A traditional Chinese herbal remedy that has been around since the time of the dinosaurs helps stroke victims recover quicker, according to a new study.
Active components of living fossil ginkgo biloba may improve early recovery of thinking skills after a stroke caused by a blood clot, say scientists.
In a study conducted in China, adults treated with 14 days of intravenous injections of ginkgo diterpene lactone meglumine (GDLM) – a combination of biologically active components of ginkgo biloba after a clot-caused ischaemic stroke had better cognitive recovery at 14 days and 90 days.
Preparations of ginkgo biloba’s active ingredients are widely used in China as a complementary treatment for ischaemic stroke.
Ginkgo biloba is an herb extracted from the dried leaves and seeds of the ginkgo tree, one of the oldest living tree species and native to East Asia.
Associate Professor Anxin Wang, of the Capital Medical University in Beijing, said: “If our positive results are confirmed in other trials, GDLM injections may someday be used to improve cognitive function for patients after ischemic stroke.”
The researchers analyzed the cognitive recovery of more than 3,000 stroke survivors, with an average age of 63, treated for mild to moderate ischemic stroke at 100 centers in China.
Starting within 48 hours of the stroke, about half of the stroke survivors were randomly selected to receive daily, intravenous injections of 25 mg of GDLM for 14 days, while the other half received daily, intravenous placebo injections.
Cognitive performance was assessed before treatment, at 14 days and at 90 days.
After 14 days, compared to their initial cognitive screening results, the stroke survivors who received the ginkgo biloba compound jabs had improved cognitive scores in comparison to those who received the placebo.
By Day 90, those who received the ginkgo biloba compound injections had even more improved cognitive scores compared to those who received the placebo.
Wang said: “The proportion of patients who reached a clinically significant level of improvement was 20 percent higher in the GDLM group, indicating that GDLM injections may improve cognitive function in patients with acute ischemic stroke.
“Since the follow-up time in this study was only 90 days, the longer-term effect of GDLM injections requires longer-term research.”
He added: “GDLM has shown a neuroprotective effect through multiple mechanisms, such as expanding brain blood vessels and improving brain cells tolerance to hypoxia – inadequate oxygen – and increasing cerebral blood flow.
“GDLM also has neuroprotective antioxidation, anti-inflammation and anti-apoptosis (cell death) properties.
“Additionally, laboratory studies have previously indicated that GDLM may promote secretion of chemicals associated with avoiding neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.”
The findings of the preliminary study are due to be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, next week.
In a 2022 American Heart Association Scientific Statement: Complementary and Alternative Medicines in the Management of Heart Failure, it was noted there may be some benefits and potentially serious risks to complementary and alternative medicines, so involving the health care team is critical.
Chair of the scientific statement writing committee Professor Sheryl Chow, of Western University of Health Sciences in California, said: “While this American Heart Association statement focused on the use of supplements in patients with heart failure, the same approach and caution should be used when treating all cardiovascular diseases including stroke.
“Stroke patients should not take gingko biloba or other herbs or supplements without discussing it with their doctor and pharmacist.
“If this new research proves to be effective in future clinical trials it may be a valuable tool for after-stroke care.
“However, efficacy and safety would need to be demonstrated to meet the same standards as all prescription medications.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker