What is Danshen Root?
Danshen Root (dan shen, 丹参), also known as Salvia Root or Red Sage Root, is the dried root of Salvia miltiorrhiza ‘Bunge’. A common medicinal herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Danshen Root has been used for the treatment of many diseases for thousands of years.
Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (神农本草经), the TCM classic that was written 2000 years ago, has recorded that Danshen Root can be used for the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases, cardiovascular diseases and certain gynecological diseases.
Over the centuries, Danshen Root can be crowned as the most popular herb in TCM for cardiovascular, blood pressure and circulatory support. It is used as the chief active ingredient in several TCM prescriptions for blood circulation, heart health and stress management.
Falling under the TCM Category of ‘Herbs that invigorate the Blood’, Danshen Root is used to stimulate the Blood flow. ‘Cool’ in nature, Danshen Root can also help individuals who have too much ‘Heat’ in their body, albeit with less effect than a herb with a ‘Cold’ nature. Hence, Danshen Root can help individuals with a Yang Excess or a Yin Deficiency to restore a harmonious balance between their yin and yang.
Danshen Root gives a bitter taste. In TCM, bitter herbs are said to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness, and promoting elimination through urination and bowel movements.
Among our organs, Danshen Root targets the Heart, which is believed to be where our vitality is stored, as well as the Liver, which is believed to be in charge of regulating the movements of qi and body fluids to balance our emotions and manage our anger.
Functions and Benefits of Danshen Root
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Danshen Root benefits include:
Danshen Root can invigorate blood to dispel Stasis and treat conditions caused by Blood Stasis. For example, it can help with the circulation of blood in cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension and menstrual irregularities. It is a common TCM treatment for low blood pressure, and it can also be used to treat certain tumours, cysts and hardened clots caused by Blood Stasis.
Danshen Root can clear excess Heat in our body to soothe irritability, restlessness, palpitations and combat insomnia. It can fight against the harmful effects of stress by eliminating internal Heat and calming the mind.
Danshen Root cools the blood. This helps to reduce swelling in toxic sores and breast abscesses. Also, this treats symptoms caused by the presence of Heat in your blood, such as delirium and high fever.
Danshen Root can nourish the blood and calm the spirit. This helps to treat palpitations and insomnia triggered by Heat in the Heart or Blood Deficiency in the Heart.
Today, Danshen Root is often used for conditions associated with emotions, such as restlessness and insomnia, which are often characterised by the presence of excess Heat in the body. It is also used for heart and blood vessel health, as it appears to thin the blood by preventing platelet and blood clotting. Modern studies have suggested that Danshen benefits also include widening blood vessels, which then improves blood circulation in your body.
How to Use Danshen Root
Danshen Root can be consumed directly by brewing it in hot water or tea. Take 3-12 grams of Danshen Root, remove its impurities and smaller stems by washing it thoroughly. Cut the root into thick slices and dry it before brewing it.
Alternatively, Danshen Root can be used in conjunction with other herbs and ingredients to give herbal dishes or herbal concoctions. For example, Danshen Root can be added to Brown Sugar and water. This beverage can help to improve blood circulation and battle menstrual symptoms such as menstrual cramps.
Danshen Root can also be made into pills for convenient consumption.
Cautions and Side Effects of Danshen Root
Danshen Root should never be used in conjunction with or consumed together with Black False Hellebore (li lu, 藜芦). When used together, these two herbs interact with each other to produce certain substances that are harmful to the human body, and may compromise your health.
Danshen Root also interacts with many other medications, which increases the chances that the medication’s side effects will occur. Examples of such medications include Digoxin (Lanoxin), medications that slow blood clotting (e.g. Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs), Warfarin (Coumadin) and Aspirin. It is best to discuss with your doctor or healthcare provider before deciding to include Danshen Root into your diet.
Also, if you have a bleeding disorder, you should avoid consuming Danshen Root as it might increase the risk of bleeding and lower blood pressure even further.
As Danshen Root may help to slow down the process of blood-clotting, there are concerns that it might increase the risk of extra bleeding during and post-surgery. It is advised to refrain from consuming Danshen Root for at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Pregnant women or individuals under chronic medication should consult a physician before consuming this.
Some common side effects that occur when an individual consumes Danshen Root include itching, an upset stomach and reduced appetite.
Here is a summary for Danshen Root:
- Herb name (Chinese): 丹参
- Herb name (Pin Yin): dān shēn
- Herb name (English): Danshen Root
- Herb name (Botanical): Radix et Rhizoma Salviae Miltiorrhizae
- Origin of species: Salvia miltiorrhiza Bge
- Part(s) of herb used: Root and rhizome
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Sichuan, Anhui, Jiangsu, Henan, Shanxi
- Taste(s) & Properties: Bitter; Slightly cold; Administrates the Heart, Pericardium and Liver meridians
- Actions: Helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and eases painful periods or pain experienced after delivery; Helps to ease discomfort experienced in the heart and abdominal regions; Helps to relieve emotional distress to improve quality of sleep; Pain relief for rheumatic conditions due to inflammation; Removes Blood Stasis.
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MeIm, X. D., Yan-Feng, C., Yan-Yun, C., Jing, L., Shang, Z. P., Wen-Jing, Z. H. A. O., … & Zhang, J. Y. (2019). Danshen: a phytochemical and pharmacological overview. Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines, 17(1), 59-80. [Accessed on 12 September 2022]
Zhou, L., Zuo, Z., & Chow, M. S. S. (2005). Danshen: an overview of its chemistry, pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, and clinical use. The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 45(12), 1345-1359. [Accessed on 12 September 2022]
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