Dan Shen: Snapshot


Dan Shen (Red Sage Root) has been esteemed by the Chinese for thousands of years as a circulatory stimulant. Like hawthorn, it is a safe effective remedy for many circulatory problems. Dan Shen is used traditionally to treat conditions caused by blood stagnation, primarily those affecting the lower abdomen, such as absent or painful menstrual periods and fibroids. The sedative action of Dan Shen helps calm the nerves, and it is, therefore, helpful in treating angina, a condition made worse by anxiety and worry. Palpitations, insomnia, and irritability also benefit from Dan Shen’s sedative properties. Dan Shen is a soothing remedy that is used to remove “excess heat,” particularly in the heart and liver. It can also alleviate inflammatory skin problems, such as abscesses, boils, and sores.

Botanical Name

Salvia miltiorrhiza

Part Used

Root

Common Names

Chinese red sage, red root sage, kinesisk salvie, Dan Shen, chi dan shen, zue dan shen (Chinese); tanjin (Japanese); tansam (Korean)

Brief History

There has been extensive research into dan shen in China, and the tanshinones have been shown to have a profound effect on the coronary circulation, reducing the symptoms of angina and improving heart function. The whole herb (rather than isolated constituents) has been used in China to assist patients who are recovering from a heart attack, and it appears to support heart function at this critical time.

Constituents

Diterpene diketones (tanshinones, cryptotanshinone, isotanshinones)

Therapeutic Properties

Platelet aggregation inhibitory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory (possibly with antiallergic effect), liver protective, antimicrobial, mild sedative. Dan shen products, standardized to tanshinones content, have been shown to decrease blood stasis and improve peripheral blood flow (incl. cerebral blood flow, coronary blood flow). Dan shen has been shown to reduce voluntary alcohol intake.

Vitalist Properties

Temperature: Cold

Moisture: Dry

Therapeutic Indications

Myocardial ischaemia, myocardial infarction, hypertension, angina pectoris, palpitations, impaired peripheral and cerebrovascular circulation, Buerger’s disease, intermittent claudication, acute and chronic liver disease, autoimmune disorders such as scleroderma, pulmonary fibrosis, fracture and injuries, lymphoma treatment (use as adjunct), nerve damage including compression and diabetic neuropathy, skin disorders such as acne.

Primary Uses

Fibroids (uterine myomas) and menstrual problems.

Dan shen is useful for short-term treatment of skipped periods or uterine fibroids. Authorities on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) note that the herb “releases” congealed blood, as shown by dark-red clots during menses, and eases pelvic congestion.

Heart disease.

Dan shen extracts relax the smooth muscles that support the coronary arteries and increase circulation to the heart. The herb contains a substance called tanshinone IIA, which slows the transmission of nerve impulses within the heart, slowing the pulse while increasing the heart’s ejection fraction, or the percentage of available blood that the heart’s main pumping chamber pumps into the blood vessels with each beat. This work was done in rabbits, so whether it works in the same way in people is not known. If you have heart disease, check with your physician first before using this herb.

In laboratory tests, dan shen was shown to prevent the formation of clots in the bloodstream and reduce blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It enhances the heart-healthy effect of unsaturated fatty acids and protects heart and nerve cells from a kind of free-radical damage known as reperfusion injury, which occurs when blood circulation is restored after heart attack or stroke, by increasing the effectiveness of vitamin E. Clinical researchers in China have reported improvements in people taking dan shen for angina, stroke, and phlebitis. Surgical experiments with animals indicate that dan shen may prevent recurrence of blockages after angioplasty.

Hepatitis.

Dan shen may be effective in treating chronic hepatitis. Experimentally, it has been reported to be effective in suppressing fibrosis in the liver. If you have hepatitis, check with your doctor before using this herb.

Clinical Trials

  • More than 300 heart patients were treated with oral doses of Dan Shen in an open study. Angina was improved in 81% and abnormal ECG in 57%.
  • The effect of nitroglycerin and Dan Shen were compared in 20 patients with ischaemic heart disease. Dan Shen was markedly superior to nitroglycerin, with more persistent effects and also improved cardiac function.
  • In a group of 20 patients with hyperviscosity syndrome treated with an aqueous extract of Dan Shen, serum levels of the C4 component of complement rose, which correlated with the disappearance of clinical symptoms.
  • Satisfactory results were obtained for chronic hepatitis, and for acute hepatitis in combination with Hypericum japonicum.
  • Combined with Turmeric and Crataegus pinnatifida, a 69% cure rate was obtained in chronic active hepatitis.

Dosage (Divided Daily)

Dried Root: 6,000 – 15,000mg (decocted tea)

• Ratio Extract: 1,000 – 3,000mg (10:1)

• Tincture: 4 – 12mL (1:2)

Contraindications

Contra-indicated in patients with a bleeding tendency and during pregnancy.

Side effects

None known

Interactions with other drugs

Avoid with warfarin (Coumadin, Marevan). May increase prothrombin time and international normalised ratio (INR) values; patients should be monitored for these parameters.

Use with caution with antiplatelet medications including aspirin (including Aspro, Solprin, Astrix, Cartia); co-prescription may increase bruising and bleeding.


Buy Dan Shen Extract Capsules or Loose Powder
Dried Red Sage Root

 Bibliography
  1. Balch, P. A., & Bell, S. J. (2012). Prescription for herbal healing (2nd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Avery.

  2. Bone, K. (1996). Clinical applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese herbs: monographs for the western herbal practitioner. Warwick, Qld.: Phytotherapy.

  3. Chevallier, A. (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine (2nd American ed.). New York: DK Pub.
  4. Herbalpedia (2013)
  5. Skenderi, G. (2003). Herbal vade mecum: 800 herbs, spices, essential oils, lipids, etc., constituents, properties, uses, and caution. Rutherford, N.J.: Herbacy Press.

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