Moutan (Cortex Moutan; Mu Dan Pi)


TCM Herbal Story


Moutan (Cortex Moutan; Mu Dan Pi)



A thousand years ago, there was a skilled silk weaver in Suzhou named Liu Chun.  It is said in the legend that she was able to weave any pattern of flowers and birds after looking at it.  On top of that, the flowers she had woven were so vivid as it had just been taken off from a real plant, and the birds were so real as it would start to fly when summoned.


One year, the mayor’s daughter was getting married.  As for her daughter’s dowry, the mayor asked Liu Chun to weave 24 silk quilts covered with moutan within a month.  However, since Liu Chun had never seen this flower before, she had no idea how to start.  Worried and troubled, she began to lose weight day by day, and one night, she spit out blood and collapsed on the sewing machine.


All of a sudden, a beautiful girl appeared out of nowhere and poured some medication into Liu Chun’s mouth, which woke her up instantly.  The beautiful girl explained that she’s the moutan fairy who fled from Luoyang due to defying the queen’s wish to make flowers blossom in the winter.  She then pointed her finger towards the garden right outside the window, and moutan began to magically blossom in the garden.


Pleasantly surprised, Liu Chun started weaving these moutan into quilts, which attracted a lot of butterflies because the flowers were so beautiful.  She managed to finish the quilts before the mayor sent his messenger for pickup.  However, by the time these quilts reached the mayor’s house, the moutan on the quilts withered and faded suddenly.  The mayor was outraged by the sight and sent out his man to catch Liu Chun, but Liu Chun and the fairy were already gone.


Liu Chun left the bottle of medication given by the fairy to the villagers, and the root bark in the bottle was later recognized as moutan bark.


Moutan is the root bark of Paeonia suffruticosa Andr.  Its properties are acrid, bitter, and cool.  It enters through the heart, liver, and kidney.



Actions & Indications:

  • Clears heat and cools the blood
  • Clears fire from deficiency
  • Invigorates the blood and dispels blood stasis
  • Clears ascending Liver fire
  • Drains pus and reduces swelling

 Caution & Contradiction

  • Contraindicated for cold disorders, during pregnancy or excessive menstruation, and for yin deficiency with excessive sweating.
  • According to some traditional sources, this herb counteracts the effects of Semen Cuscutae chinensis (Tu Si Zi), Bulbus Fritillariae (Bei Mu), and Rhizoma Rhei (Da Huang), and should be avoided when using garlic.


The original article is from Brion Research Institute, translated by Sun Ten Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

For Chinese/original version, please go to:

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