Remedy is front of mind
A trio of Chinese herbs is being tested as the first potential targeted treatment to slow the progression of a common type of dementia.
Vascular dementia is caused by stroke or damage to blood vessels in the brain and accounts for about a third of dementia cases — more than 100,000 Australians.
There are no approved treatments, only interventions to reduce risk factors, and few clinical trials for the disease.
But a combination of ginseng, ginkgo biloba and saffron is about to be tested on Australians with mild-to-moderate cases of the disease after a trial found it could improve cognition and daily functioning following six months of treatment.
Chief investigator Dennis Chang, from the NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University, said given the brain was a complex organ, a potential treatment for dementia would need to target the disease in multiple ways.
“We have looked at herbal remedies, not so much in the traditional form as a herbal concoction, but to look at identifying the potential bioactive components of them,” Professor Chang said.
“Many pharmaceutical medicines initially come from plants and then we modify them to increase the efficacy.
“Ginkgo biloba is used for the management of memory. Ginseng is regarded as the king of herbs in Chinese medicine as it improves neurocognition.
“The data suggests saffron can improve blood circulation in the brain and has antidepressant effects, which is a common symptom for dementia patients.”
The herbal formula, called Sailuotong, was most recently pitted against a placebo in 325 patients in China where it was found to improve daily function in a number of ways.
The phase III international trial will test the treatment over 12 months on a bigger group of patients with mild-to-moderate vascular dementia — 600 people in China and 240 people across 11 sites in Australia.