Chinese herbal tea to help relax sore muscles

At the end of any work day, we feel sore and painful from sitting at a desk all day or moving 50 lb boxes of paper. A nice hot bath or shower can give temporary relief, but it all comes back again. After a while, the pain and tightness never seem to go away, which make it harder to make it up to those stairs you hate at work just one more time. Peony and Licorice tea (芍药甘草汤 – Sháo Yào Gān Cǎo Tāng) is a classical formula that was used to relieve muscle pain and ease spasms. Made from white peony root (白芍 – Bái Sháo) and honeyed licorice (炙甘草 – Zhì Gān Cǎo), it was stated to help ease tension and allow the muscles to relax. It was believed that once the muscles relaxed, the body would feel less pain. It’s a simple tea, easily available at the time, and used for hundreds of years.

Peony and Licorice tea is a base formula, meaning you can also add other herbs strengthen the effect. The two herbs are found in many different TCM formulas that help manage muscle pain, menstrual cramps, calf spasms, anemia, blood sugar, cholesterol and many more issues. Sometimes though, simple is better. It’ll taste better too. Therefore, we’ve created our own version of Peony and Licorice tea that tastes good and still retains the function of easing tension. This modified tea contains 3 extra herbs, Red Peony root, Kudzu root, and Osmanthus flower.

Red Peony root (赤芍 – Chì Sháo) works together and strengthens the effect of white peony. The formula itself in Chinese is Sháo Yào Gān Cǎo Tāng, but the Sháo Yào pertains to just “Peony”. It doesn’t differentiate between the red or white version which has specific functions. One of my teachers in TCM school one taught me that it’s better to add both when an old formula asks for “Sháo Yào”, as they work better together.

Another herb we’ve add is Kudzu root (葛根 – Gé Gēn), which can help with tension on the back and neck. Although it’s originally used for colds, it’s specifically used for colds that tighten the upper back muscles. Even without a cold, it helps to ease that tension, which can help manage pain and headaches from a strain.

Lastly, Osmanthus flower (桂花 – Guì Huā) adds an aromatic, fruity flavor that also helps to ease tension. It has a dispersing effect in TCM, meaning that it relieves tightness and blockages in the muscles. One of the main reasons for pain in the pain is because the blood can’t flow through (an example of such is bruising). If your muscles are very tight, it’s a good bet there’s not a lot of blood flowing. It’s just like making a tight fist and holding it for a long time.

Altogether, these herbs strengthen Peony and Licorice tea’s ability to ease tension, especially at the upper back where it’s more common to find. If you’d like to try some, you can find it at our tea store here at Picturehealer and we also sell it on our Etsy shop.

Chinese herbal tea has been used for thousands of years safely in Asia. We use herbs that are free of chemical additives, such as sulfites, chlorine, and aluminum phosphate. They are also tested for pesticide residues, heavy metal, and microbes. As with most herbs, pay extra caution  while pregnant. White Peony and Red Peony root may interact and strengthen diabetic, anticoagulant, and sedative medications. Licorice should not be used if you’re currently taking anticoagulant or Digoxin (Lanoxin). It may also interact with medications that affect hormone and potassium levels, high blood pressure in large dosages, and it can also affect the Liver metabolism of certain drugs, so speak with your physician if you have any questions.