Purpose: Danshen is the dried root extract of the plant Salvia Miltiorrhiza and it is used as traditional Chinese medicinal herbal product to prevent and treat atherosclerosis. However, its efficacy has not been thoroughly investigated. This study evaluates the effect of Danshen on hyperlipidemia and hypertension, two well known risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis.
Methods: This was a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study performed at a tertiary referral center. Participants were recruited by newspaper advertisement and randomized to treatment with Danshen (water-extract of the Salvia Miltiorrhiza root) or placebo for 4 consecutive weeks. There was a wash out period of 4 weeks. Of the 20 analysed participants, 11 received placebo first. Inclusion criteria were: age 40-70 years, hyperlipidemia and hypertension. At the end of each treatment period, plasma lipids were determined (primary outcome), 24 hours ambulant blood pressure measurement (ABPM) was performed, and vasodilator endothelial function was assessed in the forearm.
Results: LDL cholesterol levels were 3.82±0.14 mmol/l after Danshen and 3.52±0.16 mmol/l after placebo treatment (mean±SE; p<0.05 for treatment effect corrected for baseline). Danshen treatment had no effect on blood pressure (ABPM 138/84 after Danshen and 136/87 after placebo treatment). These results were further substantiated by the observation that Danshen had neither an effect on endothelial function nor on markers of inflammation, oxidative stress, glucose metabolism, hemostasis and blood viscosity.
Conclusion: Four weeks of treatment with Danshen (water-extract) slightly increased LDL-cholesterol without affecting a wide variety of other risk markers. These observations do not support the use of Danshen to prevent or treat atherosclerosis.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01563770.