Presented by: UT El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation

Dan Shen

Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.
Dan Shen

Botanical Family:


Other Common Name:

Chinese salvia, Chinese sage, red-rooted sage, tan shen

Where is it found?

The plant is native to Viet Nam and China

Parts of the plant used:


How is it used?

Currently, tablets and capsules containing Dan shen root, alone or in combination with other herbs, are available in commerce.

What is it used for?

Dan shen root has been used for millennia in Traditional Chinese Medicine, alone or in combination with other medicinal plants for a variety of ailments, including heart disease (angina pectoris), kidney disease, irregular menstruation and other related problems (amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea), insomnia, irritability, inflammation, and blood stagnation (circulatory problems). The constituents found in the root may also help to adapt (adaptogenic action) to various types of stress, as well as prevent or treat osteoporosis (Su et al., 2015; Guo et al., 2014; Quattrocchi, 2012; Tang and Eisenbrand, 2011). Experiments in mice have shown that Dan shen root extracts may have protective effects on heart tissue (Ai et al., 2015).

More than 100 phytochemical compounds have been isolated from this plant (Guo et al, 2014), but the major lipid-soluble phytochemical constituents of Dan shen are called tanshinones. The three primary bioactive tanshinones include tanshinone I (TNI), tanshinone IIA (TNIIA), and cryptotanshinone (CPT). These compounds exhibit anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and cardio-cerebrovascular protective actions (Chen et al., 2014). Unfortunately, these compounds have poor solubility and low dissolution rate. Therefore, this limits the clinical applications of TNI, TNIIA, and CPT. However, Cai et al. (2016) mention that loading tanshinones onto nanoparticles, micro-emulsions, cyclodextrin inclusions, liposomes, and solid dispersions, among other options, may serve to improve their application for various health problems.

Safety / Precautions

  • A textbook on Chinese herbal medicine cautions against using Dan shen during pregnancy (Bensky et al., 2004)
  • The safety of using Dan shen preparations during lactation has not been established (Gardner and McGuffin, 2012).
  • Dan shen may interfere with the metabolism of the anticoagulant action of warfarin, making it less effective (Zhou et al., 2012).
  • Use dan shen with caution if you have any bleeding disorders (Zhou et al., 2012; Chen and Chen, 2004).

Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with a health care professional first. Avoid self-medication and self-diagnosis: Always be on the safe side!


Ai F, Chen M, Li W, Yang Y, Xu G, Gui F, Liu Z, Bai X, Chen Z. Danshen improves damaged cardiac angiogenesis and cardiac function induced by myocardial infarction by modulating HIF1α/VEGFA signaling pathway. Int J Clin Exp Med. 2015 ;8(10):18311-8.

Bensky D, Clavey S. Stoger E. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica 3rd ed.
Seattle, WA: Eastland Press; 2004.

Cai Y, Zhang W, Chen Z, Shi Z, He C, Chen M. Recent insights into the biological activities and drug delivery systems of tanshinones. Int J Nanomedicine. 2016; 11:121-30. doi: 10.2147/IJN.S84035.

Chen J, Chen T. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology.
City of Industry, CA: Art of Medicine Press; 2004.

Chen X, Guo J, Bao J, Lu J, Wang Y. The anticancer properties of Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge (Danshen): a systematic review. Med Res Rev. 2014;34(4):768-94. doi: 10.1002/med.21304.

Gardner Z, McGuffin M (Editors). Botanical Safety Handbook 2nd ed.
Boca Raton, FL; CRC Press; 2013; pp. 767-771.

Guo Y, Li Y, Xue L, Severino RP, Gao S, Niu J, Qin LP, Zhang D, Brömme D.
Salvia miltiorrhiza: an ancient Chinese herbal medicine as a source for anti-osteoporotic drugs.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2014; 155(3):1401-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.07.058.

Quattrocchi, U. World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants (4 vols.).
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012; p. 138.

Su CY, Ming QL, Rahman K, Han T, Qin LP. Salvia miltiorrhiza: Traditional medicinal uses, chemistry, and pharmacology. Chin J Nat Med. 2015; 13(3):163-82. doi: 10.1016/S1875-5364(15)30002-9.

Tang W, Eisenbrand G. Handbook of Chinese Medicinal Plants Vol. 2.
New York: Wiley; 2011; pp. 1040-1055.

Zhou X, Chan K, Yeung JH. Herb-drug interactions with Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza): a review on the role of cytochrome P450 enzymes. Drug Metabol Drug Interact. 2012; 27(1):9-18. doi: 10.1515/dmdi-2011-0038.