SALVIA ROOT - Salvia miltiorrheza and Salvia officinalis (Garden Sage), danshen
2007-02-09 12:00:39
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Salvia Root
is a traditional Chinese herb that has become important in the West for supporting cardiovascular health and improving liver function. It helps to vitalize and detoxify the blood and is one of the most highly regarded circulatory tonics. Salvia Root has been shown to inhibit bacterial growth, reduce Fever, diminish inflammation, and ease skin problems and aid urinary excretion of toxins.


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 of danshen to some extent. Danshen is known to decrease the blood’s ability to clot in at least two ways.

First, it limits the stickiness of blood components known as platelets. It also decreases the production of fibrin — 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 have protected the inner linings of arteries from damage. Some other research also suggests that danshen potentially may increase the force of heartbeats and slow the heart rate slightly. All these effects potentially could improve heart function and help to restore functioning after a stroke.


Salvia Root 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. Salvia Root is part of a small plant that grows abundantly in Asia, and because of its importance in herbal medicine, it 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 sages in the mint 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., Salvia Root first appeared in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing in the first century A.D., and it 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 prized specimen. It was only during the twentieth century that Salvia Root 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, and instrumental in the spread of TCM in modern China after the revolution in 1949, referred to Salvia Root 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 Salvia Root as the main ingredient was developed and is still widely used in China for treating Angina. The main active constituents in Salvia Root include diterpene quinones (known as tanshinones I and II and cryptotanshinone), and it also includes caffeic acid, salvianolic acid and magnesium salvianolate.


Salvia Root 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 a vasodilator, causing blood vessels to relax and increasing blood Circulation. This action inhibits platelet aggregation (clotting), thereby reducing the risk of arteriosclerosis, stroke and heart attack. The tanshinones are said to reduce stasis of the blood (stagnation) and also help to ease the heart pain of Angina pectoris.

Salvia Root is believed to promote healthy liver function and may help to prevent liver damage caused by alcohol, drugs or diseases. Some studies suggest that Salvia Root may provide benefits for treating liver diseases such as cirrhosis, fibrosis and chronic hepatitis.

By reducing stasis (stagnation in the blood), Salvia Root is said 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.

The isolated tanshinones are unique to Salvia Root and have been shown to inhibit bacterial growth, reduce Fever, diminish inflammation and aid urinary excretion of toxins.

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 believed 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.

Salvia Root has shown antiviral and antioxidant activity in laboratory studies. Salvianolate-B, recently isolated from Salvia Root 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 Salvia Root's constituents in protecting heart mitochondria from free radical damage.



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