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Herbal Medicine Used For Chinese Stroke Patients Lacks Strong Evidence

Armen Hareyan's picture

The herbal medicine Dan Shen, a standard treatment for ischemic stroke in China, lacks strong scientific evidence to support such use.

Nevertheless, based on the available data, Dan Shen treatment showed a tendency to improve short-term neurological deficits in stroke patients, say researchers at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China.

However, the short-term result "should be interpreted cautiously because of the poor methodological quality of included trials and the small numbers of patients," said review co-author and neurology professor Ming Liu.

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The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing trials on a topic.

Obstruction of a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain can result in ischemic stroke, which accounts for about 83 percent of all strokes.

In China, post-stroke use of herbal medicine is part of standard care in both Western-style hospitals and in traditional Chinese medicine hospitals. Dan Shen, in various pill, tablet and injection formulations, is the herb most commonly given for ischemic stroke; its use in that context spans more than three decades.

However, few researchers have tested the herb's effectiveness in rigorous clinical trials that approach current international standards.

The reviewers found six studies that met inclusion criteria for the review