Danshen is native to China and Japan, and has been found to prevent crystal formation in fruit flies. To investigate its clinical effect, researchers analysed patient databases from the Taiwan National Institute of Health.
The study included 8,568 patients who were orally prescribed with Danshen powder after their initial diagnosis, and 56,502 patients who did not use Danshen.
The researchers observed that the incidence of further surgical treatment in Danshen users was lower than that of non-Danshen users, with the incidence rate standing at 1.07% in 1,000 person-years, and 3.14% in 1,000 person-years respectively.
When stratifying by sex, the incidence of calculus surgical treatment in Danshen users was 0.69% in 1,000 person-years and 1.58% in 1,000 person-years for women and men respectively.
This was also lower than that of the non-Danshen users, which was 2.45% in 1,000 person-years and 4.07% in 1,000 person-years for women and men respectively. The effect was consistent in both sexes and among all age groups.
"We observed that Danshen significantly reduced the subsequent surgical treatment after the first stone episode,” the researchers wrote.
"Danshen may prove to be clinically effective for those having stone disease and seeking a measure to prevent further surgical treatment," they added.
Urolithiasis has an annual incidence of 1% to 5% in Asia. In Taiwan, the occurrence rate is higher than the whole of Asia, with the annual incidence standing at 6.4%.
The disorder is associated with numerous chronic diseases, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and coronary artery disease. This correlation is most likely the result of a common pathophysiological mechanism.
Furthermore, urolithiasis has a high reccurrence rate, with over half of patients suffering a re-occurrence five years after their first treatment. The researchers thus noted that "the prevention of stone recurrence is an important issue".
Tendency to increase bleeding?
Due to its anti-platelet effect, the researchers noted that Danshen may increase patients' bleeding tendency. However, after studying the possibility bleeding problems caused by Danshen, they reported that it was unlikely to cause haemorrhage.
"We did not find any incidence involving haemorrhage or any transfusion event in this cohort. This result suggests that long-term use of Danshen may prove to be safe, without any bleeding disorder."
Currently, Danshen is used to treat blood stasis, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and ischaemic stroke, due to its ability to promote blood circulation.
Source: Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
"Treatment of Urolithiasis with Medicinal Plant Salvia miltiorrhiza: A Nationwide Cohort Study"
Authors: Chen WC, et al.