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Is Dan Shen effective for stroke patients?For over three decades the traditional Chinese herb, Dan Shen (also known as Red Sage, Salvia Miltiorrhiza, and Radix Salvis Mitiorhiza), has been used as a part of standard care for post-stroke patients in Chinese hospitals. The herb is traditionally given to those who have suffered an ischemic stroke, a common form of stroke, accounting for nearly 83% of all strokes today. Ischemic stroke is most often caused by the obstruction of a blood vessel to the brain.
Dan Shen is commonly known as a heart tonic. Many Chinese doctors use it to strengthen and tone the heart and liver. While Dan Shen has been used for strokes for decades, few researchers have tested the herb in clinical trials to prove effectiveness. Recently, researchers at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, conducted a systematic review drawing conclusions of existing trials. The reviewers used six studies that met specific criteria, involving 494 acute ischemic stroke patients. The researchers found no evidence to support the use of the herb for stroke victims. However, it did show a short-term improvement to neurological deficits for the stroke patients.
Published in The Cochrane Library, part of The Cochrane Collaboration, the study was re-evaluated with concern. The Cochrane Collaboration is a nonprofit, independent, international organization that generates and distributes systematic reviews of health care interventions and promotes the search for evidence in the form of clinical trials and other studies. The Cochrane reviewers believed that methods of choosing test subjects to Dan Shen or placebo were vague. They concluded that this could have inflated the results of successful treatment by as much as 40%. The researchers are unclear to the actual benefits of Dan Shen, due to the possible faults in the studies.
Treatment and follow-up on the Dan Shen studies only ranged from fourteen to twenty-eight days. This made it impossible to determine any long-term effects from the herb.
Medical experts are still hopeful that quality trials will be held to determine whether the short-term neurological benefits of Dan Shen are factual. If so, it could prove to be a useful treatment for stroke patients, even if on a short-term basis.
While Chinese medicine determines the successfulness of their medicine based on basic science and laboratory tests, Western medicine depends on clearly defined clinical trials that prove effectiveness. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a long way to go before being accepted by Western Medicine.
Extensive research will be held to determine not only the effectiveness of Dan Shen, but other Chinese herbal medicines as well.
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