Red Peony Found to Successfully Treat Cholestatic Hepatitis

red peony root hepatitis

Photo by Henry Burrows

Research from China’s Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine has confirmed that a traditional herb used for thousands of years for liver issues can significantly help reverse symptoms of a sometimes lethal form of hepatitis called cholestatic hepatitis.

After an exhaustive review of scientific journals, the researchers found eleven randomized and placebo-controlled studies that tested a Traditional Chinese Medicine herb called Chi shao against cholestatic hepatitis.

Chi shao utilizes the root of the red peony plant (Paeonia lactiflora or Paeonia veitchii).

These studies included 1,275 patients with diagnosed cholestatic hepatitis. Among the studies, patients were given either the Chi shao or placebo, or the Chi shao or conventional drug treatments.

After calculating the effectiveness among all the studies, the research concluded that the red peony root was able to significantly reduce cholestatic hepatitis symptoms – determined by reducing symptoms such as jaundice and reducing levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), total bilirubin (TBIL) and direct bilirubin (DBIL).

The first two are liver enzymes that are typically found elevated among hepatitis patients. The remaining two bilirubin counts are related to the liver’s ability to conjugate bilirubin (from broken-down red blood cells) and excrete it through the bile to be eliminated through feces and some through urine.

When the liver is not working properly, cholestasis can form, which can block the flow of bile between the liver and the intestines. This leads to bilirubin being evacuated to the bloodstream, leading to jaundice.

How is red peony used?

The research utilized large dosages of the red peony root. The various studies gave patients an average of 25 grams of red peony per day in the treatments. Typical therapeutic doses run from about 4 grams to 9 grams of the whole root – often made into a “soup” by putting the ground or chopped root into boiling water.

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Sometimes the root is simply ground up and encapsulated, but putting with boiled water is the traditional use. This would be considered a hot water extract or infusion. TCM often refers to this as a “soup.”

The red peony root is bitter and has blood purifying properties. It has been known to benefit the liver for many years, and often used to detoxification and blood circulation problems in addition to liver disease or jaundice.

Most of the studies found the red peony to have excellent improvement of symptoms. In one study, for example, from China’s Hong’an County Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 45 hepatitis patients given the red peony twice a day with other Chinese herbs had a 93.4% effective rate while the 45 hepatitis patients given conventional treatment saw a 75% effective rate.

Some of the other studies also gave other herbs along with the red peony. These included diammonium glycyrrhizinate – an glycyrrhizic acid extract of licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Some studies gave the peony treatment group vitamin C and vitamin K as well.


Traditional Chinese medicine healers have utilized red peony for centuries for liver issues, and not just for cholestatic hepatitis. Like most herbs, it has a whole-body and whole-organ effect, so it can be applicable to other liver conditions as well.

Learn gentle and safe detoxification methods.

Xiao Ma, Ji Wang, Xuan He, et al., “Large Dosage of Chishao in Formulae for Cholestatic Hepatitis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2014, Article ID 328152, 10 pages, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/328152

Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn our health around. As I drove home that night, I realized this knowledge should be available to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.”

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