Dalbergia Sissoo, Dalbergia Odorifera (Jiang Xiang)

Indian rosewoodBecause of the identical medicinal properties, both dalbergia sissoo and dalbergia odorifera wood are known as Jiang Xiang in traditional Chinese medicine. The former is also called Indian rosewood and the latter is often referred to as huanghuali wood or Jiang Ya Mu (literally pressure-lowering wood). It is named so simply because its sawdust soaked in water has an impressive medicinal property on lowering blood pressure and blood lipids, according to the “Compendium of Materia Medica”. As a matter of fact, medicinally Indian rosewood was the major one before the founding of New China and later dalbergia odorifera gradually took its place. In addition, huanghuali wood, padauk, wenge, and mesua ferrea has long been hailed as the four famous Chinese ancient timbers. And because of its hard nature and beautiful texture, it is the preferred hardwood for making superior and classic huanghuali furniture and rosewood guitar. Although it is easy to grow, it usually takes hundreds, if not thousands, of years to be ready to harvest. The truth is this species was already on the brink of extinction as early as the late Ming and early Qing dynasties.

What is dalbergia sissoo and dalbergia odorifera?

Medicinally Jiang Xiang herb refers to the dried heartwood of Dalbergia odorifera T. Chen and Dalbergia sissoo Roxb., the plants under the Dalbergia genus of the family Leguminosae. As a result, this herb’s common names include sisu, Dalbergia Heartwood, sheesham rosewood, Rosewood Heart Wood, Irugudujava, Shisham, Lignum Dalbergiae Odoriferae, sissoo tree, and so on. It can be collected throughout the year. And the following process is to remove sapwood, split into small pieces, dry in the shade, and use raw. In China it is mainly produced in Hainan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan and other places.

Dalbergia sissoo tree is a large deciduous tree, with gray bark, brown heartwood with obscure texture, and pubescent branchlets. Common petiole is flexuous and alternate; leaflets are 3 to 5, wide oval or ovate, and 2.4 to 7.2cm long. Panicles are axillary; peduncles, pedicels, and calyx are covered with hair. Pods are linear-lanceolate, 4 to 10cm long and with 1 to 3 seeds inside. The flowering period is from March to April and the fruiting phase is in November. Habitat is montane forest.

Dalbergia odorifera plant is 10 to 15 meters in height. The whole plant is glabrous except young parts, inflorescence and ovary are slightly pubescent. Branchlets are pale and with dense lenticels. Odd pinnately compound leaf is 12 to 25cm long; petiole is 1.5 to 3cm; leaflets are 9 to 13, but 7 sometimes, nearly leathery, ovate or elliptic, 4 to 7cm long, 2 to 3cm wide, and with acute apex and rounded or cuneate base. Panicles are axillary and 8 to 10cm long (including peduncle). Small flowers are many, about 5mm long, with bell-shaped calyx and yellow or white corolla. Pods are ligulate oblong, 4.5 to 8cm long, with net veins, leathery carpel, and 1 seed. Flowering is from March to April and fruiting is from October to November.

Main chemical constituents are a variety of flavonoids, including isoflavones like formononetin and bowdichione, flavanone like liquiritigenin, chalcone like isoliquiritigenin and 2′-O-methylisoliquiritigenin, isoflavan like (3R)-claussequinone and mucronulatol, isoflavanone like (3R)-2′, 3′,-7-trihydroxy-4′-methoxylsoflavanone.

Dalbergia sissoo benefits

Indian rosewood lumber has much broader benefits than the average timber species. More than that, it is also a valuable medicinal plant, an ornamental tree, and a special spice. Medicinally dalbergia sissoo leaves, trunk, and roots are helpful to the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, traumatic injury, bronchitis, stomach pain, hernia pain, coronary heart disease, and so on. According to the statistics, it is the main ingredient of dozens of Chinese patent medicines, such as compound danshen injection, tablet for promoting coronary circulation, Guanxin Danshen capsule, etc. And all its medicinal uses can be justified by its pharmacology as follows.

Modern pharmacological actions of Indian rosewood

1. Its volatile oil and aromatic water have antithrombotic effects;
2. Dalbergin has a weak anticoagulant effect, which can significantly increase coronary blood flow, slow down heart rate, and slightly increase the amplitude of heart beat but cause no arrhythmia;
3. Its ethanol extracts have anticonvulsant and analgesic effects.

Selected Indian rosewood herbal remedies

As stated by Chinese Pharmacopoeia, dalbergia sissoo wood properties are acrid in flavor and warm in nature. And it goes to meridians of liver and spleen. Its main functions are promoting flow of qi and blood circulation, relieving pain, and stopping bleeding. Foremost dalbergia sissoo uses and indications are abdominal pain; rib-side pain due to liver depression; stabbing pain caused by obstruction of qi in the chest; injuries from falls, fractures, contusions and strains; and traumatic bleeding. Recommended dosage is from 9 to 15 grams in decoction, teapills, or powder.

1. Bleeding. Ming Yi Bie Lu (Miscellaneous Records of Famous Physicians) grinds it into powder and uses it alone externally to alleviate the bleeding and pain in stab wound. And Bai Yi Xuan Fang (Well-chosen Prescriptions) combines it with Wu Bei Zi (Chinese Gall) for the treatment of non-stop bleeding and trauma by knife or falls.

2. Chest and hypochondriac pain. Ben Cao Jing Shu (Classic Theory of Materia Medica) decocts its powder to treat blood stasis in chest and diaphragm.

3. Vomiting and abdominal pain. Jiang Xiang often works with Huo Xiang (Patchouli) and Mu Xiang (Costus Root) to cure vomiting and abdominal pain due to the turbidity content obstructing spleen and stomach.

Dalbergia sissoo side effects, toxicity, and contraindications

Dalbergia sissoo herb is reported to be completely safe. Still and all, if you have the extremely sensitive skin, avoiding it by all means is a good idea since it may lead to contact dermatitis. TCM wise, The Ben Jing Feng Yuan (Encountering the Sources of the ‘Classic of Materia Medica’) says that it shouldn’t be used in the pattern of blood-heat bleeding, accompanied with thick purple blood, excess pulse, and constipation. In addition, Ben Cao Cong Xin (New Compendium of materia medica) also records that dalbergia should be avoided in the cases of ruptured carbuncle, pussy boils, and fire excess from Yin deficiency.

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