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Sailuotong is a herbal medicine formula consisting of panax ginseng, ginkgo biloba and crocus sativus.
Scientists conducting clinical trials into its effects on mild cognitive impairment (MCI) found it improved participants’ memory in under three months.
MCI-diagnosed participants also performed better during executive function tasks such as staying focused despite distractions and multitasking.
The Australian research team behind the study believes dementia, to which MCI is considered a precursor, could be prevented with SLT.
The herbal medicine has been developed as part of a long-standing collaboration between Western Sydney University’s NICM Health Research Institute and Xiyuan Hospital and the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing.
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SLT has shown promise in addressing various aspects of MCI pathophysiology such as its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiapoptotic and cholinergic-enhancing properties.
Previous studies have demonstrated its safety and potential cognitive benefits in vascular dementia and neurocognition in healthy adults.
MCI is characterised by cognitive decline including memory and thinking difficulties and is often viewed as a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. It affects 17 percent of the world population over the age of 60.
There are currently no approved pharmaceutical interventions for MCI, but this latest study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, sought to test SLT as a potential treatment for MCI.
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The researchers conducted a 12-week trial of 78 participants aged 60 and older, all with previous diagnoses of MCI.
The participants were randomly assigned either a 180mg capsule of SLT each day or a placebo.
The team’s positive results showed significant improvement in the logical memory of the elderly adults who received SLT, compared with those in the placebo group.
The SLT group also exhibited improved performance in executive function tasks such as planning, exercising self-control, following multiple-step directions even when interrupted, staying focused despite distractions and multi-tasking.
Participants also showed few incidences of any mild or moderate side effects.
Lead author Associate Professor Genevieve Steiner-Lim, an NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute, explained: “People with mild cognitive impairment have an increased risk of dementia – over fivefold in some cases – and at the moment we do not have any approved medications for mild cognitive impairment.
“Our findings are very promising as they show that even after a relatively short treatment period of just 12 weeks, SLT can support important aspects of memory and thinking in people with mild cognitive impairment.
“It is also well-tolerated. Early intervention is critical in order to delay or prevent a dementia diagnosis.”
The researcher’s findings suggest that SLT could serve as a supportive therapy for memory and executive function in elderly people with MCI.
But it was noted further research into the long-term benefits and the impact on daily functioning and quality of life is needed.
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