English: Benzoin

Chinese: 安息香

Parts used: The dried resin

TCM category: Herbs that open the Orifices

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Heart Liver

Scientific name: Styrax Tonkynensis

Other names: Benjamin, Gum benzoin, Gum benjamin, Sambrani, Loban, Storax

Use of An Xi Xiang (benzoin) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Collect the resin and dry

Dosage: 0.3-1.5g

Main actions according to TCM*: Opens the Orifices. Invigorate Blood and Qi.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which An Xi Xiang may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Coma Focal distention Chest pain Abdominal pain Loss of consciousness

Contraindications*: Contraindicated for patients with Empty Fire due to Yin Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which An Xi Xiang is used*

Su He Xiang Wan

Source date: 752 AD

Number of ingredients: 15 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and aromatically opens the sensory orifices. Promotes the movement of Qi. Transforms turbidity.

Conditions targeted*: Cerebrovascular accidentEncephalitis and others

An Xi Xiang is a king ingredient in Su He Xiang Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Su He Xiang Wan, An Xi Xiang penetrates through the turbidity surrounding the sensory orifices, opens closed disorders and restores consciousness.

It is powerful in treating Wind and Phlegm affecting the head. 

Read more about Su He Xiang Wan

Zhi Bao Dan

Source date: 1075

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Opens the sensory orifices. Resolves toxicity. Transforms Phlegm .

Conditions targeted*: Acute encephalitisAcute meningitis and others

An Xi Xiang is a deputy ingredient in Zhi Bao Dan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Zhi Bao Dan, An Xi Xiang is highly aromatic. It penetrates the sensory orifices, clears away filth, and transforms turbidity. 

Read more about Zhi Bao Dan

Key TCM concepts behind An Xi Xiang's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), An Xi Xiang belongs to the 'Herbs that open the Orifices' category. The functions of these herbs are much more platonic than the name implies. They're used to help treat conditions associated with central nervous system collapse, including strokes and coma.

Furthermore An Xi Xiang is Neutral in nature. This means that An Xi Xiang typically doesn't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang Excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin Excess. The Neutral nature of An Xi Xiang means that you don't have to worry about that!

An Xi Xiang also tastes Bitter and Pungent. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like An Xi Xiang tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such An Xi Xiang is thought to target the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. In addition to regulating Blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.