Ding Xiang (Cloves) in Chinese Medicine

English: Cloves

Chinese: 丁香

Parts used: Dried flower bud

TCM category: Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Kidney Lung Spleen Stomach

Scientific name: Eugenia cayophyllata

Use of Ding Xiang (cloves) 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: Remove impurities, crush before use.

Dosage: 1 - 3g

Main actions according to TCM*: Warms the Middle Warmer and directs the Qi downward. Warms the Kidneys and boosts Yang .

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Ding Xiang may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Abdominal pain Hiccups Vomiting Diarrhea Impotence Vaginal discharge

Common TCM formulas in which Ding Xiang is used*

Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang

Source date: 1706 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Augments the Qi. Warms the Middle Burner. Directs Rebellious Qi downward. Stops hiccup.

Conditions targeted*: Morning sicknessNeurological hiccup and others

Ding Xiang is a king ingredient in Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang, Ding Xiang warms the Stomach, dispels Cold, and directs the flow of Qi downward, stopping hiccup and belching.

Read more about Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang

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

Ding Xiang is a deputy ingredient in Su He Xiang Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Su He Xiang Wan, Ding Xiang is acrid, dispersing, warm, and moving in nature. It  promotes the Qi movement, directs Rebellious Qi downward, removes Stagnation, dispels Cold, and transforms turbidity. 

Read more about Su He Xiang Wan

Zi Xue Dan

Source date: 752 AD

Number of ingredients: 17 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Opens the sensory orifices. Controls spasms and convulsions. Extinguishes Wind.

Conditions targeted*: Acute encephalitisAcute meningitis and others

Ding Xiang is an assistant ingredient in Zi Xue Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Zi Xue Dan, Ding Xiang promotes the Qi movement and assist Musk in opening the orifices. 

Read more about Zi Xue Dan

Key TCM concepts behind Ding Xiang's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ding Xiang belongs to the 'Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold' category. Herbs in this category are used for Internal Cold with Qi Deficiency and/or Yang Deficiency. In the Yin and Yang system of thought Yang is Hot in nature. A deficiency of Yang will therefore lead to Internal Coldness since there will as a result be more Yin (Cold in nature) than Yang. In extreme cases this can lead to so-called 'Yang collapse' with convulsions or coma and these herbs are particularly indicated to treat such scenarios.

As suggested by its category Ding Xiang is Warm in nature. This means that Ding Xiang tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Ding Xiang can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Ding Xiang also tastes 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. Pungent ingredients like Ding Xiang tends 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 Ding Xiang is thought to target the Kidney, the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach. According to TCM, the Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body. The Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine.

Research on Ding Xiang

It is clear that clove oil shows powerful antifungal activity; and it can be used as an easily accessible source of natural antioxidants and in pharmaceutical applications.1


1. K Chaieb, T Zmantar, R Ksouri, H Hajlaoui et al. (2007). "Antioxidant properties of the essential oil of Eugenia caryophyllata and its antifungal activity against a large number of clinical Candida species" Mycoses. Volume50, Issue5, Pages 403-406

Use of Ding Xiang as food

Ding Xiang is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Pulled pork with cinnamon & cloves or Pho.