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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 01:04 GMT 02:04 UK
Chinese herb 'good for the mind'
Chinese medicine (BBC)
Chinese herbal medicines are less expensive
A herb used in China for centuries may help stroke patients suffering from dementia.

Experts tested the herbal medicine in a clinical trial and found it lived up to its reputation.

The drug, extracted from an orchid and six other plants, has been used since 100 AD for treating dizziness, headache and stroke.

It was found to significantly increase mental function in a three-month study of 120 stroke patients.

The remedy, known as gastrodine compound granule, is the first herbal drug for dementia to be tested in clinical trials at hospitals in China.

Doctors hope to find a cheaper alternative to Western medication that is more acceptable to Chinese people.

Jinzhou Tian of the Institute of Geriatrics, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, said: "Chemical drugs, such as cholinesterase inhibitors, are effective in the treatment of cognitive and memory function in dementia, but these drugs are expensive and have side effects.

"This study might result in doctors considering the use of herbal medications, such as gastrodine compound granules to supplement the treatment of mild and moderate cognitive impairment in primary care for the elderly with cerebral ischemic damage."

Memory powers

Between 1 and 3 % of people in the world suffer from vascular dementia.

It is a type of dementia caused by blood vessel disease or small strokes in the brain.

It results in problems with memory, thinking and behaviour and interferes with a person's ability to work and to carry out everyday tasks such as bathing, cooking and dressing.

All of the patients in the trial at Beijing Dongzhimen Hospital were suffering from mild to moderate vascular dementia after their stroke.

Seventy patients received the herbal medicine while the others were given a drug known as Duxila which is normally used to treat stroke in China.

At the end of the study, the gastrodine group performed about the same as the Duxila group in tests of their mental state and behaviour.

There were fewer side effects in the group taking the Chinese medicine, the doctors reported at a meeting of the American Heart Association's Second Asia Pacific Forum.


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