A herbal extract could hold the key to delaying dementia in elderly people, a new study suggests.
Scientists conducting clinical trials into the effects of Sailuotong (SLT) on mild cognitive impairment (MCI) found the herbal extract improved participants’ memory in under three months.
SLT is a unique herbal preparation containing standardized extracts of Panax ginseng, Ginkgo biloba and Crocus sativus L.
The MCI-diagnosed participants also performed better during executive function tasks such as staying focused despite distractions and multitasking.
And the Australian research team behind the study believes dementia – to which MCI is considered a precursor – could be warded off using 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.
SLT has already shown promise in addressing various aspects of MCI pathophysiology such as its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiapoptotic, and cholinergic-enhancing properties, among others.
Previous studies have demonstrated SLT’s safety and potential cognitive benefits in vascular dementia and neurocognition in healthy adults.
However, this latest study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, sought to test SLT as a potential treatment for MCI.
MCI is characterized by cognitive decline including memory and thinking difficulties, is often viewed as a precursor to dementia – particularly Alzheimer’s disease – and affects 17 percent of the world population over the age of 60.
There are currently no approved pharmaceutical interventions for MCI, and existing Alzheimer’s disease treatments are considered neither safe nor effective.
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 the 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.
And though she admits that further research into the long-term benefits and the impact of the herbal extract on daily functioning and quality of life is needed, Dr. Steiner-Lim remains optimistic about SLT potentially helping to delay dementia.
“More investment in this research is needed,” she said.
“The next step is to conduct another trial with a larger sample size and longer treatment period to test whether SLT can be used to treat mild cognitive impairment and potentially delay a diagnosis of dementia.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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