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Monday, June 04, 2007

Red Sage or Danshen

Note: The topic of today's post, danshen, is not to be confused with dangshen (or codonopsis) from last week.

Red sage (known as danshen in Chinese) is the root and rhizome of Salvia miltiorrhiza Bge. (Family Labeatae). Danshen activates blood, removes blood stasis, promotes menses, relieves pain, reduces fever, and is a calmative. The most common traditional uses of this herb are for blood circulation problems, angina pectoris, palpitations, tight chest, irregular menses, menstrual pain, amenorrhea, metrorrhagia, leukorrhagia, abdominal pain, abdominal mass, insomnia, painful and stiff joints, skin sores and ulcers. More modern uses include chronic hepatitis, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, skin diseases (psoriasis, acne, eczema, scleroderma, neurodermatitis, etc.).

The first recorded use of danshen dates back at least two thousand years. Considered one of the major huo xue hua yu (activating blood circulation to disperse stasis) herbs, it is normally used in teas, wines, and sometimes in soups along with rice or other foods/herbs. Modern scientific studies have confirmed many of its traditional properties and uses: cardiovascular, anticoagulant, antibacterial, antiinflammatory, antioxidant, sedative, antiatherosclerotic, antitumor, etc. Its major active ingredients include several tanshinones (phenanthrene diketones), plant acids (salvianolic acid, danshensu, oleanolic acid, etc.) and diterpenoids (miltirone, salvinone); it also contains vitamin E.

Although traditionally used mainly to benefit the cardiovascular system, danshen and the isolated tanshinones have recently been successfully used in treating acne, psoriasis, eczema and other skin conditions.

Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Better Health with (mostly) Chinese Herbs and Food discusses the use of 60 different herbs as healing foods, including danshen on page 74. For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit http://www.earthpower.com/.

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