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Introduction

Salvia miltiorrhiza, also known as danshen, is a plant belonging to the Lamiaceae family.

The roots of this herb have been clinically used for more than 2000 years and it was even named a “super grade herb” by ancient Chinese dynasties such as Qin and Han.

Danshen is often mentioned in traditional Chinese medicine textbooks to promote blood circulation and remove blood stasis (pooling of blood).

For this reason, danshen is still used for the treatment of cardiovascular issues such as atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in arteries) and thrombosis (blood clotting) [1] [2].

The metabolically active compounds within this plant include but are not limited to diterpene compounds, polyphenolic acids, beta-sitosterol, tannins, ursolic acid, baicalin, and trace amounts of vitamin E. In fact, there are actually over 80 different compounds that have been identified!

Salvia Miltiorrhiza Health Benefits

It May Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

In China, danshen has a specific clinical use for treating cardiovascular problems. This is hypothesized to be from improvements in microcirculation, arterial vasodilatation, and a reduced formation of thromboxane.

In terms of the scientific evidence, 60-99% of studies conducted on the plant confirm the efficacy of danshen for improving cardiovascular conditions [3].

These potential cardiovascular effects are due to:

  • Inhibiting oxidative stress by scavenging free radicals and decreasing the production of proinflammatory molecules [4].This may indirectly reduce the build-up of plaque on arterial walls, and may be the reason why danshen can reduce the atherosclerotic area in the abdominal and thorax arteries by over 50% [5].
  • Increasing the number of beneficial immune cells [6].
  • Promoting fibrinolysis, which is the prevention on blood clotting by increasing the enzymatic breakdown of fibrin in blood clots [7].
  • Activate antioxidant defense enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione perioxidase, and glutathione S-transferase [8] [9].

Researchers have also confirmed that danshen has therapeutic promise for the treatment of hypertension through its regulation of gene expression involved with cardiovascular systems [10].

Despite the many positive findings, the amount of scientific research regarding the supplements effect in humans is very limited.

How To Take Salvia Miltiorrhiza

You can find danshen in the following forms:

  • Capsules.
  • Tinctures.
  • Tea.

The traditional dose of the dried root is 6-15 grams per day. This is roughly the same therapeutic dose which is suggested in current research – 6.56mg per kg of bodyweight [11].

However, since danshen has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, there is no actual recommended intake in terms of the supplemental dose and form.

If an individual is going to supplement with this plant, it is advised to follow the instructions given on the product and also discuss its use beforehand with a doctor.

Salvia Miltiorrhiza Safety and Side Effects

The safety of danshen is not currently known, although some adverse effects are commonly seen from its consumption (in ~30% of studies) [12].

The most common side effects:

  • Abdominal complaints
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Reduced appetite
  • Increased thirst [13]

Importantly, these adverse effects seem to alleviate themselves after cessation of treatment [14].

In terms of the toxic dose that can cause serious health complications, this has only been found in mice and is ~25 grams per kg of bodyweight. This is ~4000 times the speculated therapeutic dose in humans which suggests it is probably not going to cause major safety issues [15]. However, it is not known whether the metabolic effects are significantly different between species.

One thing the scientific research has made conclusive is that danshen should not be consumed if an individual is on Warfarin medication, as the anti-thrombotic and blood pressure lowering abilities may adversely interact with the drug and cause impaired wound healing [16].

Conclusion

Salvia miltiorrhiza, also known as danshen, is a plant that is integrated in ancient Chinese medicine.

The only potential benefit of danshen appears to be its effect on cardiovascular health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.

However, danshen has not currently been studied in humans and it may cause side effects in susceptible individuals such as abdominal issues and a reduced appetite.

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This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.