English: Styrax

Chinese: 苏合香

Parts used: The dried resin

TCM category: Herbs that open the Orifices

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): PungentSweet

Organ affinity: Spleen Heart

Scientific name: Liquidambar Orientalis

Other names: Rose maloes resin, Storesin, Storax, Oriental sweetgum, Turkish sweetgum

Use of Su He Xiang (styrax) 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: In the beginning Summer, cut the tree deep so that the resin soak into the bark. In autumn, remove the bark and squeeze the resin out.

Dosage: 0.3-3g

Main actions according to TCM*: Opens the Orifices and clears the Mind. Stops pain

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Su He Xiang may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Coma Stroke Chest congestion Coronary artery disease Biliary colic Convulsions in children Seizures in children

Contraindications*: Not suitable for these with Yin Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which Su He 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

Su He 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, Su He Xiang aromatically opens the sensory orifices, dispels Cold, regulates Qi, penetrates through and transforms turbidity. 

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

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

Key TCM concepts behind Su He Xiang's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Su He 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 Su He Xiang is Warm in nature. This means that Su He 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 Su He Xiang can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Su He Xiang also tastes Pungent and Sweet. 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 Su He 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. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Su He Xiang is thought to target the Spleen and the Heart. 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.