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Red Sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza): Benefits, Uses and Possible Side Effects

Red sage is also known in traditional Chinese medicine as danshen. It is an ornamental plant that is used as a complement to prevent and treat various health problems. The scientific name of red sage is Salvia miltiorrhiza and should not be confused with aromatic sage (Salvia officinalis).

According to a review published in the Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines, this variety of sage concentrates around 201 polyphenols with pharmacological potential. In particular, it stands out for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor and antidiabetic properties. Are you interested in knowing more about its applications?

Characteristics of Red Sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza)

Red sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza) is a perennial plant in the genus Salvia, native to China and Japan. It is characterized by having branched stems that measure between 30 and 60 centimeters in height. Its leaves are spaced and divided, and its flowers grow in spirals in shades that vary from light purple to lavender.

In general, its optimal growing conditions occur in those places with a sunny, temperate and humid environment. An average temperature of 17.1 °C and an average annual humidity of up to 77% are estimated.

Today, it is distributed worldwide as an herbal supplement. Some research supports its properties, but it should be used with caution. Like other plants, it has drug interactions and causes side effects.

Red Sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza) Uses and Benefits

The pharmacological properties of Asian red sage have been used in oriental medicine. However, as detailed in a publication in The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, its uses have spread to the United States and European countries. What benefits are attributed to it? Let’s see.

1. Cardiovascular health

Due to its high content of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, red sage has been used as a natural remedy to promote cardiovascular health. According to research in Frontiers in Pharmacology, two substances called tanshinone IIA and salvianolate are primarily responsible for these benefits.

In particular, both compounds decrease excess inflammation and the accumulation of free radicals. They also cause anticoagulant and vasodilator effects that are decisive in blood pressure and coagulation.

As if that were not enough, another animal study published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine found that extracts from this plant also have the potential to aid in rehabilitation after suffering a heart attack or stroke. Although more evidence is required, the results are promising.

2. Liver health

Right now, red sage is being studied as a possible ally to promote liver health. The reason? Its concentration of polyphenols gives it anti-inflammatory and regenerative effects that can be useful to protect this organ against various damages.

In this regard, a study in mice shared in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that red sage extracts have hepatoprotective potential against alcohol-induced liver injury. Another study in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity found that salvianolic acid—present in this plant—helps protect hepatocytes against damage caused by acetaminophen overdose.

Meanwhile, through Drug Design, Development and Therapy, it was reported that salvianolic acid A offers prevention against cirrhosis, a disease characterized by the death of liver tissue. For now, more research is needed.

3. Diabetes

The antidiabetic properties of danshen have also been the focus of research. Due to its ability to improve blood circulation, vascularization and excess inflammation, it seems to be a good adjuvant to prevent the complications of this disease.

In a study published in Phytomedicine, researchers concluded that Salvia miltiorrhiza may represent a new strategy for the prevention and treatment of diabetes. According to what was observed, the plant helps regulate high blood sugar levels. Still, more clinical trials are needed to assess its safety.

Risks and contraindications of red sage

Red sage supplements are generally safe for most people, as long as their consumption is moderate. However, side effects such as digestive discomfort, decreased appetite and loss of muscle control (in rare cases) have been observed.

It is important to note that the herb can cause interactions with some medications. To be more exact, its simultaneous consumption with the following should be avoided:

  • Warfarin and other blood-thinning medications.
  • Calcium channel blockers.
  • Digoxin.

Since not enough research has been done on its level of safety and efficacy, the general recommendation is to avoid taking it with any medication. You should first consult your doctor to assess the risks. Likewise, its use is contraindicated in minors and women who are pregnant or lactating.

How is red sage consumed?

In the market, Asian red sage is available in the form of capsules, tincture, tea, and powder. Each of these presentations has its own dosage and consumption recommendations. It is important to respect them so as not to run the risk of suffering unwanted effects.

What is there to remember?

Red sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza) is a well-known remedy in traditional Chinese medicine. It is valued for its anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant and antioxidant properties. Although it has been used as a complementary remedy, more research is still needed to determine its effects and safety in humans.

Therefore, it should be used in moderation, preferably under medical supervision. Under no circumstances is it a substitute for treatments prescribed by the health professional. It is important to consider its drug interactions before taking it.

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