Home > Herbal Glossary > Chinese Herb List > Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae
>>Where Does It Grow?
>>Nature and Flavor
>>Identified Active Components / Major Chemical
>>Drug actions in TCM
>>Traditional Uses in TCM
>>Pharmacological Actions
>>Administration and Dosage
>>Adverse Effect, Side Effects and Cautions
Dan Shen
Latin Name: Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae
Common Name: Salvia root / Red sage root
Scientific Name: Salvia miltiorrhiza Bge.
Chinese Name: 丹參
Pinyin Name: dan shen
The root and rhizome of Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge, a perennial herbal plant of the Labiatae family.
Where Does It Grow?
The herb can be found throughout most of China, it is mainly produced in provinces like Jiangsu, Anhui, Hebei, Shanxi and Sichuan.
Nature and Flavor
Salvia root is bitter in flavor, slightly cold in nature, and mainly manifests its therapeutic actions in the heart, pericardium and liver meridians.
Identified Active Components/ Major Chemical Constituents 
Major chemical constituents in salvia root can be divided into water-soluble and fat-soluble types. The fat-soluble type include tanshinones I, IIA-IIB, V-VI; cryptotanshinone, isotanshinones I-II, IIB; isocryptotanshinones I-III; hydroxytanshinone IIA, methyltanshinonate, danshenxinkuns A-D, etc. The water-soluble type include salvianolic acids A-G; rosmarinic acid, lithospermic acid, protocatechualdehyde, caffeic acid, and isoferulic acid, etc.
Drug actions in TCM
Salvia root activates and nourishes blood, removes blood stasis, regulates menstruation and calms the spirit.
Traditional Uses in TCM
1. Salvia root is an important ingredient for gynecological disorders like irregular periods, missed periods menstrual pain or postpartum abdominal pain. For menstrual problems, the herb is usually prescribed with nutgrass rhizome, angelica root, peony root and motherwort herb. For abdominal pain after delivery or gynecological surgeries, the herb is prescribed with angelica root, Sichuan lovage and flying squirrel dung.
2. Salvia root is a common ingredient for pain relief, since TCM believes that painful conditions are usually associated with a stagnated blood flow. It can be used with Sichuan lovage, cattail pollen, flying squirrel dung and turmeric root-tuber to relieve chest pain or angina, which is a sign of stagnated blood flow in the heart vessels. For gastric and abdominal pain, the herb will be used with villous amomum fruit and sandal wood. In chronic joint problems, when the lumbar and legs are cold and painful, physicians prescribe salvia root along with cinnamon, eucommia bark and achyranthes root; in case if the joints are red, swollen and painful, physicians prescribe salvia root along with honeysuckle stem, red peony root and gentiana macrophylla root. For traumatic injuries, salvia root can be prescribed with angelica root, Sichuan lovage, frankincense and myrrh to relieve the swollen and pain, and promote healing.
3. TCM believes that abdominal masses and accumulations are related to long-term blood stagnation, salvia root can be prescribed with common bur-reed rhizome, zedoray rhizome and oyster shell to disperse them. Clinically, it has showed that the dispersing actions are beneficial to liver and spleen enlargements, ectopic pregnancy, uterine fibroid or other hematoma masses in the abdomen.
4. Salvia root is usually prescribed with herbs like sour jujube seed, Chinese arborvitae kernel, schisandra to treat insomnia. For example, when individuals are deficiency of blood and their hearts have excessive fire, they will develop insomnia and palpitations, then physicians prescribe salvia root along with rehmannia root, sour jujube seed and Chinese arborvitae kernel in the remedy. In some cases, heat pathogens enter the blood circulation that leads to irritability, fever and skin rashes, then physicians use salvia root along with rehmannia root, figwort root, honeysuckle flower and weeping forsythia capsule.
5. According to TCM theory, skin sores and abscesses should be treated by clearing toxic heat and cooling blood methods. Salvia root is usually prescribed in both internal and external remedies. For example, in the early stage of serious skin sores, salvia root is decocted with snake gourd fruit, honeysuckle flower and weeping forsythia capsule as internal remedy, at the same time, salvia root is decocted with wild chrysanthemum and dandelion for external washing.

Modern TCM physicians also use salvia root in conditions like coronary disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, myocarditis, chronic hepatitis, hepatic cirrhosis and skin problems.
Pharmacological Actions

The pharmacological actions of salvia root include cardiovascular, anticoagulant, thrombolytic, hepatoprotective and anti-tumor effects, etc.


Effects on cardiovascular system

Ex vivo study
The protective effects by salvia hairy root on myocardial ischemia and reperfusion injury in isolated rat hearts were observed. The results showed that salvia hairy root can reduce the incidence of reperfusion-induced ventricular fibrillation (VF) and ventricular tachycardia (VT), and delayed their onset. Increase in aortic flow and SOD content and decrease in LDH and MDA were also observed.

Animal study
The effect of salvia root and its active ingredient, tanshinone IIA, on blood pressure was investigated. An intraperitoneal injection of salvia root significantly lowered systolic blood pressure (SBP) of spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs) but do not modify the SBP in rats with normal blood pressure. Oral administration of tanshinone IIA also has the same effect on SHRs.


Anti-platelet effect

In vitro study
Study has shown that 15,16-Dihydrotanshinone I, one of the major ingredients of salvia root, can concentration-dependently inhibit collagen-induced aggregation of rabbit washed platelets.


Hepatoprotective effect

In vitro study
Study has reported that the standardized fraction of salvia root and cryptotanshinone, an active ingredient of salvia root, can protect liver cells death induced by ethanol. In addition, they can also inhibit the ethanol-induced lipid accumulation and the fatty acid biosynthesis. These results indicate that salvia root and cryptotanshinone have the potential to ameliorate alcoholic liver disease.


Anti-tumor effects

In vitro studies
Study showed that Tanshinone I (Tan-I), a compound isolated from salvia root can reduce cell growth and induce apoptosis of human colon cancer in a concentration-dependent manner. And the cell cycle was shown to be arrest at G0/G1 phase.

The effects of Tan IIA on leukemia THP-1 cell lines were investigated. Results revealed that Tan IIA inhibited the growth of THP-1 cells and caused significant apoptosis, and these effects were both time- and dose-dependent.

Administration and Dosage
Generally, 5-10g each time for decoction, the dose can increase to 30g if necessary. Better processed with alcohol and roasted when using for activating blood and removing blood stasis. The herb is prepared in solution or paste form for external applications.
Adverse Effect, Side Effects and Cautions
Those without blood stasis and pregnant women should be used with caution.

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6. Wang L, et al. Protection on myocardial ischemia and reperfusion injury by Salvia miltiorrhiza hairy root in isolated Langendorff rat hearts. Zhongguo Zhong yao za zhi. 2009 Jul; 34(14): 1848-1851.
7. Chan, P., et al. Antihypertension Induced by Tanshinone IIA Isolated from the Roots of Salvia Miltiorrhiza. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 0: nep056v1-nep056.
8. Park JW, et al. 15, 16-dihydrotanshinone I, a major component from Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge (Dansham), inhibits rabbit platelet aggregation by suppressing intracellular calcium mobilization. Archives of pharmacal research. 2008 Jan; 31(1): 47.
9. Yin HQ, et al. Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge and its active component cryptotanshinone protects primary cultured rat hepatocytes from acute ethanol-induced cytotoxicity and fatty infiltration. Food and chemical toxicology. 2009 Jan; 47(1): 98-103.
10. Su CC, et al. Growth inhibition and apoptosis induction by tanshinone I in human colon cancer Colo 205 cells. Int J Mol Med. 2008 Nov; 22(5): 613-618.
11. Liu JJ, et al. Tanshinone IIA inhibits leukemia THP-1 cell growth by induction of apoptosis. Oncol Rep 2009 Apr; 21(4): 1075-1081.