Chinese Medicine for Stroke

Traditional Chinese medicine has been around for centuries. Recently, Chinese medicine has been  investigated using the same evidence-based methods of western medical research- by evaluating groups of patients who receive treatment and objectively comparing outcomes with groups of patients who do not receive the treatment.

There have been recent experiments using Chinese medicine in stroke care. The results appear promising and have not indicated harmful effects of the Chinese medicine.

Interestingly, research into the chemicals that are in Chinese medicine shows that the active ingredients are similar to what we normally use in standard western stroke care, and thus some of the Chinese medicines may be a good option in conjunction with western medical treatment in the future. 

What is Chinese medicine? 

Chinese medicine uses herbs, plants, and oils for treatment of health problems and to maintain wellness. Traditional Chinese medical treatment involves herbs, creams, and pills as well as interventional treatments such as acupuncture and acupressure, which are based on an eastern philosophy of how the body works. 

One recent pharmacological analysis of one of the Chinese medicines used for stroke, Buchang Naoxintong capsules, found 16 active ingredients. One of the components interacted with a molecule in the body called anti-thrombin, which means that it prevents blood clots, a major cornerstone of western stroke treatment.

Another component of Buchang Naoxintong interacted with the body's glucocorticoid receptors, an interaction which is known to decrease inflammation and to protect against the stroke damage in the brain. 

As more and more of these Chinese medicines are chemically examined, we may discover some components that supplement the stroke treatments we already use, so that there will be more choices for stroke patients.


Does it work?

Several recent experiments on patients looked at whether Chinese medicines work for stroke. One study evaluated 1734 hospitalized stroke patients who received western treatment and compared them to 1734 hospitalized stroke patients who received western treatment in combination with traditional Chinese medicine. The patients who received the combination of both types of therapy did better at 6 months and at 3 months. The outcomes measured were urinary tract infection, pneumonia, epilepsy, stomach or intestinal bleeding, and death. None of these outcomes measured actual brain damage after a stroke, but instead they measured common complications that occur after a stroke. 

Additionally, the stroke patients who received the traditional Chinese medicine used fewer hospital resources, which probably translates to lower healthcare cost.  

Another research experiment evaluated the effects of a Chinese treatment called Nao-Xue-Shue oral liquid for speech and language difficulties after a stroke.

A total of 102 stroke patients were divided into 2 groups. One-half of the participants received western therapy alone and the other group received western therapy as well as the Nao-Xue-Shue oral liquid. Both groups improved, but the group that received the western treatment along with the Chinese medicine scored better on the NIHHS stroke scale and did better on tests of naming, calculating, reading, writing and comprehension. 

What should you do?

If you or a loved one has a stroke, it is important to communicate with your doctors and the rest of your heath care team to understand as much as you can about your stroke and to know which stroke medications you are prescribed and why. Physical therapy and rehabilitation are essential components of stroke recovery. If you are interested in alternative treatments, you can learn out more about alternative treatments here. You can also find out how you can get the most up to date medical care, including experimental treatment, if you choose to go that route.


Identification of key active constituents of Buchang Naoxintong capsules with therapeutic effects against ischemic stroke by using an integrative pharmacology-based approach, Haiyu X, Yang S, Yanqiong Z, Qiang J, Defeng L, Yi Z, Feng L, Hongjun Y, Molecular BioSystems, November 2015

Outcomes after stroke in patients receiving adjuvant therapy with traditional Chinese medicine: A nationwide matched interventional cohort study, Chang CC, Chen TL, Elley Chiu H, Hu CJ, Yeh CC, Tsai CC, Lane HL, Sun MF, Sung FC, Liao CC, Lin JG, Shih CC, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, November 2015

Nao-Xue-Shu Oral Liquid Improves Aphasia of Mixed Stroke, Yan Y, Wang M, Zhang L, Qiu Z, Jiang W, Xu M, Pan W, Chen X, Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, October 2015

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