Each year, approximately 700,000 people suffer a stroke in the United States, and 200,000 of those people will have a subsequent stroke within a short period of time. A study surveying some 625 hospitals found that two-thirds of people who have a stroke will either die or be re-admitted to the hospital within a year following their stroke.
In cases of stroke, there is a dramatic increase in the release of inflammatory cytokines within the brain, which can lead to autoimmune reactions in the brain should systemic inflammation — such as an infection — occur. This may account for the high incidence of recurrent strokes and high mortality rates of stroke patients.
Using rats that were induced to have a stroke, researchers compared animals treated with hawthorn for 15 days before the stroke versus those not given the extract. They found that hawthorn prevented the lipid peroxidation seen in brains that have suffered a stroke.
Hawthorn also reduced injury to the brain and dramatically lowered the levels of inflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha and IL-1) in the brain. In addition, the extract also raised the level of anti-inflammatory cells in the brain, lowered infiltration of damaging cytotoxic T-cells into the brain, and increased levels of a brain repair substance (Bcl-2).
By reducing these inflammatory chemicals, the researchers saw a improvement in the chance of survival after a stroke and better neurological function.
One of the ways hawthorn protects the brain during a stroke is by quieting down activated microglia, which are the source of all of the damaging chemicals during a stroke — inflammatory cytokines, excitotoxins (which cause immunoexcitotoxicity), and inflammatory prostaglandins. Quieting microglia can also protect against a number of immunoexcitotoxic disorders, such as:
• Multiple sclerosis
• Head injuries
• Brain infections
• Neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other related disorders
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