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Chinese Medicine to Treat Traumatic Brain Injury

One of the most serious effects of a traumatic brain injury is the secondary injury caused by inflammation in the brain. Many clinical trials have been initiated in the last several years to find a drug therapy that will effectively reduce this inflammation. Unfortunately, to date, no therapy has succeeded in these clinical trials.

The inflammation response in the secondary brain injury is a complex cascade of changes in neurotransmitters and cellular response. The challenge of a successful drug therapy is targeting the neural pathway that most effectively inhibits inflammation. In traditional Chinese medicine, treatments tend to target more than one biological process at a time, and may, therefore, have the potential to be effective in altering those neural pathways.

First described in text 185 years ago, the Chinese medicine Xuefu Zhuyu was originally derived from 11 herbs as a treatment for inflammation. Recently, the prescription of Xuefu Zhuyu (XFZY) was tested in an animal study for its effect on traumatic brain injury. XFZY significantly enhanced cognition (via spatial memory tests) and also significantly reduced the proteins in the brain that lead to inflammation. The benefit of XFZY is dose-dependent, and clinical studies will have to show success in human trials for it to pass as an effective treatment for TBI. In the meantime, it may be a promising alternative where other drug studies have failed.

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