Biblioteca de los Sistemas de Salud de la OMS
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WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants - Volume 1
(295 pages)

Índice de contenido
Ver el documentoAcknowledgements
Ver el documentoIntroduction
Ver el documentoBulbus Allii Cepae
Ver el documentoBulbus Allii Sativi
Ver el documentoAloe
Ver el documentoAloe Vera Gel
Ver el documentoRadix Astragali
Ver el documentoFructus Bruceae
Ver el documentoRadix Bupleuri
Ver el documentoHerba Centellae
Ver el documentoFlos Chamomillae
Ver el documentoCortex Cinnamomi
Ver el documentoRhizoma Coptidis
Ver el documentoRhizoma Curcumae Longae
Ver el documentoRadix Echinaceae
Ver el documentoHerba Echinaceae Purpureae
Ver el documentoHerba Ephedrae
Ver el documentoFolium Ginkgo
Ver el documentoRadix Ginseng
Ver el documentoRadix Glycyrrhizae
Ver el documentoRadix Paeoniae
Ver el documentoSemen Plantaginis
Ver el documentoRadix Platycodi
Ver el documentoRadix Rauwolfiae
Ver el documentoRhizoma Rhei
Ver el documentoFolium Sennae
Ver el documentoFructus Sennae
Ver el documentoHerba Thymi
Ver el documentoRadix Valerianae
Ver el documentoRhizoma Zingiberis
Ver el documentoAnnex. Participants in the WHO Consultation on Selected Medicinal Plants

Radix Paeoniae


Radix Paeoniae is the dried root of Paeonia lactiflora Pallas (Paeonaceae) (1, 2).1

1Paeoniae veitchii is described in the monograph "Radix Paeoniae Rubra" in the Chinese pharmacopoeia (2). Moutan Cortex, the root bark of Paeonia moutan Sims. (= P. suffruticosa Andr.) is also used in traditional medicine (3–5), and is listed as "Moutan Bark" in the Japanese pharmacopoeia (1).


Paeonia albiflora Pallas., P. edulis Salisb., P. officinalis Thunb. (5, 6).

Selected vernacular names

Báisháo, bo-báisháo, chuan-báisháo, hang-báisháo, mu-shaoyao, mudan, paeoniae alba, paeony, pai shao yao, pe-shou, peony, peony root, Pfingstrose, shakuyaku, shaoyao, syakuyaku, white peony, white-flowered peony (2, 4, 6–8).


Paeonia lactiflora Pallas is a perennial herb, 50–80 cm high, with a stout branched root. Leaves alternate and biternately compound, the ultimate segments redveined, oblong-elliptical. The leaflets are narrow-ovate or elliptical, 8–12cm long and 2–4 cm wide. The petioles are 6–10 cm long. Flowers large (5–10 cm in diameter), solitary, and red, white, or purple. Sepals 4, herbaceous, persistent. Petals 5–10, larger than sepals. Stamens numerous and anthers yellow; carpels 3–5, many-seeded. Fruit, 3–5 coriaceous few-seeded follicles. Seeds large, subglobose; testa thick (4, 6).

Plant material of interest: dried root

General appearance

Radix Paeoniae is cylindrical, straight or slightly curved, two ends truncate, 5– 20cm long and 1–2.5 cm in diameter; externally light greyish brown to reddish brown, glossy or with longitudinal wrinkles, rootlet scars and occasional remains of brown cork, and with laterally elongated lenticels; texture compact, easily broken, fracture relatively even, internally whitish or pale brownish red. Cambium ring distinct and rays radial (1, 2).

Organoleptic properties

Odour, slight; taste, slightly sweet at first, followed by a sour or astringent taste and a slight bitterness (1, 2).

Microscopic characteristics

Literature description not available; to be established in accordance with national requirements.

Powdered plant material

Light greyish brown powder; masses of gelatinized starch granules fairly abundant, 5–25µm in diameter; clusters of calcium oxalate 11–35µm in diameter, packed in parenchyma cells in rows or singly; bordered, pitted, or reticulate vessels 20–65µm in diameter, walls thickened and slightly lignified (1, 2).

Geographical distribution

China, India, and Japan (6).

General identity tests

Macroscopic, microscopic, and microchemical examinations; thin-layer chromatographic analysis for the presence of the monoterpene glycoside paeoniflorin (1, 2).

Purity tests


The test for Salmonella spp. in Radix Paeoniae products should be negative. The maximum acceptable limits of other microorganisms are as follows (9–11). For preparation of decoction: aerobic bacteria-not more than 107/g; fungi-not more than 105/g; Escherichia coli-not more than 102/g. Preparations for internal use: aerobic bacteria-not more than 105/g or ml; fungi-not more than 104/g or ml; enterobacteria and certain Gram-negative bacteria-not more than 103/g or ml; Escherichia coli-0/g or ml.

Total ash

Not more than 6.5% (1, 2).

Acid-insoluble ash

Not more than 0.5% (1).

Pesticide residues

To be established in accordance with national requirements. Normally, the maximum residue limit of aldrin and dieldrin for Radix Paeoniae is not more than 0.05 mg/kg (11). For other pesticides, see WHO guidelines on quality control methods for medicinal plants (9) and guidelines for predicting dietary intake of pesticide residues (12).

Heavy metals

Recommended lead and cadmium levels are not more than 10 and 0.3mg/kg, respectively, in the final dosage form of the plant material (9).

Radioactive residues

For analysis of strontium-90, iodine-131, caesium-134, caesium-137, and plutonium-239, see WHO guidelines on quality control methods for medicinal plants (9).

Other purity tests

Alcohol-soluble extractive, chemical, foreign organic matter, moisture and water-soluble extractive tests to be established in accordance with national requirements.

Chemical assays

Contains not less than 2.0% of paeoniflorin (1, 2), assayed by a combination of thin-layer chromatographic–spectrophotometric methods (2) or by highperformance liquid chromatography (1).

Major chemical constituents

Paeoniflorin, a monoterpene glycoside that is the major active constituent (5, 13), is present in the range of 0.05–6.01% (14, 15).

Dosage forms

Crude plant material, powder, and decoction. Store in a ventilated dry environment protected from light (2).

Medicinal uses

Uses supported by clinical data


Uses described in pharmacopoeias and in traditional systems of medicine

As an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic drug in the treatment of amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, and pain in the chest and abdomen (2). Radix Paeoniae is also used to treat dementia, headache, vertigo, spasm of the calf muscles (2, 4, 5), liver disease, and allergies, and as an anticoagulant (8, 13).

Uses described in folk medicine, not supported by experimental or clinical data

The treatment of atopic eczema, boils, and sores (5); to reduce fevers, induce sterility, and treat burns (8).


Experimental pharmacology

The primary pharmacological effects of Radix Paeoniae are antispasmodic, antiinflammatory, and analgesic. A decoction of the drug had antispasmodic effects on the ileum and uterus when administered orally to mice, rabbits, and guineapigs (13). Similar effects were observed with a methanol extract in rat uterus (16), but an ethanol extract had uterine stimulant activity in rabbits (17). Radix Paeoniae extracts tested in vitro relaxed smooth muscles in both rat stomach and uterine assays (13).

Intragastric administration of a hot-water extract of Radix Paeoniae to rats inhibited inflammation in adjuvant-induced arthritis (18) and carrageenininduced paw oedema (19). The major active constituent of the drug, paeoniflorin, a monoterpenoid glycoside, has sedative, analgesic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and vasodilatory effects in vivo. Hexobarbital-induced hypnosis was potentiated and acetic acid-induced writhing was inhibited in mice after intragastric administration of paeoniflorin (20, 21).

Intragastric administration of hot-water or ethanol extracts of Radix Paeoniae to rats inhibited ADP-, arachidonic acid- and collagen-induced platelet aggregation, as well as endotoxin-induced disseminated intravascular coagulation (22–24). Similar effects were observed in rabbits and mice after intraperitoneal administration of the drug (25). When tested by the standard fibrin plate method, ethanol and hot-water extracts of the drug had antifibrinolytic activity in vitro (26). Paeoniflorin had anticoagulant activity both in vitro (24), and in vivo (in mice) (27).

Intragastric administration of extracts of Radix Paeoniae protected the liver against carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatotoxicity in mice and rats (28).

Oral administration of water extracts of Radix Paeoniae or its major con- stituent, paeoniflorin, attenuated the scopolamine-induced impairment of radial maze performance in rats (29, 30). Paeoniflorin prevented the scopolamineinduced decrease in acetylcholine content in the striatum, but not in the hippocampus or cortex (30). Oral administration of paeoniflorin further attenuated learning impairment of aged rats in operant brightness discrimination tasks (31). The results of this study suggest that further research to explore the therapeutic potential of paeoniflorin in cognitive disorders such as senile dementia may be promising (31).


Reports of traditional use indicate that Radix Paeoniae may have abortifacient activity; therefore, the use of Radix Paeoniae in pregnancy is contraindicated (32).


No information available.


Drug interactions

Radix Paeoniae should not be combined with Fritillaria verticillata, Cuscuta japonica, and Rheum officinale (7).

Carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, impairment of fertility

Hot-water or methanol extracts of Radix Paeoniae are not mutagenic in vitro (33, 34).

Pregnancy: non-teratogenic effects

See Contraindications.

Nursing mothers

Excretion of the drug into breast milk and its effects on the newborn have not been established; therefore, use of the drug during lactation is not recommended.

Paediatric use

No information available; therefore, use of Radix Paeoniae in children is not recommended.

Other precautions

No information available about general precautions, drug and laboratory test interactions, or teratogenic effects on pregnancy.

Adverse reactions

No information available.


Maximum daily oral dose of crude plant material, 6–15g (2), standardized for paeoniflorin.


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2. Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China (English ed.). Guangzhou, Guangdong Science and Technology Press, 1992.

3. Hsu HY. Oriental materia medica, a concise guide. Long Beach, CA, Oriental Healing Arts Institute, 1986:144–145.

4. National Institute for the Control of Pharmaceutical and Biological Products, ed. Color atlas of Chinese traditional drugs, Vol. 1. Beijing, Science Press, 1987:88–91; 131– 133.

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6. Medicinal plants in China. Manila, World Health Organization, 1989 (WHO Regional Publications, Western Pacific Series, No. 2).

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12. Guidelines for predicting dietary intake of pesticide residues, 2nd rev. ed. Geneva, World Health Organization, 1997 (unpublished document WHO/FSF/FOS/97.7 available from Food Safety, WHO, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland).

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14. He LY. Assay of paeoniflorin. Yao hsueh t'ung pao, 1983, 18:230–231.

15. Yamashita Y et al. Studies on the good varieties of Paeoniae Radix. I. Yield of root, paeoniflorin and tannin contents in Paeoniae Radix. Shoyakugaku zasshi, 1993, 47:434–439.

16. Lee EB. The screening of biologically active plants in Korea using isolated organ preparation. IV. Anticholinergic and oxytocic actions in rat's ileum and uterus. Korean journal of pharmacognosy, 1982, 13:99–101.

17. Harada M, Suzuki M, Ozaki Y. Effect of Japanese Angelicia root and Paeonia root on uterine contraction in rabbit in situ. Journal of pharmacobiological dynamics, 1984, 7:304– 311.

18. Cho S, Takahashi M, Toita S, Cyong JC. Suppression of adjuvant arthritis on rat by Oriental herbs. Shoyakugaku zasshi, 1982, 36:78–81.

19. Arichi S et al. Studies on Moutan Cortex. III. On anti-inflammatory activities. Part I. Shoyakugaku zasshi, 1979, 33:178–184.

20. Takagi K, Harada M. Pharmacological studies on herb Peony root. I. Central effects of paeoniflorin and combined effects with licorice component FM 100. Yakugaku zasshi, 1969, 89:879.

21. Sugishita E, Amagaya S, Ogihara Y. Studies on the combination of Glycyrrhizae Radix in Shakuyakukanzo-to. Journal of pharmacobiological dynamics, 1984, 7:427–435.

22. Kim JH et al. Effects of some combined crude drug preparations against platelet aggregations. Korean journal of pharmacognosy, 1990, 21:126–129.

23. Kubo M, Matsuda H, Matsuda R. Studies on Moutan Cortex VIII. Inhibitory effects on the intravascular coagulation (Part II). Shoyakugaku zasshi, 1984, 38:307–312.

24. Kubo M et al. Studies on Moutan Cortex VI. Inhibitory effects on the intravascular coagulation (Part I). Shoyakugaku zasshi, 1982, 36:70–77.

25. Wang HF et al. Radiation-protective and platelet aggregation inhibitory effects of five traditional Chinese drugs and acetylsalicylic acid following high-dose gammairradiation. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 1991, 34:215–219.

26. Kawashiri N et al. Effects of traditional crude drugs on fibrinolysis by plasmin: antiplasmin principles in eupolyphaga. Chemical and pharmaceutical bulletin, 1986, 34:2512–2517.

27. Ishida H et al. Studies on active substances in herbs used for Oketsu (Stagnant Blood) in Chinese medicine. VI. On the anticoagulative principle in Paeoniae Radix. Chemical and pharmaceutical bulletin, 1987, 35:849–852.

28. Yun HS, Chang IM. Liver protective activities of Korean medicinal plants. Korean journal of pharmacognosy, 1980, 11:149–152.

29. Ohta H et al. Peony and its major constituent, paeoniflorin, improve radial maze performance impaired by scopolamine in rats. Pharmacology, biochemistry and behavior, 1993, 45:719–723.

30. Ohta H et al. Involvement of α1- but not α2-adrenergic systems in the antagonizing effect of paeoniflorin on scopolamine-induced deficit in radial maze performance in rats. Japan journal of pharmacology, 1993, 62:199–202.

31. Ohta H et al. Paeoniflorin attenuates learning impairment of aged rats in operant brightness discrimination task. Pharmacology, biochemistry and behavior, 1994, 49:213– 217.

32. Woo WS et al. A review of research on plants for fertility regulation in Korea. Korean journal of pharmacognosy, 1981, 12:153–170.

33. Chang IM et al. Assay of potential mutagenicity and antimutagenicity of Chinese herbal drugs by using SOS Chromotest (E. coli PQ37) and SOS UMU test (S. typhimurium TA 1535/PSK 1002). Proceedings of the first Korea–Japan Toxicology Symposium, Safety Assessment of Chemicals in Vitro, 1989:133–145.

34. Morimoto I et al. Mutagenicity screening of crude drugs with Bacillus subtilis recassay and Salmonella/microsome reversion assay. Mutation research, 1982, 97:81–102.


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