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Tree Peony Medicine

Tree Peony blooms...and my face for size comparison! I am so excited to have these beauties right next to my back porch. They are absolutely glorious and I am soaking up every second of these blooms! Of course after discovering these were on the new property I had to dig into the history and medicine of this "Queen of flowers" as they are called in their native China.

I derailed from a planned lesson on Japanese Knotweed to explore this plant with my herb students last week. In our weekly discussions we always talk about plant taste and energetics as they relate to a plants actions in the body. The taste of peony root, from my reading (I won't get to actually taste it until fall!), was described as acrid and bitter. Right away, my students knew that an acrid taste would likely have a sedating effect on the nervous system and that bitter is likely to be cooling. Looking at the external appearance of the plant, from a Western perspective, we knew this would be classified as a Venusian plant, that it would likely have a cooling, calming, feminine energy (as opposed to a hot, fiery Mars quality). As we delved into traditional uses, we found that the root bark is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for hot, tense conditions (Yin deficiency). Yin being the cooling, calming, yielding, feminine energy that is in dynamic balance with Yang, the hot, fiery, assertive, masculine energy. This lined up with our initial impressions of the taste and appearance of Peony.

Like our familiar friend, Yarrow (also a plant of Venus), Peony moves the blood and cools inflammation and has been used to treat bleeding, bruising, headaches, nosebleeds, fever, arthritis, and a myriad of issues related to female reproductive health throughout the lifecycle - from menstrual cramps, to childbirth, to the hot flashes of menopause (hot, tense tissue states).

As an antispasmodic, Peony has been used to help with nervous digestion, spastic coughs, nervous twitches, migraines, anxiety, smooth muscle cramping, and more. The root bark is traditionally prepared either raw, dry-fried, or charred depending on the intended use.

It's amazing how many body systems are touched by the actions of this plant and what a wide array of ailments it's been used for! I am feeling truly blessed to be the caretaker of these incredible beings and am so excited to carefully harvest some root bark this fall and get to know this plant on a deeper, more personal level.


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