A few weeks ago I posted photos of a little mad scientist tincture dubbed the “Heart Cleanser.” The ingredients included Chinese herbs Dan Shen (Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae) and Hong Jing Tian (Radix Rhodiola Crenulate). Since then, I’ve shared the tincture with friends and colleagues to get feedback on what it tastes like and how it feels.
Half a vial squirted on the tongue brings out flavors that are sweet, cold, bitter and then a puckering tannic. Very astringent. Interesting as the Tibetan Rhodiola I had in China wasn’t nearly as intense. In fact, I remember taking the bitter decoction between clinic shifts in Henan. A mugful of the freshly boiled Rhodiola would leave me feeling relaxed yet energized – a feeling I could get used to.
My reason for putting these two herbs together comes from my clinical experience in Henan as both cardiologists and gynecologists alike used the combination to treat a variety of diseases. Looking at some of the research below, it’s easy to understand why.
Radix Rhodiola Crenulate 红景天
- Anti-oxidant effect: it can protect the liver from damages caused by a lipid type of peroxide.
- Lower blood sugar: it inhibits the increase of glycogen caused by glucose and epinephrine.
- Improves memory that has been damaged by drug or alcohol.
- Adjusts the blood flow of the CNS.
- Increases the flow volume of oxygen-carrying blood to the heart muscle; thus protects the muscle from damage caused by lack of oxygen.
- Anti-hypoxia: It may prevent hypoxia-induced biological changes by either increasing intracellular oxygen diffusion and efficiency of oxygen utilization or reducing hypoxia-induced oxidative damage with its anti-oxidative ability; thus prevents high altitude sickness.
- Helps prevent strokes caused by hypertension.
- Improves exercise endurance3It has been used to improve or maintain endurance performance of athletes during training or competition by increasing biological factors associated with oxygen uptake. In-vivo experiments have shown that oral treatment with R. rosea extracts in rats can significantly prolong the duration of long-distance swimming and activate the synthesis or re-synthesis of ATP in mitochondria, which acts as the main energy source for most cellular functions and is essential for locomotion and respiration.
- Anti-depression – Rhodiola rosea L. roots have potent anti-depressant activity by inhibiting MAO A and may also find application in the control of senile dementia by their inhibition of MAO B.
- Rhodiola can replenish Qi, clear the Lung system, nourish the Heart system, enhance mental functioning, stop bleeding, and dissipate swelling and bruises. Clinically, it is indicated for conditions like general weakness after major illness, chest pain or angina, paralysis caused by stroke, fatigue, shortness of breath, traumatic injuries, and neurosis in addition to high altitude sickness.
- Consumption of a small amount of Rhodiola extract significantly improves a person’s capacity to absorb and utilize oxygen.
Source: American Dragon
Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae 丹参
- Chest pain (angina). Early research suggests that taking danshen by mouth for up to 6 months is as effective as isosorbide dinitrate for reducing chest pain inheart disease patients.
- Bronchitis. Early research suggests that injecting danshen in addition to usual treatment reduces symptoms of chronic asthmatic bronchitis and improves lung function after 3-4 days. However, by day 10, adding danshen to conventional therapy does not seem to produce additional benefit.
- High cholesterol. Early research suggests that adding danshen acupoint injections to lipid-lowering medications for 30 days decreases total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol, and certain blood fats calledtriglycerides it people with high cholesterol. It also seems to help increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol.
- A type of stroke caused by a blood clot (ischemic stroke). Early research shows that receiving danshen by mouth or injecting danshen intravenously (by IV) might improve brain function after an ischemic stroke.
- Kidney transplant. Early research suggests that receiving an injection with danshen for 10 days along with usual treatment improves kidney function after a kidney transplant, but does not reduce the risk of a transplant rejection.
- Blood circulation problems.
- Menstrual problems.
- Abdominal masses.
- Sleeplessness (insomnia) .
- Skin conditions.
- Chronic liver inflammation (hepatitis).
- Wound healing.
In my guinea pig experience, this combination did appear to target the chest in a very cooling, maybe even drying way. I say drying because I remember having a short, dry cough once after taking it. For this reason, I’m thinking it would be best used for hot, gooey phlegm in the chest – whether that means in the lung with bronchitis symptoms or possibly in the heart with some kind of myocarditis with plaque.
Taking this tincture without those symptoms (especially long-term) will more than likely present with side-effects and other herbs may be necessary to create a healthy balance. Such is the nature of Chinese herbal formulas! I can already think of adding cinnamon twigs to add a little warmth, a dried fruit called Gua Lou to add moisture and maybe even some Dong Gui to nourish and protect the blood.
This logic is probably why traditional Chinese herbalists never chose tinctures over decoctions. At the end of the day, decoctions are essentially soups for herbalists to slow cook and tweak to get just the right balance. Tinctures are effective but obviously prepared and used in a different way.
Regardless, the project was a lot of fun and I hope to do more mad scientist combinations in months to come.