Brain injuries resulting from stroke are a major and increasing public health problem in both developed and developing countries worldwide. China's extensive experience in the use of traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs) in stroke therapy indicates that TCM preparations are effective, with few or no side-effects. There are more than 100 traditional medicines in use for stroke therapy in China. Some of their therapeutic effects in stroke have been confirmed by recent clinical studies. A large number of compounds have been isolated from TCMs and most of these resources have not yet been characterized for pharmacological purposes. Here, this article explains how TCM provides an extensive and knowledge-rich foundation for implementing a strategically focused pharmacological research programme aimed at the development of new drugs.