Stroke and TCM treatments

What is a Stroke?

A stroke can occur when there is a leakage or blockage in an artery in your brain.  This causes a lack of blood flow to the tissues in your brain, reducing the oxygen supply to your brain cells.  Without oxygen, these brain cells and tissues begin to die within minutes.  Strokes are serious medical events that can cause brain damage, disabilities, and death, especially when treatment is delayed.  This article will tell you all about strokes and how Chinese Medicine can help you treat them.

What Causes a Stroke?

There are two main causes of strokes: a blocked blood vessel in the brain, or a ruptured or leaky blood vessel.  An ischemic stroke occurs when the blood flow to your brain is severely reduced, due to a blood clot or piece of plaque blocking an artery.  Reduced blood flow to the brain may also occur if an artery becomes too narrow.  

A haemorrhagic stroke can occur when an artery in your brain leaks blood or bursts open.  This causes a build-up of blood around your brain, creating pressure and swelling.  This can damage tissues in your brain, leading to stroke symptoms.  

Stroke Symptoms:

The symptoms you experience from a stroke will depend on what part of your brain has been affected.  It’s best to recognise stroke symptoms as early as possible, since immediate treatment gives you the best chances of recovery.  Some common stroke symptoms include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body
  • Paralysis
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Vision problems
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden intense headache, with unknown cause
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures

If you think you or someone else is having a stroke, call 111 immediately (in New Zealand).  It’s best to be overly cautious when it comes to strokes, to minimise the risk of brain damage or death.

Stroke Treatment:

If you have a stroke, doctors can give you various kinds of treatment depending on what type of stroke you’ve had.  However, it’s also important to try to prevent strokes from occurring.  You can significantly reduce your risk of a stroke by not smoking, avoiding alcohol, and maintaining a healthy body weight through good nutrition and regular exercise.

To properly treat a stroke, doctors will need to accurately diagnose and evaluate your stroke as soon as possible.  This will determine the type of treatment you receive.  If your stroke was caused by a blood clot or other blockage in your brain, medical professionals may give you clot-breaking medications such as a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) injection.  Other ways to remove blockages include procedures to mechanically remove the blood clot from your artery, expanding narrow arteries and supporting the artery walls with a stent, or surgical treatments.

If you’ve had a haemorrhagic stroke, where an artery is leaking blood, you will receive different treatments compared to those used for ischemic strokes.  You may be given medication to help your blood to clot, to reduce blood pressure, or to reduce pressure in your brain.  Other ways to help stop blood leaking in the brain include reducing blood flow to the affected area (by inserting a coil like device or clamping aneurysms).  Some haemorrhagic strokes may also require surgery.

How Can Chinese Medicine Treat Strokes?

If you or someone you know has had a stroke, be sure to get treatment immediately.  As well as conventional treatment as described above, Chinese Medicine treatments can also effectively help stroke patients recover.  Acupuncture is one key technique used in Chinese Medicine that uses very fine needles to adjust the flow of energy through your body.  An experienced and qualified acupuncturist can insert these needles into specifically selected sites on your body, influencing your blood flow.  Some acupuncturists come to treat stroke patients in hospitals, combining conventional medicine with Chinese Medicine techniques to improve your chances of recovery.

Researchers have found that, “Acupuncture and TCHM [Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine] integrated with conventional rehabilitation significantly improve stroke patients’ functional recovery at the early subacute phase.”


Overall, strokes can occur when the brain tissues are damaged.  This may be due to a lack of blood flow to the brain (caused by blockages like clots), or due to a build-up of blood from a leaky blood vessel.  Strokes are serious medical events and require immediate diagnosis and treatment for the best chances or recovery.  Chinese Medicine techniques combined with conventional treatment can improve patients’ recovery from strokes, especially when applied promptly.


Holland, K. (2021, November 9). Everything You Need to Know About Stroke. Healthline.

Tseng, C.-Y., Hsu, P.-S., Lee, C.-T., Huang, H.-F., Lan, C.-C., Hsieh, T.-H., Liu, G.-T., Kuo, C.-Y., Wang, M.-C., & Hsieh, P.-C. (2022). Acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal medicine integrated with conventional rehabilitation for post-stroke functional recovery: A retrospective cohort study. Frontiers in Neuroscience.