Red sage: characteristics, uses and benefits

Red sage stands out in natural medicine for its abundant content of polyphenols. We tell you what its main applications are.

Last update: 05 February, 2022

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

According to a review published in 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

Asian red sage (S. miltiorrhiza) It is a perennial plant of the genus Sageoriginally from 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.

Asian Red Sage Uses and Benefits

The pharmacological properties of Asian red sage have been used in oriental medicine. However, as detailed in a post on 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.

Cardiovascular health

Due to its high content of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, red sage It has been used as a natural remedy to promote cardiovascular health. According to research in Frontiers in Pharmacologytwo substances called tanshinone IIA Y salvianolate are the main 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, in another animal study published in Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine it was determined that the extracts of this plant also have the potential to aid in rehabilitation after a heart attack or a stroke. Although more evidence is required, the results are promising.

Heart health could be greatly favored by red sage and its consumption.

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 International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that red sage extracts they have hepatoprotective potential against alcohol-induced liver injury. Another study in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity determined that salvianolic acid —present in this plant— helps protect hepatocytes against damage caused by paracetamol overdose.

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


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 in Phytomedicinethe researchers concluded that the Salvia miltiorrhiza can represent a new strategy for the prevention and treatment of diabetes. According to what has been observed, the plant helps regulate high blood sugar levels. Still, more clinical trials are needed to assess its safety.

Risks and contraindications of Asian 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 effectiveness, the general recommendation is to avoid its intake 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.

The interference of this plant in coagulation could mean an interaction with anticoagulant drugs, so the combination with them is not recommended.

How is red sage consumed?

In the market, Asian red sage is available as 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?

Asian red sage 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 sparingly, 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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