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Dan Shen

English Name: Chinese salvia root, red sage root

Literal Translation: “red ginseng”

Pharmaceutical Name: Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae

Medica Category: Blood-Invigorating and Stasis-Removing Herbs

Properties: Dan Shen enters the Heart, Pericardium, and Liver channels; it is bitter in nature and cool in temperature.

What is Dan Shen?:

The Chinese Herb Dan Shen is the dried red sage root (aka Chinese sage root– Salvia milttiorrhiza Bge.), a forest grassland plant native to China that flowers in the springtime with spikes of purple flowers. The roots are dug up in the late fall and cleaned, sliced, and dried for use as medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Therapeutic Actions of Dan Shen:

Dan Shen is one of the most commonly used herbs in TCM to activate (invigorate) blood circulation and dispel blood stasis. It lowers blood viscosity and increases perfusion of blood to the vital organs of the body (including the brain, heart, and kidneys) and has a broad scope of clinical applications, to include addressing:

  • gynecological disorders characterized by blood stagnation, such as amenorrhea and irregular menstruation (often with sharp, stabbing, fixed abdominal pain) and postpartum abdominal pain;
  • chest, epigastric, and abdominal pain characterized by stifling sensations and tightness or constriction that has at its root reduced blood flow to the heart.
  • palpable masses in the abdomen as well as enlargement of the liver and spleen (due to blood stasis creating accumulations).
  • traumatic injuries with bruising and swelling.

Dan Shen cools the blood to reduce swelling and pain in sores and abscesses (esp. early-stage breast abscesses).

Dan Shen has a secondary function to cool and nourish Heart blood, thereby calming the Shen (Spirit) to address insomnia and palpitations.

–safety notes:

Contraindicated during pregnancy

Use with caution for patients taking anticoagulants such as heparin, warfarin (Coumadin) and enoxaparin (Lovenox) or antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin, dipyridamole (Persantine) and clopidogrel (Plavix) as concurrent use may have an additive or synergistic effect.

This herb has digoxin-like immunoreactivity. Concurrent use may result in falsely elevated or falsely lowered serum digoxin concentration.

Note for students/practitioners: Dr Joel Penner (of American Dragon) lists several cautions and contraindications regarding the use of Dan Shen (relating to a person’s existing pattern of imbalances) which should be taken into account before using this herb with a client.

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