Salvia Amber aka An Shen Ding Zhi?
January 29, 2018 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I can't find much online about whether this is effective or, indeed, safe. Anyone used it?

A friend was prescribed Salvia/Amber tablets for anxiety by I guess either an herbalist or a Chinese medicine specialist. Chinese medicine prescribed in the US has a whiff of woo about it...I'm pretty non-woo, but sometimes willing to try stuff, and I do get bad anxiety at times. So on a whim, I ordered some.

However, what I do see online about salvia is that it can cause brief dissociation bordering on psychosis, which does not seem good for anxiety, to say the least. And I'm seeing very little else about it other than places to order it.

Any experience/knowledge about amber/salvia (An Shen Ding Zhi)? I don't want to be that dolt who's like "the name is in another language so it must have mystical healing properties!"
posted by Smearcase to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What you've read about salvia sounds like descriptions of smoking it for the high. I don't think that's what's been prescribed for your friend.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:42 AM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't know anything about this pill, but I am pretty confident you're going in the wrong direction by reading about the hallucinogenic drug called salvia (Salvia divinorum).

Salvia is a genus of plants that includes everything from chia seeds to cooking sage.
posted by noxperpetua at 8:48 AM on January 29, 2018 [14 favorites]

Here is a Salvia species used in TCM. Dan Shen sounds close to An Shen...

Salvia miltiorrhiza (Dan Shen)

The root of Salvia miltiorrhiza (dan shen), the Traditional Chinese Medicine species of sage, is used medicinally. Its primary constituents are diterpene quinines (known as tanshinones) and phenolic compounds

This and other Salvia spp. discussed here, a "naturopathic" website that is not really reliable for any medical treatment or diagnosis, but I do personally trust that they are right that this species of Salvia is used in TCM and contains those compounds.

Wikipedia has some more info on compounds contained, and a some links to medical research (saying the research is generally poor and scarce, and "no evidence that Dan Shen agents has any benefit for acute ischaemic stroke.").

TLDR: probably not especially dangerous when taken as directed by a professional. May help some people with some conditions, but its usage as a treatment for any specific condition does not seem to be currently supported by any clinical research.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:59 AM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

The "medicines" I find when I google An Shen Ding Zhi do not appear to contain salvia. The salvia often used in TCM is Salvia miltiorrhiza, and is called dan shen in Mandarin.
posted by bradf at 9:02 AM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

These are most likely the same pills. The salvia in them is apparently called 'dan shen' in Chinese, which is the root of the red sage plant, salvia miltiorrhiza.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:02 AM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

IANAD, IANATCMD (TCM=Traditional Chinese Medicine)

"an shen" roughly means "relax nerves". A quick look in my dictionary shows a medical meaning for "ding zhi" of "stabilize the will". So I think the name is a description of the purpose of the medicine rather than the ingredients.

There are a number of types of "an shen jiao nang" (relax nerve capsule) sold in China which have a variety formulations."dan shen" as mentioned by folks above, is one common ingredient in these, as is "zao ren" (sour date). I'm sure there are other commonly used ingredients. Who knows what's in the ones your friend has :)

I can offer anecdata on a "relax nerve capsule" containing zao ren and dan shen that I took a number of times. It did help me to relax and sleep, and so far as I know there were no bad side effects.
posted by duoshao at 9:20 AM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

In case it's helpful to compare against the label, here are the characters for what I mentioned:

安神 an shen, relax nerves
定志 ding zhi, stabilize the will
胶囊 jiao nang, capsule
枣仁 zao ren, sour date
丹参 dan shen, the salvia variant mentioned by showbiz_liz
posted by duoshao at 9:27 AM on January 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

And consider the risk that what you ordered is not what you received. In one study,

We recovered DNA barcodes from most herbal products (91%) and all leaf samples (100%), with 95% species resolution using a tiered approach (rbcL + ITS2). Most (59%) of the products tested contained DNA barcodes from plant species not listed on the labels. Although we were able to authenticate almost half (48%) of the products, one-third of these also contained contaminants and or fillers not listed on the label. Product substitution occurred in 30/44 of the products tested and only 2/12 companies had products without any substitution, contamination or fillers. Some of the contaminants we found pose serious health risks to consumers.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:30 AM on January 29, 2018

I don't want to derail, but you know what is proven to work for anxiety, and is legal in California? Cannabis. I have found a high CBD, low THC strain best for my generalized anxiety disorder. Also, I know exactly what is in it without having to guess or hope or engage a translator. Cannabis is in it. OK, derail off.
posted by seasparrow at 1:08 PM on January 29, 2018

Not really derailing, and I do like CBD better than the other stuff, but it doesn't do quite what I need it to and it's also legal in a more limited way. (Not going to use it during the work day, par example.)
posted by Smearcase at 2:36 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

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