Beltane is the first day of summer and is celebrated with flowers. Life is flowering and coming to its fullness.

This is the time of the peony, which we use a lot in Chinese herbal medicine. There are three kinds of peony root we use, bai shao (white peony root), chi shao (red peony root) and mu dan pi (tree peony root).

Bai shao is the root of the cultivated peony and the name white does not refer to the flower, but rather to the root, which is fat, full and whitish pink in colour. Chi shao root, on the other hand, is leaner and redder, hence its name red peony root. As we know, bai shao nourishes the body fluids in the muscles, while chi shao moves and cools the blood. Mu dan pi (tree peony root) also cools and moves the blood, and can be used in partnership with chi shao – the former being better at cooling, and the latter at moving the blood.

In my garden, I have three gorgeous peony plants gifted to me by apprentices – a glorious white one in which every petal is fringed with red, a deep red one and a tree peony which is red-purple with a stunning yellow centre. I am hoping the tree peony will grow into a strong bush in my front garden, and will always remind me of the Jing Fang Apprenticeship and my wonderful apprentices.

Peonies Beltane

Mint is a good plant to have in the garden for early summer. Bo he, which we use in Chinese herbal medicine, is mentha haplocalysis, but any kind of mint is good for mint tea. It is cooling and refreshing and like chrysanthemum is good for the symptoms of a wind heat type cold, such as headache, sore throat, cough and red eyes. However, mint does not have to be used medicinally, and for me, there is nothing like fresh mint tea in early summer.

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