Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine have used Danshen for centuries to support heart and liver health. Other common uses for this Chinese root, also known as red sage root or scientifically Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae, include for menstrual problems, pain relief, and skin sores. Today, many naturopathic doctors have embraced this Chinese root as a safe and effective support for the heart, liver and kidney.
A lot of research and study has gone into this native Chinese herb. While much more remains to be done, Danshen has been shown safe and effective. Here are seven benefits that have been identified:
Blood Pressure Control. A randomized, placebo-controlled study reports Danshen decreased systolic blood pressure and calmed the pulse rate in patients suffering from high blood pressure.
Reduces Stress on the Cardiovascular System. A common problem in cardiovascular diseases are damaged LDL cholesterol molecules. Exposure to free radicals that oxidize the LDL causes the damage. The damaged LDL then builds-up in the arteries and blood vessels. Several studies show Danshen acts as an antioxidant and offers a protective effect, especially for patients with coronary heart disease.
Supports Heart Tissue During Recovery. Heart conditions like angina, the break down of blood clots or heart and vascular surgery can put extreme stress on the heart during recovery. Serious and even fatal events can result due to the restoration of blood flow to and through the heart. Studies show Danshen helps lower the risk and protect against injury to the heart during this recovery time.[iv]
Prevents Clotting. Tradition has used Danshen to keep the heart and vascular system healthy by preventing blood clotting. Experts agree anyone taking Warfarin or other anti-clotting medications should avoid Danshen to prevent excessive bleeding. On its own, it can support a healthy and active cardiovascular system.
Protects Against Diabetic Retinopathy. The heart and major arteries get a lot of attention when talking about cardiovascular health. Small blood vessels, or microvessels, also suffer with poor cardiovascular health. Diabetics understand the problems of damage to these small blood vessels. Their loss contributes to poor blood flow to the skin resulting in sores; in the eyes, it leads to blindness. Researchers in China report Danshen supports the health of these blood vessels and may offer a safe therapy for diabetic retinopathy.
Aids Liver Health. As the body’s detox organ, the liver is constantly exposed to free radicals and other toxins. Constant exposure can lead to liver fibrosis, a build-up of damaged liver tissue. Researchers have discovered an active compound in Danshen, salvianolic acid B, prevents the development of this fibrotic tissue and may allow the liver to recover with appropriate therapies.
Promotes Kidney Health. Like the eyes, kidneys rely on microvessels. Chinese medicine recommends Danshen to ensure blood flow to the kidneys to promote repair and maintain their function. A recent study suggests it may also support the kidneys at the cellular level against some forms of chronic renal failure.
How to Use Danshen
Tradition and science support the use of Danshen for a healthy heart. One should always consult with their primary care provider before taking a new supplement, to ensure no conflicts exist with current medications or conditions. Danshen is not recommended for pregnant women.
Some of the active compounds in Danshen are water-soluble while others are fat-soluble. Consult with your healthcare provider for the best way to take it to ensure the best effect.
Yang TY1, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of Fufang Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza) as add-on antihypertensive therapy in Taiwanese patients with uncontrolled hypertension. Phytother Res. 2012 Feb;26(2):291-8. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3548. Epub 2011 Sep 2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21887804
Qian S1, et al. Effect of Salvia miltiorrhiza hydrophilic extract on the endothelial biomarkers in diabetic patients with chronic artery disease. Phytother Res. 2012 Oct;26(10):1575-8. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4611. Epub 2012 Feb 8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22318996
Qian Q1, et al. Effect of Salvia miltiorrhiza hydrophilic extract on antioxidant enzymes in diabetic patients with chronic heart disease: a randomized controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2012 Jan;26(1):60-6. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3513. Epub 2011 May 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21544882
Liu H, Shang J, Chu F, et al. Protective Effects of Shen-Yuan-Dan, a Traditional Chinese Medicine, against Myocardial Ischemia/Reperfusion Injury In Vivo and In Vitro . Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine?: eCAM. 2013;2013:956397. doi:10.1155/2013/956397. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3885196/
Lian F1, et al. The effectiveness and safety of a danshen-containing Chinese herbal medicine for diabetic retinopathy: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter clinical trial. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Apr 22;164:71-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.01.048. Epub 2015 Feb 7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25666427
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