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Mutan Bark

Latin: Cortex Paeoniae Radicis

Origin: Mutan, or peony, refers to any of the flowering plants in the genus Paeonia, of the family Paeoniaceae, known for their large, showy blossoms. All but two species are native to Europe and Asia; Paeonia browni and Paeonia californica are found along the Pacific coastal mountains of North America.

There are two distinct groups of peonies: the herbaceous and the tree, or mutan, peonies.

The herbaceous peonies are perennials that grow to a height of almost 1 m and have large, glossy, much-divided leaves borne on annual stems produced by fleshy rootstocks. In late spring and early summer they produce large single and double flowers of white, pink, rose, and deep-crimson color. The fragrant Chinese Paeonia lactiflora and the European common peony (Paeonia officinalis) have given rise to most of the familiar garden peonies. Paeonia lactiflora has provided hundreds of cultivated varieties, including the Japanese types, with one or two rows of petals surrounding a cluster of partially formed petals in the centre (petaloid stamens).

The herb here belongs to the tree peonies, Paeonia suffruticosa And., a perennial deciduous undershrub, which is grown in China and Japan. The plant grows to 2 m by 3 m, is in flower in May. The scented flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects.

In China, the plant is grown in the provinces of Anhui, Shandong, etc. Harvested in autumn, the root and root bark is cut and peeled, then dried in the sun and used when raw or after parching.

Also known as Tree Peony Root Bark. Mutan Bark is also spelled as Moutan Bark.

Properties: Bitter and pungent in flavor, slightly cold in nature, it is related to the heart, liver and kidney channels.

A tea made from the dried crushed petals of various peony species has been used as a cough remedy, and as a treatment for hemorrhoids (a mass of dilated veins in swollen tissue at the margin of the anus or nearby within the rectum) and varicose (irregularly swollen or enlarged) veins.

Functions: Removes heat from the blood and promotes blood circulation by removing blood stasis.

Applications: 1. For treating skin eruptions, hematemesis (vomiting of blood) and epistaxis (nosebleed):

It is used with raw rehmannia and herbaceous unpeeled peony root (Radix Paeoniae Rubra).

2. For treating fever due to yin (body fluids) deficiency as a result of impairment of yin by pathogenic warmth:

It is used with turtle shell, raw rehmannia, windweed rhizome (Rhizoma Anemarrhenae), etc., e.g., Qinghao Biejia Tang.

3. For treating amenorrhea (abnormal absence or suppression of menstruation) due to stagnation of the blood, masses in the abdomen with dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) and traumatic injuries:

(A) Amenorrhea due to stagnation of the blood and masses in the abdomen with dysmenorrhea:

It is used with peach kernels, herbaceous unpeeled peony root (Radix Paeoniae Rubra), tuckahoe (Poria cocos) and cassia twig, e.g., Guizhi Fuling Wan.

(B) Traumatic injuries with blood stasis, swelling and pains:

It is used with Chinese angelica, peach kernels, olibanum, etc.

4. For treating skin and external diseases and abdominal pain:

It is used with honeysuckle flower (Flos Lonicerae), weeping forsythia fruit (Fructus Forsythiae), dandelion (Herba Taraxaci), etc.

5. The herb acts as a synergist when used with liquorice.

Dosage and Administration: 6-12 g.

Decoct the herb and other ingredients for drinking. It is used when raw to remove heat from the blood; after being parched with wine to promote blood circulation by removing blood stasis; and after charring to arrest bleeding.

Cautions on Use: Mutan bark should be avoided by those deficient in blood with chills, those with menorrhagia or pregnant women.

Reference Materials: 'Shen Nong's Herbal Classic' :

"Removing hard masses and blood stasis, clearing the stomach and intestines, strengthening and tonifying the five internal organs and treating skin and external diseases."

'The Pearl Bag' :

"Blood accumulated in the stomach and intestines, epistaxis, hematemesis and hectic fever with anhydrosis."

'The Compendium of Materia Medica' :

"Removing dysphoria with smothery sensation."

Toxic or Side Effects:


Modern Researches: Mutan bark consists of paeonol, paeonoside, paeonolide, paeoniflorin, essential oil (volatile oil), phytosterol, etc.

Its ingredients, such as paeonol and paeonoside, have an anti-inflammatory effect. Paeonol has tranquilizing, temperature-reducing, antipyretic, antispasmic and other central inhibitory effects. Its decoction with water, paeonol itself and the decoction with paeonol removed all have an evident antihypertensive effect. Paeonol can also resist ulceration and inhibit the secretion of gastric juice.

Its decoction can inhibit a variety of pathogenic bacteria such as Bacillus Dysenteriae, typhoid bacillus, etc., and pathogenic dermatomyces.

For self protection, the outer skin (bark) of many plants contains essential oil, which in turn has elements that serve as an immediate chemical defense against herbivores and pathogens. How? There is an element called hydroxynitrile glucoside in essential oil. This element will release toxic hydrogen cyanide by endogenous plant glucosidase upon tissue disruption (see Anne Vinther Morant, Kirsten Jorgensen, Charlotte Jorgensen, Suzanne Michelle Paquette, Raquel Sanchez-Perez, Birger Lindberg Moller, and Soren Bak, "beta-Glucosidases as Detonators of Plant Chemical Defense," Phytochemistry Vol. 69, Issue 9 (June 2008), pp. 1,795-1,813).

Glucosidase is a catalyzing enzyme that improves healthy functions of our body. It is a lipase that decomposes fat; it can also check inflammation and improve memory (see Mikako Sakurai, Masayuki Sekiguchi, Ko Zushida, Kazuyuki Yamada, Satoshi Nagamine, Tomohiro Kabuta and Keiji Wada, "Reduction in memory in passive avoidance learning, exploratory behaviour and synaptic plasticity in mice with a spontaneous deletion in the ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase L1 gene," European Journal of Neuroscience Vol. 27, Issue 3 (February 2008), pp. 691-701).

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