Review article

Salvia miltiorrhiza Burge (Danshen): a golden herbal medicine in cardiovascular therapeutics

Authors: Zhuo-ming LI1, Suo-wen XU2, Pei-qing LIU1
1 Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences; National and Local United Engineering Lab of Druggability and New Drugs Evaluation, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510006, China
2 Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York, 14642, USA
Corresponding to: Pei-qing LIU:,
DOI: 10.1038/aps.2017.193
Received: 29 October 2017
Accepted: 31 December 2017
Advance online: 26 April 2018


Salvia miltiorrhiza Burge (Danshen) is an eminent medicinal herb that possesses broad cardiovascular and cerebrovascular protective actions and has been used in Asian countries for many centuries. Accumulating evidence suggests that Danshen and its components prevent vascular diseases, in particular, atherosclerosis and cardiac diseases, including myocardial infarction, myocardial ischemia/ reperfusion injury, arrhythmia, cardiac hypertrophy and cardiac fibrosis. The published literature indicates that lipophilic constituents (tanshinone I, tanshinone IIa, tanshinone IIb, cryptotanshinone, dihydrotanshinone, etc) as well as hydrophilic constituents (danshensu, salvianolic acid A and B, protocatechuic aldehyde, etc) contribute to the cardiovascular protective actions of Danshen, suggesting a potential synergism among these constituents. Herein, we provide a systematic up-to-date review on the cardiovascular actions and therapeutic potential of major pharmacologically active constituents of Danshen. These bioactive compounds will serve as excellent drug candidates in small-molecule cardiovascular drug discovery. This article also provides a scientific rationale for understanding the traditional use of Danshen in cardiovascular therapeutics.
Keywords: Salvia miltiorrhiza Burge; Danshen; cardiovascular diseases; herbal medicine; traditional Chinese medicine