Salvia miltiorrhiza / Red Sage: Herbal Remedy for Lung Disease 


Raffi Kojian /

Red sage has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. In TCM, it is also known as Danshen. Red Sage promotes blood circulation which is valuable in treating lung disease and preventing the downward spiral that can happen when the lungs are no longer able to take and distribute as much oxygen to the other organs of the body via the blood. It also acts to relieve pain and restlessness. Recently, this herbal remedy for has come to light as a potentially effective remedy for lung disorders and respiratory system problems, including: 


Specifically, the compound found in red sage known as tanshinone II has been noted for its therapeutic efficacy in the treatment of respiratory disorders. This particular compound reduces inflammation by inhibiting neutrophil response. Tanshinone I also has healing properties and has been noted specifically for its anti-cancer properties, especially in regard to the treatment of lung adenocarcinoma, breast cancer, and colon cancer. Salvianolate is another compound present in red sage that may have actions against lung adenocarcinoma. 


One study compared the efficacy of red sage combined with ligustrazine (an extract from the plant Ligusticum wallichii which is also present along with red sage in the Qingre huoxue herbal mixture used in Traditional Chinese Medicine) with the efficacy of dexamethasone in the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in rats. Higher doses of red sage and ligustrazine (I’ll refer to this combo as “SML”) led to alleviation of lung damage. Some specific observations included fewer inflammatory cells and improved collagen deposition in the lung tissues. These changes were observed between days 14-28 of treatment with the SML combo. The positive changes to lung health during this portion of the study were comparable to the effects of dexamethasone but with fewer side effects. 

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The same study observed that the SML combo led to overall lower levels of various cytokines, including Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-a), a cytokine often implicated in cytokine storm syndrome. This is important since cytokines are implicated in the development of interstitial fibrosis, as well as in the development of ARDS and more severe forms of illness or infection.


In the study discussed above, no side effects were observed from treatment with red sage and ligustrazine. In contrast, the authors of the study noted that dexamethasone can and does have side effects for many people, and that these effects are undesirable.


Another study observed that a different compound present in red sage, salvianolic acid C, may be able to prevent infection with COVID-19 and the subsequent health problems that it can pose, such as acute lung inflammation (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The study acknowledged that this plant has powerful antiviral effects in addition to its ability to repair respiratory problems caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The plant inhibits entry of the virus into healthy cells and reduced inflammatory cytokines in serum and lung tissues.In this study, the rats were administered Danshensu from red sage orally at a dose of 25 mg/kg, 50 mg/kg, or 100 mg/kg over the course of 7 days before being exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A different group of rats were given the same quantity only once via IV administration.


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Tian, Huixiang, et. al. (2021). Effects of Salvia miltiorrhiza on lung adenocarcinoma. Retrieved April 18, 2022 from: 


Huang, Chengliang, et. al. (2018). Combination of Salvia miltiorrhiza and ligustrazine attenuates bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis in rats via modulating TNF-a and TGF-b. Retrieved April 18, 2022 from: 


Wang, Wei, et. al. (2021). Danshensu alleviates pseudo-typed SARS-CoV-2 induced mouse acute lung inflammation. Retrieved April 18 2022 from: