Nature: bitter, sour, slightly cold
Enters: Liver, Spleen
Actions: Nourishes blood; astringes Yin; softens the liver (by nourishing and astringing liver blood); relieves pain; subdues liver Yang rising; regulates the menses; adjusts the Ying and Wei; separates a mixture of Yin pathological factors.
• Blood deficiency: irregular menstruation, abdominal cramps during menstruation, uterine bleeding, vaginal discharge.
• Yin deficiency leading to floating Yang: night sweats, spontaneous sweating.
• Liver blood deficiency: hypochondriac pain, costal pain, spasm in the limbs.
• Liver Qi stagnation, liver attacking the spleen/stomach: flank, chest, epigastric, or abdominal pain.
• Liver Yang rising: dizziness, headache.
• Ying/Wei disharmony: exterior wind-cold from deficiency patterns with continuous sweating that does not resolve the problem.
• Painful spasms in the abdomen, cramping pain or spasms in the hands and feet, abdominal pain associated with dysenteric disorders.
• Vaginal discharge, spermatorrhea.
• The liver, the general, can easily become stiff, stagnant, overpowering – Bai shao softens it.
• This herb has a downward energetic.
• May lower blood pressure.
• Use raw to pacify the liver. Dry-fry the herb to nourish the blood and harmonize the Ying and Wei.
• Never to be combined with Li lu.
• Compared to Dang gui, both are used for pain and blood deficiency patterns. Bai shao is more appropriate for blood deficiency accompanied by heat, while Dang gui is used more for blood deficiency accompanied by cold.
• In many older sources, the name “Shao Yao” is used without differentiating between Chi Shao Yao (red peony root) and Bai Shao Yao (white peony root). Some sources say the difference is the flower color (red versus white) and others say that the medical product Chi Shao is reddish in color while the product Bai Shao is white (this may be actually due entirely to processing methods). According to the folks at NuHerbs, Bai Shao is Paeonia lactiflora with or without the “skin” on it. Their Japanese customers always requested it with the skin (making it look like what many of us believe to be Chi Shao) because they insisted that the skin is the most medicinal part. Upon lab testing it, NuHerbs found that their samples of Bai Shao with the skin removed (what most companies sell) failed quality standards, and they moved to always source the herb with the skin. Chi Shao is actually a different species – Paeonia veitchii. It lacks Bai Shao’s blood nourishing effect (some sources say it does have a weak blood nourishing effect), but is much more cooling (clears heat and cold the blood) and has the additional quality of being able to move blood (it is classified either as a blood mover or a heat-cearing & blood-cooling herb). Some sources also say that Bai Shao has some (mild) ability to move the blood.
MLT: Antispasmodic, blood moving.
• King’s American Dispensatory (Lloyd/Felter)lists indications of this herb as “chorea, epilepsy, spasms, various nerve affections”
PFGC: Can astringe heat that has floated to the upper warmer and entice it down and drain it via urine.
• Due to its bitter essence, it can enter the gallbladder and boost bile production.
• Excellent at purging liver/gallbladder heat, eliminating tenesmus in dysentery or treating eye disorders involving swelling and pain.
• With Fu zi, it can astringe escaping original Yang and entice it back to the lower Jiao (must use a high dose of Bai shao in this case).
HF: A supplement with an anti-Gu nature, possessing acrid, toxin-resolving qualities, useful in Gu Zheng (Gu parasites) formulas.
Hsu: Anti-spasmodic, analgesic, CNS sedative, antibacterial, may help prevent development of gastric ulcer.
DY: Harmonizes the constructive Qi; constrains and protects Yin; nourishes the blood and constrains Yin without attracting nor blocking evils in the interior; nourishes stomach Yin; relieves tension, stops pain; tropism: the Yin division.
• With Chai hu to drain the liver without damaging liver Yin, nourish the liver without causing liver depression Qi stagnation, regulate the spleen, stop pain effectively, harmonize the interior and exterior, and constrain Yin while upbearing Yang. For such indications as:
– 1. Liver depression Qi stagnation causing disharmony between Qi and blood.
– 2. Vertigo, unclear vision, chest and lateral costal oppression, pain, and distention due to liver depression Qi stagnation or to disharmony between the exterior and interior.
– 3. Menstrual irregularities, dysmenorrhea, breast distention, low-grade fever during the menses, premenstrual syndrome, and fibrocystic breasts, all caused by liver depression Qi stagnation or disharmony between the liver and spleen.
• The combination of Bai shao and Chai hu is effective for the treatment of liver and digestive problems caused by liver depression Qi stagnation or liver-spleen or liver-stomach disharmony, such as subacute or chronic hepatitis, hepatomegaly, cholecystitis, gallstones, enteritis, and colitis.
• With Chi shao to nourish the blood, constrain Yin, stop pain, cool the blood without causing blood stasis, and drain and nourish the liver. For indications such as:
– 1. Persistent low-grade fever due to heat in the blood. (Add Sheng di, Di gu pi, and Mu dan pi.)
– 2. Dry mouth and tongue, red and painful eyes due to insufficiency of fluids or Yin caused by residual heat. (Wine mix-fry both herbs and add Xiang fu and Dang gui.)
– 3. Lateral costal and chest pain, abdominal pain and conglomerations due to blood stasis or liver depression Qi stagnation.
– 4. Menstrual irregularities or amenorrhea caused by blood stasis, blood deficiency, and/or liver depression Qi stagnation.
• With Gan cao to engender Yin (sour + sweet), calm the liver, fortify the spleen, supplement Qi and blood, harmonize the liver and spleen, soothe the sinews, and stop pain. In this combination, 6-10g Gan cao and 10-15g (up to 60g) of Bai shao can be used. For indications such as:
– 1. Weakness in the lower limbs and spasms and pain in the limbs due to disharmony between the Qi and the blood which causes inadequate nourishment of the sinews and vessels.
– 2. Abdominal pain due to liver-spleen disharmony. If either disorder is accompanied by cold signs, use wine mix-fried Bai shao and mix-fried Gan cao. If the disorder is accompanied by heat signs, use raw Bai shao (or Chi shao) and raw Gan cao.
– 3. Headaches due to blood deficiency. (Add He shou wu, Bai ji li, and Jiang can.)
• The combination of Bai shao and Gan cao is very effective for numerous problems accompanied by spasms and pain, such as gastritis or colitis, spasm of the gastrocnemius muscle in the leg, contraction of the limbs, tendinitis, lateral costal pain, and hiccups or stubborn vomiting caused by spasm of the diaphragm.
• With Gui zhi to harmonize Yin and Yang, the Qi and the blood, and the constructive and the defensive. This combination drains without damaging Yin, while constraining without retaining evils. They harmonize the vessels, relieve tension and stop pain, as well as support stomach Yin and spleen Yang, while regulating the spleen and stomach. For indications such as:
– 1. Common cold with fever, shivers, slight perspiration, no thirst, headache, thin white tongue fur, and a floating, moderate pulse or, in other words, a wind-cold exterior pattern with disharmony between the constructive and the defensive. (Take Gui Zhi Tang. 10 minutes later, eat very hot rice porridge, and stay well covered in bed to promote perspiration.)
– 2. Spontaneous perspiration and/or night sweats accompanied by fear of wind and cold, a cold feeling in the low back, and frequent catching of colds due to disharmony between the constructive and the defensive. (Use stir-fried Gui zhi.)
– 3. Chest and cardiac area pain due to heart Yang deficiency and disharmony between the Qi and blood. (Use 15-30g Gui zhi. In case of very cold limbs, Fu zi can be added.)
– 4. Abdominal pain with spasms and cramps due to deficiency cold and disharmony between the Qi and blood. (Dose Bai shao:Gui zhi::2:1. Use honey mix-fried Gui zhi and wine mix-fried Bai shao.)
– 5. Pain and/or numbness of the limbs due to disharmony between the Qi and blood. (Use stir-fried Gui zhi and wine mix-fried Bai shao.)
– 6. Vomiting and weakness during pregnancy accompanied by fear of cold, lack of appetite, nausea and a weak pulse in the cubit position due to disharmony of the spleen and stomach and the constructive and defensive. (Use stir-fried Gui zhi and wine mix-fried Bai shao.)
– 7. Weakness in the elderly, during convalescence, postpartum, and post-operatively with fatigue and lack of strength, fear of wind, and slight perspiration due to disharmony between the constructive and the defensive. (Use stir-fried Gui zhi.)
• In cases of vertigo, uncooked Bai shao should be used.
• In cases of liver-spleen disharmony causing diarrhea, Bai shao should be stir-fried until yellow.
• In cases of gynecological problems, wine mix-fried Bai shao should be used.
• In cases of chest or lateral costal pain, abdominal pain, or pain in the stomach area, wine mix-fried Bai shao should be used.