- PURPOSE: Acute spinal cord injury (SCI) triggers multiple cellular and molecular pathways; therapy aimed at only one pathway is unlikely to succeed. Anecdotal reports indicate that a novel herbal formulation (JSK-Ji-Sui-Kang) may enhance recovery in humans with SCI. We investigated whether JSK's therapeutic effects could be verified in a well-established SCI model in rats. METHODS: Therapeutic effects of JSK were tested using a standard behavioral assessment, histological, immunochemical and microarray analysis. Phytochemical fingerprinting of JSK was performed using high performance liquid chromatography coupled with photodiode array detection and electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry. JSK or vehicle was gavaged to rats 24 hours after SCI and daily thereafter for 3 weeks. RESULTS: Locomotor function significantly improved (n = 12; p < 0.05), tissue damage was reduced (p < 0.01; n = 6) and more axons and myelin were observed in JSK-treated compared with vehicle control animals. JSK significantly enhanced expression of neuroglobin, vascular endothelial growth factor and growth-associated protein 43, and reduced the expression of caspase 3, cyclooxygenase-2, RhoA (p < 0.05; n = 6) and fibrinogen (p < 0.01; n = 6). RNA microarray indicated that JSK altered transcription of genes involved in ischemic and inflammatory/immune responses and apoptosis (p < 0.05; n = 3). CONCLUSIONS: JSK appears to target multiple biochemical and cellular pathways to enhance functional recovery and improve outcomes of SCI. The results provide a basis for further investigation of JSK's effects following SCI.