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The General Situation and Progress of the Modern Research of Red Sage Root (Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae)

DU Guan-hua, ZHANG Jun-tian (Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical University, Beijing 100050, China)  
Red sage root (Radix salviae miltiorrhizae) is one of the common traditional Chinese medicines clinically used to treat cardiovascular diseases for thousands of years. Indications of red sage root documented in the ancient Chinese pharmacopoeia or monographs are to promote blood circulation and remove blood stasis in the treatment of dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, abdominal masses due to stasis of blood, carbuncles and ulcers. Red sage root has also been used in the treatment of coronary heart disease. Major progress has been achieved in the recent research of red sage root with respect to its biological features, chemical constituents, pharmacological effects, mechanisms of action, clinical preparation and clinical application. It has been shown that red sage roots from different growing areas may have distinct differences in their chemical constituents, and this is the main reason why their clinical therapeutic effects vary. Red sage root contains many kinds of chemical constituents, which may be classified into 2 major groups of chemical compounds, namely tashinones and salvionolic acids. Most of the tashinone compounds are provided with a diterpine struclure. More than 30 kinds of tashinone compounds have so far been separated and identified. Different salvionolic acids are mostly provided with a phenolic acid structure. More than 20 kinds of salvionolic acids with identified structures have been demonstrated. These chemical compounds compose the active principles of red sage root and the material basis for the drug to exert its therapeutic effects. The major pharmacological effects of the active principles of red sage root are manifested in many aspects. The main effects of tanshinone compounds are to promote blood circulation, combat bacteria and counteract inflammation, while the most prominent effects of salvionolic acid compounds have been shown to be antioxidation, anti-blood coagulation and cell protection. Many drugs derived from red sage root have been developed for clinical application. These include more than 20 kinds of injections and oral medicines separately used in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, skin diseases and diseases of the liver and kindney with promising therapeutic effects.
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