Dan Shen – Salvia miltiorrhiza root – Red Sage – “Cinnabar Root”

Nature: bitter, slightly cold

Enters: Heart, Pericardium, Liver

Actions: Promotes blood circulation and dispels blood stasis; cools the blood; relieves swelling; mildly nourishes blood; calms the Shen; unblocks the menses.

• Blood stasis: irregular menstruation, amenorrhea, abdominal pain after childbirth, pain in the chest, abdomen, epigastrium, masses and pain in the limbs, lochioschesis.
• Blood stasis with liver Qi stagnation: pain in the ribs or hypochondria.
• Heat in the blood and blood stasis: carbuncles, boils.
• Febrile disease (including Ying level): restlessness, delirium, high fever, eruptions, red tongue.
• Heat and blood stasis in the heart: insomnia, palpitations, irritability, restlessness. Also for heart/kidney Yin deficiency heat patterns.
• Primary herb for coronary heart disease in China. (Particularly in combination with San qi, Gui zhi, Shan zha, etc.)
• For immune system disorders Liu combines with Dang gui.
• For CNS-mediated pain, including post-stroke, combine with Huang qi in doses of 15-30g of each (when Qi deficiency and blood stasis are present)
• Promotes tissue regeneration; opens coronary arteries; reduces blood sugar; reduces serum cholesterol; protects the liver; enhances the immune system; vasodilator; relieves angina pectoris.
• Wine-frying the herb enhances its blood circulating properties.
• This herb can be compared to the formula Si Wu Tang, though Dan shen is weaker at nourishing blood and stronger at moving blood than Si Wu Tang.
• Do not use large doses in patients predisposed to bleeding.
• Note: the Salvia genus contains many herbs with drastically different properties – e.g., culinary sage – Salvia officinalis (also a diaphoretic), and the hallucinogenic drug Salvia divinorum. “Salvia” alone is not a sufficient name.
BII: May improve visual acuity in glaucoma.
MLT: Regulates cholesterol, triglycerides. Premiere herb for heart problems, especially angina.
Hsu: Dilates peripheral blood vessels, lowers blood pressure; strong antibacterial properties.
DY: Engenders new tissue; nourishes the heart.
• With Mu dan pi to quicken the blood and dispel stasis, cool the blood, and eliminate deficiency heat. For indications such as:
– 1. Hematemesis, epistaxis, metrorrhagia, purpura, and also rubella and pruritis due to heat in the blood division.
– 2. Menstrual irregularities, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, dark purple menstrual blood with clots, and postpartum abdominal pain due to heat in the blood which causes blood stasis.
– 3. Continuous, low-grade fever due to Yin deficiency heat. In this case, if there are night sweats, use Di gu pi instead of Mu dan pi.
– 4. Hot, red, swollen, painful joints due to hot Bi or impediment.
• With San qi to quicken the blood, dispel stasis, nourish the heart, open the network vessels, stop pain, and settle palpitations. For indications such as chest Bi or impediment, i.e. cardiac problems with pain and severe palpitations. For these indications, wine mix-fried Dan shen should be used. This combination treats heart pain no matter what the cause. This action may be reinforced by adding Shi chang pu, Xie bai, Gua lou pi, Gui zhi, and Tan xiang.
• With Tan xiang to regulate and rectify the Qi and blood, move the Qi and blood, free the flow of the network vessels, and stop pain. For the following indications, wine mix-fried Dan shen should be used:
– 1. Chest Bi or impediment, heart diseases with severe cardiac pain due to Qi and blood stasis. If heart blood stasis is severe, add San qi, Hong hua, and Yan hu suo. If Qi stagnation is severe, add Chen xiang and Qing mu xiang. If there is phlegm-damp obstruction in the chest, Gua lou pi, Jie geng, and Zhi ke. If there is chest Yang deficiency, add Xie bai, Gui zhi, and Fu zi. If there is Qi deficiency, add Huang qi, Zhi gan cao, and Ren shen.
– 2. Stomach pain due to Qi and blood stasis.
Dan shen has “very interesting action” on coronary heart disease, circulatory system diseases, and hypercholesterolemia.
Dan shen only mildly nourishes blood. To reinforce its supplementing action, it should be prepared with pig or tortoise blood.
Dan shen is incompatible with vinegar or any other very sour or acrid food.
IBIS: Occasional hypersensitivity may lead to excessive bleeding or fever.
Weng Weiliang, et al: Clinical studies excerpted from Weng Weiliang, et al., Clinical Chinese materia medica, Henan Science & Technology Press, 1998, retrieved HERE:
• Viral myocarditis: Experiential formula Si Shen Yin which consisted of dan shen 12g, hai er shen 12g, nan sha shen 9g, ku shen 9g, zhi gan cao 3g, guang yu jin 9g, chao zao ren 9g, lian zi xin 2g was made into granules to treat viral myocarditis. Twice daily, 1 pack every time. 39 cases were treated, the courses of treatment ranged between 20 to 60 days, and the clinic symptoms improved to different extent.
• Acute myocardial infarction: Dan Shen Injection 10g~24g was added into 500ml 5% glucose or low molecular dextran for intravenous drip. Once daily, 7~14 days as a course of treatment. 388 cases of acute myocardial infarction were treated, the incidence rate of heart failure was 29.9%, the mortality rate within hospitalization was 27.2%, which were lower that those in the control group but without statistic significance. The mortality rate in males was 16.2% and was significantly lower than that of the control group. No difference in female group.
• Diabetes: Compound Dan Shen Injection 8~12ml was added into 500m 0.9% NaCl Injection for intravenous injection, once daily, for 28 to 43 days. 120 cases of diabetes were treat, 50 cases were markedly effective, 55 improved, 15 had no changes.
• Hepatocirrhosis: 20ml Compound Dan Shen Injection was added into 250ml low molecular dextran for intravenous drip, once daily, 30 days as a course of treatment. 43 cases of hepatocirrhosis were treated, 10 were markedly effective, 28 effective, and 5 ineffective..
• Chronic simple rhinitis: 2ml Compound Dan Shen Injection (each ml contains 2g dan shen and 2g jiang xiang) was mixed with 2ml physiological saline solution for nasal drip to treat chronic simple rhinitis. Three times daily, 2 drops each side every time. 4 weeks as a course of treatment. 38 cases were treated, 22 were cured, 10 markedly effective, 3 improved, and 3 ineffective.
WIKI: Results from animal and human studies support the use of Danshen for circulatory disorders to some extent because it is known to decrease the blood’s ability to clot in at least two ways. First, it limits the stickiness of blood platelets. It also decreases the production of fibrin, the 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 may also have protected the inner linings of arteries from damage. Some other research suggests it may increase the force of heartbeats and slow the heart rate slightly.
• In animal studies, Danshen has appeared to interfere with the development of liver fibrosis — the formation of scar-like fibers in the liver. Because the nonfunctioning fibers crowd out active liver tissue, liver function decreases gradually as the amount of fibrous tissue increases. Having chronic hepatitis and habitually drinking large amounts of alcoholic beverages are the major causes of liver fibrosis, which could also result from exposure to chemicals or certain drugs. Danshen may also increase blood flow into the liver, so the length of time that potentially damaging substances stay in the liver may be reduced, also reducing the possible injury they may cause. Results from a few animal studies showed it may also protect kidney tissues from damage caused by diabetes. In China, danshen has also been studied for treating acute pancreatitis, a painful and possibly dangerous inflammation of the pancreas. [23]
Salvia miltiorrhiza inhibits alpha-glucosidase activity.[24]
• Danshen may stop the spread of several different cancer cell types by interrupting the cell division process[25] and also by causing cancer cells to undergo cell death (apoptosis).[15] In contrast, the cerebrovascular protective effect of Salvianolic acid has been found to be due to prevention of apoptosis.[9]
• For HIV, chemicals in Danshen may block the effectiveness of an enzyme, HIV-1 integrase, that the virus needs to replicate.[26]
• Salvia may stimulate dopamine release and has protective effects against free radical-induced cell toxicity.[27][28]
S. miltiorrhiza stimulates increased osteogenesis in vivo (bone cell growth).[29]
• Salvianolic acid B could possibly facilitate the repair of tubular epithelial structures and the regression of renal fibrosis in injured kidneys.[30]
• Danshen has been shown to potentiate the effects of the common anticoagulation drug warfarin, leading to gross anticoagulation and bleeding complications. Danshen should be avoided by those using warfarin.[31]

Dose: 6-15g (up to 60g when used alone or in treating vasculitis)

12 comments on “Dan Shen – Salvia miltiorrhiza root – Red Sage – “Cinnabar Root”

  1. wilfred vodden says:

    How do you wine fry red sage root? Whats the proceedure?

    • Peter Borten says:

      I don’t have the procedure handy, but I’m guessing it’s similar to with other herbs. Get some yellow wine from a Chinese grocery – such as Shao Xing rice wine – sometimes people use bai jiu (a white distilled liquor). Sprinkle the wine over the dan shen and cover it to allow the wine to soak in for a while. Then throw it in a wok and stir fry it over a low flame until it dries out a bit, may turn a bit yellowish, and gets aromatic. Don’t overheat or cook for too long. The color inside a piece should mostly remain unchanged. Don’t brown it. Sometimes people just use a quick method of heating the herb in a wok and then adding the wine and stir frying until it soaks in / dries up. The first method is better.

  2. Star Stern says:

    am using shen fu zhu yu ,wonder why dan shen not part of it

  3. Anonymous says:

    Can Dan Shen be combined with Yin Xing Ye (ginkgo leaf) and Ji Xue Cao (gotu kola) for usage to enhance cognitive function?

    • Peter Borten says:

      Sure. Although I don’t know that Dan Shen has the same potential as the other two with regard to cognitive enhancement. You might look into shi chang pu, yuan zhi, green tea, perhaps yu jin (given, like shi chang pu, its ability to open the orifices), and the formula Bu Nao Wan. I haven’t had great success with cognitive enhancement via herbs – that is, nothing comes close to green tea / caffeine – except when we’re able to pin down WHY cognitive function is impaired and address this directly (e.g., phlegm, damp, qi deficiency, blood deficiency, impaired ascent of clear yang qi, {food sensitivities}…).

  4. Lee says:

    My beloved tortoiseshell cat was diagnosed with either liver cancer, chirosis or fibrosis. Thirty days ago, vet said my beloved had 30 days to live, insisted on antibiotics (and ursodiol) in case it’s a seriously bad liver infection, but that was it. Vet did not know about Dan Shen or dosage (She’s on the Veterinarian Alternative Medicine Board!) Bought alcohol-free Dan Shen tincture (Herbal Terra)(Did I mention how much I LOVE this cat??)My cat’s appetite is fabulous and she is still purring every day, but there is jaundice. Please,I can’t find this info anywhere: What would be the daily dosage for a 7-8 lb cat? Thank you most kindly!

  5. Lee says:

    PS. My 15-year old torie has high blood pressure, but is being successfully treated by amlodipine,in case of contraindications. Quite honestly, her liver values were so off the charts I feel I have nothing to lose. She is such an amazing being. Thank you again.

    • Peter Borten says:

      Sorry to hear about your cat. I don’t know anything about the tincture you bought so it’s hard to say what an ideal dose would be, but with most herbs cats tend to do fine with what would be the equivalent of a very high dose for humans. So if it were my cat, I’d probably give it about a half a dropperful twice a day.
      The first herb that would come to mind would be milk thistle, though. Though for the overall condition, I would tend to think more of a comprehensive formula that includes herbs to clear dampness and heat from the liver, rather than just a single herb.

      • Lee says:

        Thank you thank you thank you. Deep gratitude for offering the world this website, Peter. So helpful and kind.(So half a dropper would be .75 ml. (Sounds right?)I will try this. My baby is on milk thistle and tumeric already — lots of it :)Is there a comprehensive formula that clears dampness and heat from the liver?

        • Peter Borten says:

          Sorry, I somehow didn’t see your response until now… unfortunately, about a year and a half later. Guessing you no longer need this, but the formula you’re looking for is probably Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. Safe for cats.

  6. QQ says:

    Can Dan shen be taken together with Yin chen hao tang?

    • Peter Borten says:

      If it’s appropriate for the recipient, yes. Of course, there are other blood movers, like Hu Zhang, that might be a more useful adjunct with Yin Chen Hao Tang, depending on the pattern(s) being treated.

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