Salvia miltiorrhiza: A Natural Remedy for Angina and Other Cardiovascular Ailments

We live in a country where cardiovascular disease is the chief cause of death and disability in the United States. Yet, most people live in fear of getting cancer and a host of age-related diseases. But there’s plenty you can do to lower your risk of succumbing to the perils of modern life…in addition to exercising regularly, eating a whole foods, low-carb diet, managing stress, and taking vitamin and mineral supplements.

Researchers around the world are continually discovering how plant extracts counteract disease and chronic health conditions.

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The traditional Chinese remedy Salvia miltiorrhiza, also known as “danshen”, is one such plant that is attracting attention in the West as an overall excellent support for cardiovascular health. It contains several unique phytochemicals (tanshinoates and salvianolic acids) with cardioprotective and antioxidant properties, and has been widely used in Chinese medicine for numerous cardiovascular disorders.

In fact, according to one report, Salvia has “revolutionized the management of angina, heart attack and stroke in Chinese society.”1 The majority of research on Salvia has been on its heart protective properties, especially in cases of angina (a condition where inadequate oxygen is available to the heart muscle itself), heart attack and stroke.

Salvia dilates arteries and blood vessels, increasing blood flow. This is very significant, because strokes and heart attacks are caused by blood platelets that aggregate and form clots. A heart attack occurs when one of the coronary arteries becomes severely or totally blocked, usually by a blood clot.

Most strokes are caused by an abrupt blockage of arteries leading to the brain (ischemic stroke). Other strokes are caused by bleeding into brain tissue when a blood vessel bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). Studies indicate that Salvia actually dilates the coronary arteries and peripheral blood vessels, reducing excessive platelet aggregation.2 This, in turn, increases blood flow, reducing risk of heart attack and stroke.

Scavenges free radicals

At the People’s Hospital of Yichun District, Jiangxi, China, 24 patients with coronary heart disease (CHD) were treated with Salvia and tested for changes in serum lipid peroxide (LPO), and superoxide dismutase (SOD).

Lipid peroxides are the products of the chemical damage done by free radicals to the lipid components of cell membranes. This oxidative damage is believed to be a basic mechanism underlying many diseases, chronic health problems, and even aging, and may rear its ugly head in the forms of cancer, rheumatic diseases, allergic inflammation, or cardiovascular disease, to name a few. High LPO levels indicates excessive oxygen free radical lipid peroxidation…and a greater potential for disease and health problems.

The test results of the Chinese patients’ SOD and LPO levels were compared to those of a control group of 20 healthy patients. Before treatment with Salvia, the serum LPO levels of the ill patients were significantly higher in comparison to the levels of the control group, and their SOD levels were lower. After the patients received Salvia, their LPO levels decreased and SOD activity increased significantly.

The researchers concluded that the Salvia inhibited platelet aggregation, reduced blood viscosity, and improved myocardial ischemia (insufficient blood flow to the heart). They also suggested that Salvia is an excellent antioxidant.3 Another study done at the Nanjing Steelworks Hospital, China found similar results. Thirty patients with chronic cardiopulmonary disease who were treated with Salvia showed a decrease in LPO, along with a significant increase in SOD and two other antioxidant enzymes, catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GDH-Px).4

Reduces blood viscosity, cholesterol and lipoproteins

In another Chinese study, pregnant patients with hypertension were treated for 10 days with an intravenous solution containing Salvia. They all had an indisputable reduction of blood viscosity, cholesterol and lipoproteins5 (compounds of protein that carry fats and fat-like substances, such as cholesterol, in the blood)-significant factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease.

Is a potential remedy for angina

An in-vitro study at the Yamanashi Medical University, Japan found that a Salvia preparation was comparable to a typical calcium channel blocker, Verapamil, in its effect to increase coronary blood flow. Since angina, or chest pain, occurs when blood flow to the heart is restricted, the researchers concluded that Salvia has potential for use with patients who suffer from angina.6

Salvia also:

  • Contains potent antioxidants that prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol7
  • Promotes the production of nitric oxide-an important promoter of blood flow8
  • Protects the hearts of patients with cardiovascular disease from damage during surgery9
  • Has been shown to be more effective than nitroglycerin for improving heart function and circulation10
  • Improves survival rate after heart attack11
  • Helps keep arteries open after balloon angioplasty12

More amazing benefits

While Salvia has primarily been studied for its potential role in preventing and treating cardiovascular disease, recent research has shown other significant health benefits from Salvia. The potent antioxidants and phytochemicals in Salvia have been studied for their effect on bone loss caused by estrogen deficiency in animals. Amazingly, Salvia completely prevented bone loss.13

In the case of brain health, Salvia has been shown to have a dramatic protective effect against the Amyloid Protein believed to play a pivotal role in Alzheimer’s Disease. Importantly, Salvia inhibited BOTH the formation of damaging amyloid “fibrils”, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the neurotoxicity of amyloid protein.14


Salvia should not be taken by patients taking any anticoagulant drug such as Warfarin (Coumadin), Heparin, or Ticlopidine, because bleeding complications could occur.15 Inform your physician or dentist prior to any surgical or dental procedure, if you take Salvia.

Take these supplements to give your heart the support and energy it needs!

For added cardiovascular support, in addition to Salvia, we recommend folic acid, B6, B12, CoQ10, Hawthorn, Taurine, Notoginseng, Astragalus, Emblica, Red Wine Polyphenols. Now available in one convenient, affordable supplement. (Please see Cardio Companion)


Cardiovascular disease is a bane of modern existence. Although modern science has not produced a silver bullet, we can feel confident that by combining nutritional supplements with a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, an excellent diet, and tools for stress reduction, it is possible to kick the number one killer in the United States.


  1. Ji XY, Tan BK, Zhu YZ. Salvia miltiorrhiza and ischemic diseases.Acta Pharmacol Sin 2000 Dec;21(12):1089-94.
  2. Li Lianda, Liu Ganzhong and Sun Hong, Drugs for activating blood circulation to remove blood stasis, in Zhou Jinhuang and Liu Ganzhong (editors), Recent Advances in Chinese Herbal Drugs-Actions and Uses, 1991 Science Press, Beijing; pp. 197-210.
  3. Xing ZQ, Zeng XC, Yi CT. [Effect of Salvia miltiorrhiza on serum lipid peroxide, superoxide dismutase of the patients with coronary heart disease] [Article in Chinese] Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1996 May;16(5):287-8.
  4. Zhang PT, Chen ZR. [Effect of Salvia miltiorrhiza on lipid peroxidation antioxidant enzymes activity in patients with chronic cor pulmonale] [Article in Chinese] Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1994 Aug;14(8):474-7.
  5. Wang XF, Zhao MQ. [Ligustrazine and Salvia miltiorrhiza injection solution in complementary therapy of pregnancy-induced hypertension: clinical analysis of 60 cases] [Article in Chinese] Di Yi Jun Yi Da Xue Xue Bao. 2003 Sep;23(9):969-71.
  6. Sugiyama A, Zhu BM, Takahara A, Satoh Y, Hashimoto K. Cardiac effects of salvia miltiorrhiza/dalbergia odorifera mixture, an intravenously applicable Chinese medicine widely used for patients with ischemic heart disease in China. Circ J. 2002 Feb;66(2):182-4.
  7. O K, Lynn EG, Vazhappilly R, Au-Yeung KK, Zhu DY, Siow YL, Magnesium tanshinoate B (MTB) inhibits low density lipoprotein oxidation, Life Sci. 2001 Jan 12;68(8):903-12.
  8. O K, Cheung F, Sung FL, Zhu DY, Siow YL. Effect of magnesium tanshinoate B on the production of nitric oxide in endothelial cells.Mol Cell Biochem 2000 Apr;207(1-2):35-9.
  9. Zhou S, Shao W, Duan C. Observation of preventing and treating effect of Salvia miltiorrhiza composita on patients with ischemic coronary heart disease undergoing non-heart surgery. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 1999 Feb;19(2):75-6.
  10. Bai YR, Wang SZ. Hemodynamic study on nitroglycerin compared with Salvia miltiorrhiza. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 1994 Jan;14(1):24-5, 4.
  11. Ji X, Tan BK, Zhu YC, Linz W, Zhu YZ. Comparison of cardioprotective effects using ramipril and DanShen for the treatment of acute myocardial infarction in rats. Life Sci. 2003 Aug 1;73(11):1413-26.
  12. Zhang T, Du L, Cui P. [Experimental study of hirudo and Salvia miltiorrhiza on smooth muscle cell hyperplasia after balloon angioplasty] [Article in Chinese] Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1998 Mar;18(3):159-61.
  13. Chae HJ, Chae SW, Yun DH, Keum KS, Yoo SK, Kim HR, Prevention of bone loss in ovariectomized rats: the effect of Salvia miltiorrhiza extracts. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2004 Feb;26(1):135-44
  14. Tang MK, Zhang JT, Salvianolic acid B inhibits fibril formation and neurotoxicity of amyloid beta-protein in vitro, Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2001 Apr;22(4):380-4.
  15. Chan TY. Interaction between warfarin and danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza). Ann Pharmacother. 2001 Apr;35(4):501-4.

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