For more than 2,000 years now, people have been using the root of peony plants for therapeutic purposes. This herb has repute for effectively treating epilepsy as well as stimulating menstrual flow. During the 16th century, peony root was extremely popular among the herbalists. As aforementioned, peony roots possess diuretic, tranquilizing, analgesic, antispasmodic and tonic properties. Although peony root is used to promote a hale and hearty pregnancy and ensure a trouble-free childbirth, it needs to be used cautiously. In fact, not all pregnant women should use this herb, as when taken in large dosages peony root preparations may prove to be toxic. The dried up macerated petals of blooms of different peony species have been employed in the form of a remedy for coughs as well as for treating varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Currently, European herbal medicine seldom uses peony root. Nevertheless, this herb is believed to possess sedative and antispasmodic properties and it may possibly be used for treating nervous irritation, whooping cough as well as in the form of suppositories to alleviate spasms in the intestine and the anus region.
Peony is indigenous to the region around the Mediterranean and southern areas of Europe. It is found growing in mountain forests as well as extensively grown as an ornamental garden plant. The root of the plant, which is used therapeutically, is dug up during autumn. This species needs a profoundly fertile soil, if possible neutral or somewhat alkaline, and thrives well in a place receiving total sunlight or partial shade. Although the peony plants have the aptitude to endure a variety of earth conditions, they wither away when the soil is drenched or extremely parched. Peony plants also have the ability to tolerate soils containing lime. It has been found that while the plants cultivated on sandy soils have an inclination to bear additional leaves, but less number of flowers, plants cultivated on heavy sticky soil usually take a much longer time to get them established, but produce more and superior flowers. Provided that the soil is suitable, peony may also be established in grass. They are able to tolerate temperatures as low as -25�C. Peony is an extremely variable species and a minimum of four sub-species exist currently. Some named varieties of peony are opted for cultivation for their decorative worth. Peony has a very long life and may survive for about 50 years or even more when cultivated in gardens. Plants belonging to this genus are seldom bothered by browsing rabbits or deer. It is also known to be an extremely greedy and intrusive plant and slows down the growth of other plants in its vicinity, particularly legumes. With the help of its roots that are in the form of tuberous, peony often spreads quite unrestricted. This plant does not like its roots to be disturbed and, it usually takes some time before the plant is able to recuperate following a division. While species belonging to peony are able to hybridize with different plant species provided they bloom simultaneously, they are normally able to fertilize by themselves. If propagated from the seeds, the new peony plants usually take anything between four and five years to blossom. However, when propagated from seeds, the plants breed true species. When you are propagating peony from seeds, it is best to sow them in cold frames immediately when they mature. Provided that you sow fresh seeds, they will produce roots in approximately six weeks' time, while the shoots will emerge during the spring. However, if you sow stored seeds, they will take more time to germinate. In this case too, the seeds need to be sown from pots to cold frames immediately, but still they are likely to take about 18 months or additional time to take root. Remember, the roots of peony are extremely sensitive to being disturbed and, therefore, several cultivators let the seedling to continue growing in the pots in which the seeds were sown for about two growing seasons, prior to transplanting them. Doing so, it enables the plants to develop a superior root system which is able to resist more disturbances. In case you are pursuing this method of propagation, you need to ensure that the seeds are sown sparsely and also provided with liquid fertilizers on a regular basis during the growing season. This will make sure that the plants are nurtured properly. In the normal way, you need to plant the seedlings in separate pots immediately when they have grown sufficiently large to be handled. Subsequently, you may grow these seedlings in cold frames for a minimum of two seasons, prior to transplanting them outdoors during spring when they are in full growth. If you are propagating peony by the root division method, you need to divide the roots very carefully either in spring or in autumn. Every piece of the root should essentially retain at least one leaf bud. After unearthing the root, you should allow it to settle in shade for some hours, as it will help the roots to be less breakable and make it easier for you to divide them. If the root divisions have more than two leaf bud, also called 'eyes', they will normally bear flowers in their second year of growth. However, those having just a solitary or two leaf bud will take several years, as many as four to five, to develop sufficiently to produce flowers.
Only the roots of peony plants possess therapeutic properties and are used to prepare different formulations. Roots of different species of peony are used for treating different health conditions.