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Herbal Remedy Sailuotong May Help Vascular Dementia

sailuotong for vascular dementia

Scientists are moving ahead on positive findings from previous research indicating that the traditional Chinese herbal remedy sailuotong may help vascular dementia. Among older adults, vascular dementia is the second most prevalent type of dementia, while Alzheimer’s disease is the first.


The latest study of sailuotong is a phase III clinical trial being launched by Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) following the success of previous studies which showed the herbal remedy to be effective in treating memory and cognitive impairment in people with vascular dementia. More than 200 Australians with the disease will be involved in this new effort.

Vascular dementia, unlike Alzheimer’s disease, is characterized by high blood pressure, diabetes, and the occurrence of numerous mini strokes. Similar to Alzheimer’s, there are limited drug or other treatment options available.

According to Professor Dennis Chang, of NICM at Western Sydney University and the new trial’s chief investigator, “Preliminary studies of sailuotong showed it increased blood flow to the brain and those taking the herbal medicine improved their scores on standard cognitive tests.” One of those studies was a phase II trial that enrolled patients with mild-to-moderate vascular dementia (results not yet published).

The phase II trial lasted 52 weeks: the first 26 weeks was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled segment and the subsequent 26 weeks was open label (everyone knew what was being taken). During the first phase, participants were randomly assigned to take either a placebo, 360 mg per day of sailuotong, or 240 mg per day of sailuotong.

The results of another study, however, were published in December 2014. Sixteen healthy adults were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or sailuotong for one week, then switched to the other treatment for one week after a one-week washout period.

Cognitive testing performed before and after each treatment revealed that visuospatial short-term memory and working memory both improved after treatment with sailuotong when compared with placebo.

What is sailuotong?
Sailuotong is a combination of three herbs: ginkgo, saffron, and ginseng. Individually, these three herbs have demonstrated an ability to positively affect cognitive function.

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For example:
A 2015 study published in Human Psychopharmacology noted that use of ginseng (as Panax quinquefolius L.), when compared with placebo, in 52 healthy volunteers, improved cognitive performance and spatial working memory.

A 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis of ginkgo biloba used in placebo-controlled trials looked at the findings of seven trials. The more than nearly 2,600 patients were treated with 120 mf or 240 mg daily of the ginkgo extract or placebo for 22 to 26 weeks.

Overall, researchers found that the ginkgo biloba supplement was superior to placebo in terms of improvements in cognition, activities of daily living, and overall rating scores.

Recent (2015) investigation into the potential benefits of saffron (Crocus sativus) for people suffering with cognitive challenges has shown it to be effective. For example, one study compared saffron with donepezil (Aricept), a prescription drug used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

The efficacy of saffron was similar to that of donepezil, although the participants did not suffer the side effects typically associated with the drug, such as nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and cramping.

The findings of the phase III trial hopefully will support and expand upon those of the previous research. If so, sailoutong may prove to be an important and effective treatment option for individuals who have vascular dementia.

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Gauthier S, Schlaefke S. Efficacy and tolerability of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 76 in dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Clinical Interventions in Aging 2014 Nov 28; 9:2065-77
Liang J et al. Rationale and design of a multicenter, phase 2 clinical trial to investigate the efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine SaiLuoTong in vascular dementia. Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease 2014 Nov-Dec; 23(10): 2626-34
Ossoukhova A et al. Improved working memory performance following administration of a single dose of American ginseng (Panax quiinquefolius L) to healthy middle-age adults. Human Psychopharmacology 2015 Mar; 30(2): 108-22
Pitsikas N. The effect of Crocus sativus L. and its constituents on memory: basic studies and clinical applications. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2015; 2015:926284.
Steiner GZ et al. The effect of a standardized Chinese herbal medicine formula (sailuotong) on N1, PN, P2, MMN, P3a, and P3b amplitudes: a pilot study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Conference abstract: Australasian Society for Psychophysiology Inc. 2014 Dec.