Red Sage

When you're dealing with a serious, chronic issue, there are countless alternative and complementary medicines that claim to be able to manage symptoms. Are any of them right for you? Danshen, sometimes called red sage, has been used for centuries to help treat a wide range of medical concerns, from high cholesterol to type 2 diabetes. There's some evidence that it's more than just an old wives’ tale.

Did You Know?
Danshen is called “red” sage because of the color of its roots.

Danshen is a powerful herb with a lot of wonderful qualities that could improve your health. It may even be the first traditional Chinese remedy to gain approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is currently going through trials. Most studies so far have been conducted on rats and weren't high quality enough to be conclusive, but researchers believe the herb shows promise.

The Heart

Most traditional uses for danshen are related to heart-related problems like angina, myocarditis, and heart attacks. The studies that have been conducted so far haven't been conclusive, but they're promising. If your doctor approves of you taking the herb, you may find that it helps alleviate chest pains. However, you shouldn't rely on it solely. Make sure you're considering all aspects of your medical needs before incorporating it into your regimen.


Several studies suggest that danshen can help protect you against some of the secondary concerns associated with diabetes, like diabetic retinopathy, or eye disease. One recent study found that using danshen-dripping pills helped improve visual function in people with diabetic retinopathy.

The Liver

When taken in pill form, red sage has also been shown to be effective in liver regeneration in rats. It might do the same for people with severe liver damage. If you suffer from cirrhosis or other serious liver issues and are in need of treatment, ask your doctor if this herb could help you.

Where Can I Find Red Sage?

You can find danshen in capsule form, as a tincture, and sometimes as a tea. But don't confuse it with the sage you have in your spice drawer. Red sage is very different from the white sage you probably use for cooking.

Since danshen hasn't gone through FDA approval, there is no agreed-upon safe dose. Check with your doctor to see how much you should take or if there are any drug interactions you need to be mindful of. For example, it has an anti-clotting property, so you probably shouldn’t take it if you’re on blood thinners. Most medications for anxiety and depression could make you sleepy when mixed with danshen. 

Common pain relievers and warfarin can react negatively with red sage, too. Be sure to avoid it if you're taking these, or if you're pregnant or nursing. The side effects can be serious, like bleeding or lowered blood pressure.

Danshen could be a really positive addition to your existing care plan if you introduce it carefully and keep all factors in mind. As with any supplement, make sure to talk with your doctor before taking this herb and stick to the prescribed amount your doctor recommends.