Herbal Medicine in Stroke
Does It Have a Future?
See related article, pages 1973–1979.
The lack of effective and widely applicable pharmacological treatments for ischemic stroke patients may explain a growing interest in traditional medicines, for which extensive observational and anecdotal experience has accumulated over the past thousand years. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines traditional medicine as “health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being”.1 Unlike Western medicine, which focuses on disease, traditional medicine takes the approach that the body provides external clues to an internal imbalance that can be addressed by interventions such as herbs and acupuncture (holistic treatment approach).2 According to a 2003 WHO report,1 traditional medicine is very popular in all developing countries, and its use is rapidly increasing in industrialized countries. For example, traditional herbal preparations account for 30% to 50% of the total medicinal consumption in China. In Europe, North America and other industrialized regions, over 50% of the population have used traditional medicine at least once. The global market for herbal medicines currently stands at over US $60 billion annually and is growing steadily.1
In recent years, several reviews have been published on the effect and potential benefits of traditional Eastern medicine in stroke.3–7 It has been suggested that some herbal medicines, or their products, may improve microcirculation in the brain,4,8 protect against ischemic reperfusion injury,8,9 possess neuroprotective properties3,4 and inhibit apoptosis,10 thus justifying their use in ischemic stroke patients. However, unlike industrially manufactured pharmacological drugs used in Western medicine, the active (potent) components of herbal medicines often have not been specified and measured precisely, although there have been recent attempts to regulate dosages and use of …