What is 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, scientific name of Salvia miltiorrhiza, 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 its benefits aren’t just based on old wives’ tales.

Danshen is a powerful herb with a lot of properties that could improve your health. It is currently going through trials and may even become the first traditional Chinese remedy to gain approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

So far, the studies that have been conducted do not provide enough evidence to be conclusive. Researchers, however, believe the herb shows promise in the following areas.


According to a study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, most traditional uses for danshen are for heart-related problems, such as:

  • angina
  • myocarditis
  • heart attack

Studies so far are inconclusive, but future results look promising. If your doctor recommends you take the herb, you may find that it helps alleviate chest pains. But 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, such as diabetic retinopathy or eye disease. Another study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that using danshen-dripping pills helped improve visual function in people with diabetic retinopathy.


When taken in pill form, red sage has also been shown to be effective in liver regeneration in rats, according to a study published in the journal Liver International. It might one day do the same for people with severe liver damage.

If you suffer from cirrhosis or other serious liver issues, ask your doctor if this herb might help you.

You can find danshen in the following forms:

  • capsules
  • tincture
  • tea

Don’t confuse it with the sage you have in your spice drawer. Red sage is very different from the 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. Also make sure there are no possible interactions with medications you are taking.

Danshen could be a 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.