The objective of the present study was to evaluate the cardiovascular protective effects of Danshensu, a water-soluble active component of Danshen, in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). SHR (male, 9 weeks old, n=30) were divided into three groups: 1) saline control (n=10); 2) a Danshensu (10 mg/kg/d, intraperitoneally (i.p.)) treatment group (n=10); and 3) a Valsartan (10 mg/kg/d, intragastrically (i.g.)) treatment group (n=10). Age-matched Wistar-Kyoto rats (n=10) were used as normotensive controls. Saline and drug treatments were administered for 6 weeks. When the rats were 15 weeks old, their hearts were excised and arrhythmias were induced by an ex vivo ischemia/reperfusion protocol. The heart weight to body weight index was significantly increased in SHR, and this increase was attenuated with Danshensu treatment (both p<0.05). Systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure were also decreased with Danshensu treatment, from 145±3 and 103±10 mmHg to 116±7 and 87±2 mmHg in SHR and Danshensu-treated groups, respectively (both p<0.05). The incidences of ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation decreased from 100 to 50% and 30% in SHR, respectively, with Danshensu treatment (both p<0.05). Serum nitric oxide content and inducible nitric oxide synthase activity were significantly increased with Danshensu (both p<0.05). In addition, Danshensu increased the K(+) current density and Ca(2+) activated K(+) channel current density of mesenteric vascular smooth muscle cells isolated from SHRs. Together, these results demonstrate that Danshensu imparts cardiovascular protection by modifying vascular responses during the progression of hypertension.