White Peony Root (Radix Paeoniae alba; Bai Shao)

TCM Herbal Story

White Peony Root (Radix Paeoniae alba; Bai Shao)

In Eastern Han Dynasty (about 1,800 years ago), the renowned Chinese physician Hua Tuo discovered the medicinal use of white peony root.  The following is a story of his discovery of this herb.


Hua Tuo built a pond and planted a variety of medicinal plants in his backyard, transformed into an herb garden.  Furthermore, he taught people cultivating and processing techniques of medicinal hers.  He always used and tasted every herb in advance until thoroughly comprehended the medicinal properties of the herbs before using the herbs to treat his patients.


One day, a visitor came and gave him a white peony plant as a gift, so Hua Tuo planted it in his herb garden.  A usual, he tasted the leaf, stem, and flower, and felt the plant was just ordinary without any medicinal properties, so he did not use the peony as a medicinal herb.


One night, Hua Tuo was reading under a lamp, he heard a woman weeping.  He raised his head and looked out of the winder.  He saw a beautiful woman standing under the moonlight and weeping sadly.  Hua Tuo went out to the garden to check, but there is nobody there.  On the spot where the woman was standing is the white peony.  He was surprised and thought: “Maybe the woman was the peony?”  He looked at the peony, shook his head, and talked to himself: “There is no special properties in you at all, I can't use any part of you as medicine.”  He returned to his study and continued to read.


The moment he sat down, he heard the weeping again, so he went out to check and it was only the peony there, so he woke up his wife and described what happened to her.  His wife looked at the white peony outside, and said: “Every single plant in the garden was turned into good medicinal plant by you.  You have used them to cure and save countless lives.  However, you ignored this peony, I think you probably haven't figured out its medicinal properties, and naturally it felt sad.

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