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Salvia miltiorrhiza


Salvia miltiorrhiza

Salvia miltiorrhiza also known as red sage, Chinese sage, tan shen, or danshen, is a perennial flowering plant in the genus Salvia, highly valued for its roots in traditional Chinese medicine. Native to China and Japan, it grows between 90–1,200 meters in elevation, preferring grassy places in forests, hillsides, and along stream banks.


The plant is a deciduous perennial. It grows to between 30–60 cm high. Leaves are simple or divided, depending on their position on the stem. Flower petals are purple or blue, held within a dark purple calyx.
The specific epithet miltiorrhiza means “red juice extracted from a root”.


Medicinal uses

The outside of the taproot, which is the part used in medicine, is red. An antioxidant called salvianolic acid or salvianolic acid B can be isolated from this material, and this chemical is the subject of medical research.

In traditional Chinese medicine, danshen has been used to prevent and treat heart conditions and strokes. Results from animal and human studies support these uses to some extent because it is known to decrease the blood’s ability to clot in at least two ways. First, it limits the stickiness of blood platelets. It also decreases the production of fibrin, the threads of protein that trap blood cells to form clots. Both these effects help to improve blood circulation. In addition, chemicals in danshen may relax and widen blood vessels, especially those around the heart. In animal studies, chemicals in danshen may also have protected the inner linings of arteries from damage. Some other research suggests it may increase the force of heartbeats and slow the heart rate slightly.

In traditional Chinese medicine, danshen is one of five ingredients in tangzhiqing (TZQ) used for treating diabetes. In studies with mice and in vitro studies, TZQ and a modified formula known as TZQ-F have been shown to be effective for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. The other ingredients of TZQ are red peony root, mulberry leaf, lotus leaf, and hawthorn leaf.

Pharmacological mechanism

In animal studies, danshen has appeared to interfere with the development of liver fibrosis — the formation of scar-like fibers in the liver. Because the nonfunctioning fibers crowd out active liver tissue, liver function decreases gradually as the amount of fibrous tissue increases. Having chronic hepatitis and habitually drinking large amounts of alcoholic beverages are the major causes of liver fibrosis, which could also result from exposure to chemicals or certain drugs. Danshen may also increase blood flow into the liver, so the length of time that potentially damaging substances stay in the liver may be reduced, also reducing the possible injury they may cause. Results from a few animal studies showed it may also protect kidney tissues from damage caused by diabetes. In China, danshen has also been studied for treating acute pancreatitis, a painful and possibly dangerous inflammation of the pancreas.

Recent discovery

Recently, initial results from laboratory studies showed danshen extracts may have some activity against human cancer cells. and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) Dan shen may stop the spread of several different cancer cell types by interrupting the cell division process[citation needed] and also by causing cancer cells to undergo cell death (apoptosis). For HIV, chemicals in danshen may block the effectiveness of an enzyme, HIV-1 integrase, that the virus needs to replicate. Neither of these potential uses of danshen has been tested in humans.

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