Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)

Schisandra is known commonly as the "5 flavor berry". In Chinese medicine, it's used to tone all 5 flavors. In western herbal medicine, it's used just as vaguely, to tone the...

Peony (Paeonia lactiflora)


Peony Overview:

Peony is a common Chinese herbal medicine for treating hormone conditions in both men and women, as well as cardiovascular disease and muscle cramps. It's named after the mythological physician of the gods, Paeos, who was said to cure Pluto and other Greek gods injured during the Trojan war.

There are 3 main forms of peony in herbal medicine, tree peony, red peony, and white peony. These differentiations have nothing to do with the color of the flower, but the color of the roots after preparation. White peony is the most common, made from the roots of the plant without the bark attached. It's most commonly made from the species Paeonia lactiflora, but can be made from other species as well.

+ Indications


  • Angina
  • Candida
  • Epilepsy
  • Fungal infection
  • Hirsutism
  • Infertility
  • Menstrual dysfunction
  • Ovarian fibroids
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Poor liver function
  • Poor memory
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Uterine fibroids


  • Wounds
  • Fungal infection
  • Pain
  • Candida

+ Contraindications

  • Caution in combination with loose bowels.
  • Caution advised in combination with blood thinners due to potential for additive effect.

Main Herbal Actions:

  • Anti-Androgenic
  • Antinflammatory
  • Antispasmodic
  • Aromatase Inducer
  • Dopaminergic
  • Nootropic
  • Ovarian Tonic
  • Sedative (Mild)
  • Uterine Tonic

How Is Peony Used?

Peony is most commonly used for treating PMS symptoms, poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), muscle cramps, and epilepsy. It is rarely used alone, as it is thought to have stronger effects in combination with other herbs like licorice or black cohosh.


Traditional Uses:

Peony is a common herb in the traditional Chinese herbal materia medica. it's considered to be specific for the liver, providing a soothing effect on liver energy and improves overall function. It's thought to nourish the blood, and is one of the great womens tonics, especially in combination with licorice.

Compared to Angelica sinensis, Peony is used in much the same way, however, peony is used when the condition involved "heat", while Angelica sinensis is used when the condition involves "cold".


Weekly Dose

Part Used

  • Roots

Family Name

  • Ranunculaceae


  • Originated from Southern Europe, but has spread all over the world as a decorative garden flower.

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Constituents of Interest

  • Paeoniflorin
  • Proanthocyanidins
  • Flavonoids
  • Terpenoids
  • Tannins
  • Complex Polysaccharides

Common Names

  • Peony
  • White Peony
  • Red Peony
  • Tree Peony
  • Bai Shao Yao (China)


  • Cold (Slightly)


  • Unknown


  • Bitter, sour

Duration of Use

  • Long term use is acceptable.

Research Overview:

Still compiling research.


Botanical Info:

Peony is the only member of the Paeoniaceae family. In the past it was included in the Ranunculaceae family insteat along with over 2000 other species of plants. There are roughly 33 different species of peony worldwide.

Medicinally, there are 4 main species used;

  • Paeonia suffruticosa (Tree peony)
  • Paeonia lactiflora (Chinese peony)
  • Paeonia veitchii (Chinese peony)
  • Paeonia obovata (Chinese peony)

Clinical Applications Of Peony:

Peony is useful as a smooth muscle relaxant due to its ability to interfere with acetlcholine in the neuromuscular junctions.

It's also a fairly reliable aromatase inducer, useful for improving the production of estrogen from testosterone, and E1 and E2 to 2-hydroxy catechol estrogens.



Caution advised in combination with blood thinners.



  1. Bensky, D., Gamble, A., & Kaptchuk, T. J. (2004). Chinese herbal medicine: materia medica (Vol. 3, p. 1004). Seattle: Eastland Press.

  2. Kimura, M., Kimura, I., Takahashi, K., Muroi, M., Yoshizaki, M., Kanaoka, M., & Kitagawa, I. (1984). Blocking effects of blended paeoniflorin or its related compounds with glycyrrhizin on neuromuscular junctions in frog and mouse. The Japanese Journal of Pharmacology, 36(3), 275-282.

  3. Bone, K. (2003). A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs E-Book: Herbal Formulations for the Individual Patient. Elsevier Health Sciences.

  4. Takeuchi, T., Nishii, O., Okamura, T., & Yaginuma, T. (1991). Effect of paeoniflorin, glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetic acid on ovarian androgen production. The American journal of Chinese medicine, 19(01), 73-78.

  5. Grant, P., & Ramasamy, S. (2012). An update on plant derived anti-androgens. International journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 10(2), 497.



Justin Cooke

The Sunlight Experiment

(November 2018)

Recent Blog Posts:

Iris (Iris versicolor)


Iris Summary

Iris is a misunderstood herb in many circles. It contains a set of constituents that are known to trigger nausea and vomiting — however, somewhat ironically, iris is also considered useful for treating nausea.

This herb has mild laxative qualities — thought to be due to a combination between its potent bitter constituents stimulating the flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder, and an ability to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. It's especially active on the liver, where it's used to treat poor digestion, liver dysfunction, and to treat skin conditions.

Other species sometimes used includes Iris caroliniana & Iris virginica.


+ Indications

  • Diabetes
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Eczema
  • Endometriosis
  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Hypertriglyceridemia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • Pancreatic dysfunctions
  • Poor digestion
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Skin conditions
  • Supporting weight loss
  • Urinary tract infections

+ Contraindications

  • Avoid high doses
  • Mucus membrane irritation (IBS, IBD, etc)
  • Diarrhea

+ Mechanisms

  • Thought to stimulate parasympathetic nervous system
  • Iridin thought to induce laxative action due to irritating properties on mucus membranes

Herbal Actions:

  • Bitter
  • Pancreatic trophorestorative
  • Alterative
  • Antinflammatory
  • Astringent
  • Lymphatic
  • Hepatic
  • Laxative (mild)
  • Diuretic
  • Choleretic
  • Cholagogue

What is Iris Used For?

Iris is used to treat skin conditions through the liver by improving elimination pathways and preventing excessive elimination and irritation through the skin. It's useful for acne, psoriasis, eczema, and rashes.

Other common uses of iris is for urinary tract infection, hypothyroidism, lymphadenopathy, and menstrual irregularities.


Herb Details: Iris

Weekly Dose

Part Used

  • Root/Rhizomee

Family Name

  • Iridaceae


  • North America

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Constituents of Interest

  • Furfural
  • Irisin
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Oleo-resin, beta-sitosterols
  • Beta-sitosterols

Common Names

  • Iris
  • Blue Flag
  • Sweet Flag
  • Poison Flag
  • Harlequin Blueflag


Avoid using iris while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Duration of Use

  • Avoid long-term use in therapeutic doses.

Botanical Info:

Iris is native to North America and is common around marshes, streams, and lakes.

The Iridaceae family is named after the irises and refers to the rainbow due to the many colors of iris flowers. This family contains 66 different genera and approximately 2244 different species. Some of the other famous members of this family include Crocus spp. and Gladioli spp.


Clinical Applications of Iris

Iris has recently seen a peak in interest in the past few years, however, is still not a commonly used herb due to the presence of significant side effects. Iris is contraindicated in anything but small doses due to the mucous membrane irritant and nauseating side effects.

In small doses iris is useful for stimulating bile secretion, promoting movement in the bowels, stimulating the pancreas, and treating skin conditions arising from liver congestion.



Some of the constituents in fresh iris root can cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat along with diarrhea and abdominal burning. It's considered an emetic, and mucus membrane irritant in higher doses. Use cautiously and only in smaller doses.



Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated May 2019)


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