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Ginseng has been studied for its many health benefits, most of them affects human stamina and mental health...

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Ginseng Boosts Memory Function After Stroke

Laurie Barclay, MD

Ginseng may help improve memory in patients with mild dementia following a stroke, according to the results of a randomized pilot study reported at the American Stroke Association's 28th International Stroke Conference. However, larger, controlled trials are needed to evaluate safety and efficacy.

"Chinese ginseng has been used for centuries in China to treat disease and aging," lead author Jinzhou Tian, MD, from Beijing University in China, says in a news release. "However, the effects of Chinese ginseng compound on mild and moderate dementia after stroke in humans have not been reported until now."

Chinese ginseng strikingly improves learning and memory following transient cerebral ischemia in rats. It increases the activity of brain acetylcholine and choline acetyltransferase in aged mice, while reducing the activity of acetylcholinesterase in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus.

In this randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial, 40 patients with mild and moderate dementia after ischemic stroke (26 men and 14 women) received one tablet of compound Chinese ginseng (n = 25) or one 40-mg tablet of almitrine + raubasine (n = 15), three times daily for 12 weeks. The ginseng compound was extracted from Chinese ginseng roots, leaves, and panax notoginseng. The combination of almitrine and raubasine is thought to increase oxygenation in brain tissue.

After treatment with Chinese ginseng, mean scores on the HVLT and total memory scores increased significantly (P < .05 and P < .001, respectively). Improvements in episodic memory function assessing immediate and delayed story recall, delayed word recall, verbal learning and verbal recognition, and visual recognition were greater in the ginseng group than in the almitrine + raubasine group. "There is currently great interest in studying herbs used in traditional forms of medicines, and the problem of dementia after stroke is a significant one," says Robert J. Adams, MD, chairman of the Stroke Council of the American Heart Association. "This work showing that ginseng may improve memory after stroke needs to be further studied, with larger sample sizes. A placebo-controlled study would also be the next step. At this time, a recommendation to use this herb for memory enhancement would be premature." 28th International Stroke Conference: Abstract P327. Presented Feb. 14, 2003. Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

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