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Sappan Wood (su mu)

What is sappan wood? What is it used for?

Sappan wood, also known as East Indian redwood, comes from a tree that has both ornamental and medicinal properties.

A small, thorny tree, it can reach a height of more than 30 feet. It is found in the wild throughout China and India, and is also cultivated in gardens and nurseries. The inner, or "heart," wood of the tree is harvested by being sawn into large pieces, then cut into smaller slices.

In traditional Chinese medicine, sappan wood has sweet, salty, and neutral properties, and is associated with the Heart, Liver and Spleen meridians. Its main functions are to invigorate the blood, promote menstruation, and reduce pain and swelling. Sappan wood is often used to treat blood-related conditions such as dysmenorrheal and amenorrhea, and to reduce abdominal pain following childbirth. Sappan wood is also used to reduce pain and swelling caused by external injuries. In addition, sappan wood yields a natural dye (derived from the chemical brazilian), which is used to color fabrics and handicrafts.

How much sappan wood should I take?

The typical dosage of sappan wood is between 3 and 10 grams, boiled in water as a decoction. Some practitioners also recommend sappan wood powder.

What forms of sappan wood are available?

Whole slices of sappan wood can be found at some herbal shops and Asian markets. In addition, many stores sell sappan wood powders, pills and extracts.

What can happen if I take too much sappan wood? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Sappan wood should not be administered to patients diagnosed with blood deficiency. In addition, it should not be given to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking sappan wood or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Badami S, Moorkoth S, Rai SR, et al. Antioxidant activity of caesalpinia sappan heartwood. Biol Pharm Bull November 2003;26(11):1534-7.
  • Kim KJ, Yu HH, Jeong SI, et al. Inhibitory effects of caesalpinia sappan on growth and invasion of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. J Ethnopharmacol March 2004;91(1):81-7.
  • Promsawan N, Kittakoop P, Boonphong S, et al. Antitubercular cassane furanoditerpenoids from the roots of caesalpinia pulcherrima. Planta Med 2003;69:776-777.
  • Xu HX, Lee SF. The antibacterial principle of caesalpina sappan. Phytotherapy Research 2004;18(8):647-651.
  • Zhao ZW. Treating 21 cases of traumatic hemalopia with fu yuan huo xue tang. Journal of Applied TCM 1999;15(8):11.
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