What Is Chi Shao (Radix Paeoniae Rubra or Red Peony Root)

Chi Shao also known as Radix Paeoniae Rubra or Red Peony Root is the root of Paeonia lactiflora or Paeonia veitchii, which is a perennial herb belonging to the family Ranunculaceae. It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Shennong Ben Cao Jing> in the late Western Han Dynasty (about 100 BC).

Paeonia lactiflora is commonly known as the common garden peony or Chinese peony and is an ornamental economic plant. This plant likes light and is hardy. It often grows on hillside grassland or under forest at an altitude of 480-2,300 meters. It can be found in China, North Korea, Japan, Mongolia and Russia.

Paeonia veitchii likes a warm and dry environment and often grows on hillsides, grasses, roadsides, and open forests at an altitude of 1,800-3,700 meters. It is endemic to China and is distributed in Tibet, Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Shaanxi.

In spring and autumn every year, people gather the roots of Paeonia lactiflora or Paeonia veitchii, remove their rhizomes, fibrous roots, and impurities, wash them with water, dry them in the sun, cut them into thick slices, and make them into Chinese herbs.

Chi Shao contains paeonflorin, oxypaeoniflorin, benzoylpaeoniflorin, benzoyloxypaeoniflorin, albiflorin, paeoniflorigenone, lactiflorin, galloylpaeoniflorin, palbinone, friedelin, epifriedelanol, betulinic acid, oleanolic acid, hederagenin, gallic acid, gallotannin, propylgallate, butyl gallate, eugeniin, ellagitannin, gallotannic acid, pedunculagin, catechin, D-catechin, kaempferol, dihydroquercetin, dihydrokaempferol, naringenin, daucosterol, volatile oils, fatty, resin, saccharide, starch, and proteins.

Generally, the brittle Chi Shao with brown rough skin and pink-white or pick cross-section is the best.

According to <Bencao Qiuzhen> (Exploring the True Meaning of the Materia Medica), the medicinal property of Chi Shao is slightly cold, with a bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the liver meridian.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Chi Shao is often used to clear heat and cool blood, dissipate blood stasis and relieve pain, treat coronary heart disease, intractable vascular headache, acute cerebral infarction, concussion, post-traumatic syndrome, chronic nephritis, chronic rhinitis, allergic rhinitis, prostatitis, abdominal pain in children, acute mastitis, liver cirrhosis, acute jaundice hepatitis, pigmented purpuric dermatosis, psoriasis, and acne.

About 200 kinds of traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions contain it, such as Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan, San Qi Shang Yao Pian, Ren Shen Zai Zao Wan, and Zhui Feng Tou Gu Wan.

Health benefits of Chi Shao

  • Anti-inflammation, anti-endotoxin, anti-depression.
  • Improving the activity of superoxide dismutase, inhibiting lipid peroxidation, and scavenging free radicals
  • Inhibiting influenza virus, herpes virus, and enterovirus.
  • Inhibiting the central nervous system and having sedative, analgesic, antispasmodic, and anticonvulsant effects.
  • Increasing the thymus index and spleen index, improving immunity.
  • Dilating the coronary arteries and increasing coronary blood flow.
  • Promoting the DNA synthesis of hepatic cells and the incorporation of 3H-thymidine into hepatic cells.
  • Promoting the movement of gastrointestinal smooth muscle, improving the ischemia of gastric mucosa, and enhancing gastric microcirculation.
  • Reducing the acute liver damage caused by CCL4 or D-galactosamine and protecting the liver.
  • Inhibiting platelet aggregation, prolonging the time of thrombus formation in vitro, and reducing the dry mass of thrombus.
  • Reducing the damage of myocardial cells induced by isoproterenol or tert-butyl hydroperoxide and preventing myocardial ischemia.
  • Inhibiting the activity of stress aldose reductase, improving the learning and memory ability of AD model mice induced by D-galactose, and protecting brain cells.
  • Clearing sthenic fever in the blood system, treating macules and rashes caused by warm-toxins.
  • Cooling blood, treating hematemesis and epistaxis caused by blood heat.
  • Clearing liver heat, treating redness and swelling of the eyes, photophobia, and nebulae caused by liver heat.
  • Removing heat toxins, relieving skin swelling and pain, and treating sores and carbuncles caused by heat toxins.
  • Promoting blood circulation, treating hypochondriac pain, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, abdominal mass caused by blood stagnation.
  • Removing blood stasis, relieving traumatic injuries and bruises.
  • Studies have found that total paeony glycosides can induce apoptosis of melanoma A375 cells, K562 tumor cells, and HepG2 liver cancer cells.

Chi Shao is used with other Chinese herbs

Side effects of Chi Shao

Chi Shao has been used clinically for many years, with almost no side effects.

Overdose of it may cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

Its injection may cause systemic itching and redness, sweating, palpitations, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.

Precautions of Chi Shao

  • The dosage of Chi Shao should be controlled at 6-12g.
  • It can be made into decoction, pills, powders, or injections.
  • It should not be used to treat amenorrhea caused by blood-cold.
  • It should not be taken with a drug containing Li Lu (Veratrum Nigrum).
  • People with deficiency-cold syndromes should not take it.
  • Women with menorrhagia should not take it.
  • Pregnant women should not take it.