential as a depigmenting agent. Decreases melanin and favors the reduction of dark spots.
7. Other uses
Many of the benefits attributed to this root have not been studied. They are mentioned in the popular literature, but there is no evidence on their safety and efficacy.
Therefore, when using derived supplements, caution must be exercised. These applications are the following:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome,
- Menstrual cramps,
- Digestive disorders,
- Excessive hair loss,
- Excess perspiration,
- Respiratory disorders,
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS),
Possible side effects of white peony root
The American corporation WebMD states that white peony root is safe for most healthy people, as long as it is consumed in adequate doses. In adults it has been used without problems for up to 6 months.
Its excessive consumption is associated with the following side effects:
- Excessive bleeding,
- Digestive upset.
Given the lack of evidence, it is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women. Its anticoagulant properties make it counterproductive in people who are planning to have surgery. It can also be dangerous for those with bleeding disorders. Therefore, it is necessary to consult a doctor before starting its consumption.
Possible drug interactions
This root and its derivatives slow blood clotting. Therefore, they should not be combined with anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs. If so, there is a risk of bleeding or bruising.
Some of these drugs to consider are the following:
- Clopidogrel (Plavix ®),
- Diclofenac (Voltaren ®, Cataflam ®),
- Ibuprofen (Advil ®, Motrin ®),
- Naproxen (Anaprox ®, Naprosyn ®),
- Warfarin (Coumadin ®).
Nor should it be taken simultaneously with phenytoin, as it decreases its effectiveness. This is an anticonvulsant and certain blood levels must be reached to be effective.
In what presentations is the white peony root available?
White peony root extracts are available in capsule, tincture, powder, and tea form. It should be noted that they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Still, they are available in herbal stores, apothecaries, health markets and traditional medicine pharmacies.
The safe dosage has not been established and depends on factors such as age, health, and the purpose of the supplement. Therefore, you must follow the instructions on the label and the pharmacist or herbalist. Of course, if possible, it is best to first consult your doctor.