Rediscovering Bai Shao (White Peony Root)

△ Bai Shao needs to be used more to prescribe herbal medicines for modern patients. imageⓒshutterstock_marilyn barbone

By Winston Lee L. Ac, Ph.D., KMD

An experienced doctor gets more unexplainable experiences as seeing lots of patients year by year. So that the doctor becomes to have the routine prescription or treatment toward a specific health condition. To achieve this level, the doctor should take frequent and detailed feedback from his/her patients. It does not matter if it is positive or negative. Based on all the responses, doctors become able to grow with the experiences, and he or she moves forward to be more competitive. I do not mean not just seeing plenty of patients, but the doctor must keep the record of the treatment or prescription precisely and continuously. Speaking of herbal medicine, we should figure out the principles and fundamentals of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of each patient.

I want to pick one herb – Bai Shao(White Peony Root). It is not that popular as Ginseng or Gan Cao. But I am extremely impressed to see that it has been working effectively for my patient last few years on a particular disease. I want to discuss this herb for the month.


Its basic information is as below.

Bai Shao(herbal name) – White Peony Root(English) – Paeoniae Radix alba(scientific name)

Taste – bitter sour / Temperature – mildly cold(cool) / Entering meridians – liver, spleen(lung)

Actions – Nourishes the Blood and regulates menstruation, Astringes Yin, and adjusts the Ying and Wei, Calms Liver Yang, and Liver Wind and alleviates pain.


The major combinations of Bai Shao are Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang, Si Wu Tang, Xiao Yao San

The description of Bai Shao is as below. It’s from Donguibogam(by Heo Jun, published in 1613, and the title means Principles and Practice of Eastern Medicine)

It treats diarrhea and dysentery. It is also good to take it in either the form of decoction, powder, or pill. A sour taste astringent, and a sweet taste softens, so this medicine must be used in dysentery.


Bai Shao has these features and effectiveness, as described above. I want to focus on one of the functions of the herb. It nourishes the Blood and calming Liver Yang. I raised the dosage of Bai Shao to 150% or 200% when it is needed, and it worked very well.

In the 21st century, most of the modern diseases that occur to humans are not from lack of nutrition. Especially in the US and other OECD countries, most lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and hypertension are coming from ‘over-nutrition.’ Humankind has never experienced and imagined the over-supplied state of food in the last few thousand years. Not to mention over-nutrition, lack of physical activity, and plenty of mental stress are the primary reasons for most new diseases in modern times. All these circumstances give birth to ‘Qi stagnation’ throughout the body – muscular system, digestion system, and lymphatic system, and so on.

Therefore, we need to keep our eyes on Bai Shao as the essential ingredient of the formula. It can nourish Blood to muscles on the neck and shoulder to reduce stiffness on the trapezius muscle, and I can expect to get rid of tension headaches and unidentified pain on the whole body.  It also calms the Liver Yang effectively. Accordingly, anxiety and insomnia have been improved remarkably effective than other regular western medicine. Many patients say that Ginseng and Red Ginseng extract do not show much difference though they have expected vigorous and energetic feeling. But they witnessed vast improvements after taking my prescription containing Bai Shao. They testify, “I can open my eyes in the morning way more easily than any other time in my life. And I realized numerous and annoying pains had gone away all of a sudden.”

I recommend you to consider using ‘Bai Shao’ as a priority ingredient when you see a patient with mental stress, sensitive nature, not over-weighted, lots of stiffness on the upper body, and a sedentary lifestyle. 





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