The Taiwan Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) has developed a technique for cultivating danshen, or red-rooted salvia that is an important ingredient in medicines, a researcher announced yesterday.
The plant is used to make preparations for treating a wide variety of diseases.
Danshen, also known as salvia miltiorrhiza, or red-rooted sage, is used locally by pharmaceutical companies producing expensive Western and traditional Chinese medicines, TARI researcher Lin Yi-kung (林義恭) said.
Taiwanese pharmaceutical companies import as much as NT$6 million (US$178,000) worth of the plant each year to use in medicinal preparations.
Extract of danshen is made mainly from the roots of the plant, which the institute harvests in late January after a cultivation period of 18 months to ensure a maximum content of tanshinone IIA, an active ingredient from which salvianolic acid B can be extracted, Lin said.
Besides the roots, researchers have been extracting salvianolioc acid B from the plants’ leaves.
Using a specially designed extraction system, TARI can produce salvianolic acid B of a purity of up to 98 percent — much higher than that of the imported variety, which mainly comes from China — from the red-rooted salvia cultivated at the TARI base.
Lin said that the base is located in Wufeng Township (霧峰) in Taichung County.
TARI will be pleased to transfer the technique to interested parties in Taiwan, he said.
Danshen is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine — often in combination with other medicinal herbs — to treat a diversity of ailments, particularly cardiovascular disorders such as hardening of the arteries and blood clotting.
Extract of danshen is also widely used in pharmaceutical preparations for asthmatic bronchitis, glaucoma, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes and lung cancer.
A Ministry of Economic Affairs survey found that danshen was the most often used Chinese herb in terms of single, isolated ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine preparations, as well as being one of the most studied medicinal herbs, second only to ginseng.
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