With a few sips of a bubbling essence of dan shen root, chest pains may fade and stroke patients can be invigorated. Dan shen root, or red sage, is a traditional Chinese medicinal herb that is gaining so much acceptance in Western culture that even pharmaceutical companies want to cash in on it.
Traditionally, dan shen root was served as a decoction, a tea-like substance made from boiling the root in hot water. Chinese medicine praises this herb for its ability to aid with menstrual cramps, heart palpitations, and even insomnia, which is currently being demonstrated in Western research. There are currently multiple clinical trials underway to demonstrate the effectiveness of dan shen root for various ailments, and many studies have already proven its power to “invigorate the blood” and treat inflammation.
One trial, led by Tasly Pharmaceuticals, recently completed a Phase III clinical trial for a dan shen root based medicine known as T89. This treatment for stable angina, or heart pain, may be among the first traditional Chinese medicine to be accepted in North America as a prescription drug, according to the manufacturer. The results of the trial, which was completed in March 2016, are still being analyzed. But you don’t have to wait for the pharmaceutical industry to catch on to this herb’s powerful properties. Dan shen can be purchased online in its natural form as a fine powder, which is easy to pour into capsules or add to a tea. Look for pharmacopeia grade, which promises a high quality dan shen root powder.
The Top 8 Benefits Of Dan Shen Root
1. Treats Symptoms Of Heart Disease
Dan shen root has long been used as an herbal remedy for a variety of heart conditions. Andrej Prado Nickel, L.Ac., EAMP notes that “Dan shen affects the organ system of the heart and pericardium, which primarily relates to cardiovascular health.” Though these traditional uses are well-established in Eastern medicine, dan shen root may soon be incorporated in Western heart medicine too. T89, the dan shen herbal medicine for chest pain, has progressed through clinical trials. Other studies are still exploring additional benefits. One animal study demonstrated that dan shen has an effect on cyclic AMP, which affects the pumping muscle contraction of the heart. Dan shen root could eventually be used along with proteins to regulate heart contractions. Research is also finding that the active components, known as tanshinones, can cause arteries to open in rats and rabbits. While it may take some time to progress toward human studies, it’s clear that dan shen root has potential in helping heart disease beyond the treatment of chest pain.
2. Reduces Risks Of Ischemic Stroke
There are currently two clinical trials demonstrating that dan shen root, when combined with other traditional Chinese medicines, can reduce the rate of ischemic stroke as well as the mortality of strokes. Ischemic stroke occurs due to blood clots and is the most common type of stroke in older adults. A 2013 study evaluated using 2 grams of dan shen extract, combined with other traditional herbs, to treat the convalescent phase of ischemic stroke (after the stroke has occurred).
Dan shen root is also believed to help prevent stroke recurrence. The Naoxintong capsule, which contains dan shen root, is in Phase IV of clinical trials. Like the 2013 study, the trial assesses if the capsule is effective at preventing the recurrence of strokes after the first stroke and reducing the negative impacts of strokes. The two year double blind study is scheduled to be completed in September 2017. These studies, combined with the heart medication studies, show that dan shen root is coming to be recognized as a powerful ingredient in Western medicine.
3. Improves Vision For Patients With Diabetic Retinopathy
A Phase III clinical trial is currently recruiting patients for testing the effects of dan shen root in treating poor vision and blindness, which can stem from diabetes. This degeneration of vision is often caused by bulging or leaking blood vessels. Although this study is evaluating a non-heart condition, the study demonstrates that dan shen root is capable of treating blood-based disorders in other areas of the body.
4. Relieves Menstrual Cramps
Although dan shen root has been used to treat menstrual cramps for millennia in China, the treatment may soon be available in the United States as well. Mr Nickel notes that dan shen root “promote(s) a healthy menstrual cycle when sharp fixed pain and clotting of the blood occur, another form of ‘blood stagnation.’” A Phase III study is currently underway examining the efficacy of treatments from two different areas in China. It is estimated to be completed in July 2017. If approved, a dan shen-based menstrual drug would be a more natural alternative to Midol.
5. Fights Cancer
Multiple animal studies have shown that dan shen root can fight cancer. A 2011 study proposed dan shen root as a future anti-tumor agent, due to its ability to kill certain cells through a process known as apoptosis. Dan shen root’s ability to reduce inflammation, as demonstrated in this 2014 mouse study, may also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Inflammatory bowel disease increases the risk of colorectal cancer, so reducing the inflammation in the bowel through application of dan shen root decreases the risk of inflammation-associated colorectal cancer.
Dan shen root appears to promote anti-inflammatory properties by suppressing inflammatory proteins and promoting the production of anti-inflammatory proteins, according to a 2011 cell-level study. It regulates the signals that the body uses to determine whether an area should be inflamed or not. This ability comes as no surprise to Eastern practitioners. Mr. Nickel mentions that “[dan shen] has a bitter taste and slightly cooling properties which make it most suitable to clear manifestations of heat and swelling such as in inflammation.”
While researchers are still evaluating how dan shen root’s anti-inflammatory properties can be utilized in healing, it’s clear that the root has potential in cancer treatment and risk reduction.
6. Treats Liver Fibrosis
A 2013 study showed how dan shen root is an effective treatment for liver fibrosis, which is the accumulation of scar tissue, due to hepatitis B. Over time, scar tissue can inhibit the blood infusion in the liver, hardening the cells. A dan shen root compound called salvianolic acid B was shown to inhibit the production of cells, called LX-2, that become scar tissue. Fibrosis has varying levels of severeness with cirrhosis as the most severe. Applying dan shen compounds during the less severe stages could help prevent degeneration into severe cirrhosis.
7. Heals Wounds Naturally
Not only have dan shen root compounds been found to be anti-inflammatory, but a 2011 study has shown that it contains anti-microbial properties too. These anti-microbial properties can be beneficial to humans and plants alike, since dan shen root could be synthesized into a natural protection for agricultural crops. The tested dan shen root compound demonstrated antimicrobial properties against eight bacterial species and one fungal species. A dan shen root spray could protect plants from a wide variety of bacteria and fungus that could damage crops. Dan shen root’s natural anti-inflammatory properties, as demonstrated in this 2011 cell-level study, may also play a role in its ability to treat wounds.
8. Regenerates Brain Cells
This novel application of dan shen root was examined in a 2011 study, which proposed that dan shen root can cause proliferation of cells in the brain. While this is a new idea that requires more study, the researchers suggest that dan shen root can enhance the regeneration of neurons. Dan shen promotes proliferation of a type of neuron called a glial cell. Regenerating these cells can treat traumatic brain injury, stroke and other neurological disorders, says Penn State researchers.
While these properties may seem astonishing to a Western person, traditional Chinese medicine had long ago uncovered a link between dan shen root and mental health.
Mr. Nickel explains the connection between dan shen root and the brain, according to Eastern Lore.
Dan shen [root] has calming effects on the mind (Shen – not the same as in ‘Dan Shen’). Shen is one of five entities that make up our soul (mortal and immortal) and can best be compared to our consciousness and self-awareness (I think therefore I am). The Shen resides in the heart at night and rises in the morning, bringing awareness and vitality. Since dan shen [root] acts upon the heart in a cooling manner, it aids in keeping a calm mind, and reducing symptoms of anxiety, palpitations and insomnia.”
Add to these amazing benefits the ability to regenerate brain cells and you have a powerful remedy indeed.
A Simple Decoction For Heart And Mind
Although many traditional Chinese medicines have not made it into the U.S. market, dan shen root has a strong chance of being proven capable by Western standards. Dan shen root is powerful enough to have strong effects on modern Western medicine. People who take warfarin, a blood thinning medicine, should not take dan shen root since both the herb and the modern medicine affect the blood in similar ways. As always, consult your healthcare practitioner in regards to your own needs. Dan shen root can be purchased and steeped in boiling water to make a delicious tea or decoction.
Kaitlyn Kelly is a freelance technical and science writer. When she is not currently obsessed with researching a topic, she enjoys hiking and swimming laps.
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