Some of the major components of Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza), a widely used Chinese herbal medicine rich in phenolic acids, are thermosensitive and may degrade to other phenolic acids during extractions with heating. The chemical profiles of Danshen water-extract may vary with different heat water extraction at different temperatures, affecting the composition and bioactivity of the extracts. In this study, six water-extracts of Danshen obtained from heat reflux water extraction and microwave-assisted extraction with water (MAE-W) at different temperatures were tested for their composition and pharmacological effects. Among these extracts, the third-round MAE-W (100°C) extract had the highest phenolic acids and tanshinones contents, with the strongest antioxidant activity in 2,2-diphenyl-1-(2,4,6-trinitrophenyl) hydrazyl (DPPH) assay and ferric reducing/antioxidant potential (FRAP) assay. This extract also showed the strongest inhibitory effects on 2,2'-azobis-2-amidinopropane (AAPH)-induced hemolysis in human red blood cells, hydrogen peroxide-induced apoptosis in rat heart H9c2 cells and the highest relaxation effects on rat basilar artery. The antioxidant effects of Danshen water-extracts linearly correlated to their relaxation effects (r=0.895-0.977). Through multiple linear regression analysis, danshensu was found to be the most significant marker in the antioxidant and vasodilation effects of Danshen water-extract, while tanshinone IIA as the marker on hydrogen peroxide-induced apoptosis in rat heart H9c2 cells. Danshensu is, therefore, a useful marker for the quality control of Danshen water-extracts in antioxidant and vasodilation, while tanshinone IIA for anti-apoptotic potential of different extracts.
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