Botanical: Salvia miltiorrhiza
Family: Lamiaceae (mint)
Other common names: Chinese Salvia, Chinese Sage, Danshen, Dan Shen, Red Rooted Sage
Red Rooted Salvia, Bunge, Radix Salvia, Salvia Root
Red-Root Sage is a traditional Chinese herb that has become important in the West for supporting cardiovascular health and improving liver function. As a blood purifier, it helps to vitalize and detoxify the blood and is one of the most highly regarded circulatory tonics. Red-Root Sage has been shown to inhibit bacterial growth, reduce fever, diminish inflammation, ease skin problems and aid urinary excretion of toxins.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Red-Root Sage is a member of the multi-species Salvia genus, and despite the fact that any herb of this genus may be called sage, there are significant differences in medicinal components in the tops and roots that influence their uses. Salvia miltiorrheza and Salvia officinalis (Garden Sage) are in no way similar to another member of the Sage genus, Salvia divinorum, which is a dangerous psychoactive plant and subject to regulation as a controlled substance under several states’ drug regulation statues. In an 1833 publication, Russian botanist, Alexander von Bunge (1803-1890), gave the plant its botanical genus, Salvia, which is translated from the Latin word, salvere, meaning "to be saved" or "to cure," as sage enjoyed the reputation of being able to cure a multitude of ills. Red-Root Sage grows abundantly in Asia to a height of about thirty two inches, and because of its importance in herbal medicine, has been cultivated as a crop on farms in China, Japan and Korea. It is a wild perennial that grows mostly in sunny areas and can survive in poor soils. It produces small, fuzzy, grayish leaves in the spring; blue, red or purple flowers in summer; and brownish nut-like fruits in the fall. As a member of the sage family of plants, its aromatic leaves are often dried and used to season meats and stuffing, but it is in its distinctive, sundried, bright red roots that considerable medicinal benefits are stored. Although other species of sage were mentioned in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as early as 206 B.C., Red-Root Sage first appeared in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing in the first century A.D. and held a very high position for treating the heart, abdomen, gurgling in the intestines, breaking and eliminating stone and relieving fullness. In the late eighteenth century, Father d'Incarville, a French Jesuit, introduced seeds of the plant from Beijing to Paris, where it was cultivated as a rare botanical specimen, and collectors of Chinese medicinal plants in the United States still regard the plant as a specimen. It was only during the twentieth century that Red-Root Sage became known for its blood vitalizing and circulatory properties, and it has also since become an important herb in modern Chinese clinical practice. Qin Bowei, an eminent physician born at the turn of the twentieth century, who was instrumental in the spread of TCM in modern China after the revolution in 1949, referred to Red-Root Sage as a bitter herb that "quickens the blood, moves the blood and regulates transportation of blood fluid." It is one of the most commonly used Chinese herbs as the key ingredient in numerous formulations or prescribed as a single herb remedy. Its elevation came in recognition of its vitalizing blood circulation qualities that promote heart health by increasing blood flow and relieving pain (angina pectoris), and for its efficacy in treating microcirculation disorders, leading to its use in treating liver fibrosis and cirrhosis. A patent remedy with Red-Root Sage as the main ingredient was developed and is still widely used in China for treating angina. The main active constituents in Red-Root Sage include diterpene quinones (known as tanshinones I and II and cryptotanshinone), and it also includes caffeic acid, salvianolic acid and magnesium salvianolate.
Red-Root Sage is widely used in the Orient for supporting cardiovascular health and is now gaining popularity in the West for its heart-healthy properties. The isolated chemical, tanshinone, is said to increase the force of heartbeats, while slowing the heart rate, and it works as an herbal vasodilator, causing blood vessels to relax and increasing blood circulation. This action helps to inhibit platelet aggregation (clotting), thereby reducing the risk of arteriosclerosis, stroke and heart attack. The tanshinones reduce stasis of the blood (stagnation) and also helps to ease the heart pain of angina pectoris.
Red-Root Sage is said to promote healthy liver function and may help to prevent liver damage caused by alcohol, drugs or diseases. Some studies suggest that Red-Root Sage may provide benefits for treating liver diseases such as cirrhosis, fibrosis and chronic hepatitis.
By reducing stasis* (stagnation of the blood), Red-Root Sage helps to purify the blood; and detoxified blood is thought to be very beneficial for treating many ailments, including skin problems, such as acne, abscesses and boils. The concept of eliminating stasis to generate new blood simply means that in order for new blood to be generated, old, stagnant and impure blood that is not vital must be removed. This theory of vitalizing blood has been applied to the treatment of bone marrow deficiencies.
A relatively new area of study for blood stasis* concerns the process of ageing: In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is thought that detoxified blood will help nourish the kidneys, liver and spleen; and conversely, stagnant blood results in contraction of ligaments, withering of the flesh and overall reduction in vitality, mental function and health. During the twentieth century, possibly due to changes in the environment, diet and lifestyle (as well as progress in medical research into ageing), it is generally agreed that disorders associated with ageing additionally involve blood stasis. It is interesting to note that this was an idea first presented by Xu Lingtai, a famous physician of the Qing Dynasty who wrote during the mid-eighteenth century that the blood of the elderly did not flow very well, thus creating other health difficulties; however, Xu's concept did not get much attention for another two hundred years.
Red-Root Sage is believed to ease fibroids and menstrual problems, and may be especially useful for short-term treatment of skipped periods or uterine fibroids. Authorities on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) claim that the herb "releases" congealed blood, as may be shown by dark-red clots during menses, and also eases pelvic congestion.
The isolated tanshinones are unique to Red-Root Sage and have been shown to inhibit bacterial growth, reduce fever, diminish inflammation and aid urinary excretion of toxins.
Red-Root Sage has shown some antiviral and antioxidant activity in several laboratory studies. Salvianolate-B, recently isolated from Red-Root Sage by medical researchers at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, was determined to have powerful antioxidant actions in vitro, and the salvianolic acid was shown to be the strongest of Red-Root Sage's constituents in protecting heart mitochondria from free radical damage. Because these are ongoing studies, no conclusions have yet been established.
With regard to cancer treatment, promising studies (2008) conducted in Mainz and Düsseldorf, Germany, Graz, Austria and Kunming, China, claim that Red-Root Sage contains three ingredients with powerful anti-tumor activity. The substances were found to suppress the growth of a specific tumor cell line that is particularly resistant to many commonly used cytotoxins, due to overproduction of a transport protein in the cell wall. In contrast, a whole range of standard anti-cancer drugs fail to be effective against this cell.
Pregnant and nursing women should not use Red-Root Sage Herbal Supplement, nor should those who take prescription blood thinning medications (Coumadin, Plavix, aspirin, etc.). Those who are allergic to members of the mint family (thyme, basil, sage, marjoram, etc.) should avoid this herb. You should not use Red-Root Sage if you take prescription medications or have high blood pressure or heart or blood vessel disease, nor should it be used for prolonged periods (preferably one month on and one month off), and it is advisable to use this herb only under the care of a knowledgeable health care provider. Inform your physician or dentist prior to any surgical or dental procedure if you are taking this herb.