Could OTC supplement aid stroke recovery?

Could OTC supplement aid stroke recovery?

An over-the-counter supplement widely available in pharmacies could help stroke patients to recover, a new study has suggested.

Researchers at Nanjing University Medical School in China carried out a six-month trial of 330 stroke patients with an average age of 64. They were taken from five hospitals and all began the trial within a week of having an ischaemic stroke. 

Around half of the participants were given 450mg of the common herbal remedy ginkgo biloba daily, as well as the 100mg of aspirin typically prescribed to stroke patients. The rest were only given the aspirin.

Each participant took a Montreal Cognitive Assessment before they began taking any medication and then repeated the test 12, 30, 90 and 180 days later to assess any cognitive impairment.

It was found that those who took the combination of remedies scored higher on the tests than those who did not, including for memory and reasoning. Furthermore, the muscle strength and speech of those on the combined therapy improved more quickly.

Writing in the journal Stroke & Vascular Neurology, the researchers suggested the ginkgo biloba may aid recovery by preventing the cell death in the brain associated with blockages caused by clots.

However, the team did concede that this was only a small trial, plus the clinicians involved knew which group was involved in which therapy, something that may have skewed the results.

Furthermore, the supplement did not prevent further stroke-related issues, as a similar number of patients in the control and combined group went on to suffer further strokes and aneurysms.

Pharmacists will already be aware that ginkgo biloba continues to be a commonly cited yet controversial supplement suggested as a possible remedy for a number of ailments.

A prior study in the US found there is no link between ginkgo biloba and the prevention of Alzheimer's disease, while other research has not managed to prove its efficacy for treating high blood pressure, peripheral arterial disease and macular degeneration.

Nevertheless, with more than 100,000 strokes occurring in the UK each year - one every five minutes - pharmacists may see an increase in the number of people seeking it as an over-the-counter remedy for relatives and friends over the coming weeks.