English: Sandalwood

Chinese: 檀香

Parts used: The wood

TCM category: Herbs that regulate Qi

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach Heart Lung

Scientific name: Santalum album

Other names: Santalum, Heartwood

Use of Tan Xiang (sandalwood) 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 and cut to pieces or slices

Dosage: 1-6g

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Qi Stagnant in the chest and abdomen.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Tan Xiang may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Angina Coronary artery disease Chest pain Abdominal pain

Contraindications*: Should not be used for patients with Heart Yin Deficiency

Common TCM formulas in which Tan 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

Tan 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, Tan 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. 

It is specifically treats both chest and abdominal pain as well as sudden turmoil disorder. 

The strong, aromatic properties of the key and deputy ingredients release and eliminate the Qi and Blood Stagnation. 

Read more about Su He Xiang Wan

Dan Shen Yin

Source date: 1801 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates the Blood and removes Blood Stagnation . Promote Qi movement . Relieves pain .

Conditions targeted*: Angina pectorisHepatitis and others

Tan Xiang is a deputy ingredient in Dan Shen Yin. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Dan Shen Yin, Tan Xiang warms the Middle Burner and regulates the Qi.

Read more about Dan Shen Yin

Hui Chun Dan

Source date: Late 18th century

Number of ingredients: 19 herbs

Formula key actions: Opens the sensory orifices. Arrests spasms and convulsions. Clears Heat and transforms Phlegm.

Conditions targeted*: Acute encephalitisAcute meningitis and others

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

In Hui Chun Dan, Tan Xiang moves the Stomach and Intestines Qi, regulating and smoothing the functions of the Stomach and Intestines in order to restore the normal ascending and descending functions of the Spleen and Stomach.

Read more about Hui Chun Dan

Key TCM concepts behind Tan Xiang's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Tan Xiang belongs to the 'Herbs that regulate Qi' category. Herbs in this category typically treat a TCM condition called 'Qi Stagnation'. Concretely it means that Qi is blocked in the body's Organs and Meridians, most typically the Stomach, Liver, and to a lesser extent, the Lungs. In modern medicine terms, Qi Stagnation often translates into psychological consequences such as depression, irritability or mood swings. It's also frequently associated with conditions such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopausal symptoms, the development of breast swellings as well as various digestive disorders.

Furthermore Tan Xiang is Warm in nature. This means that Tan 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 Tan Xiang can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Tan 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 Tan 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 Tan Xiang is thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach on the other hand is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. In addition to regulating Blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. 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.