People suffering from the mental condition dementia in Australia may benefit from a new Chinese herbal medicine that can help reduce the impact of the disease on memory and learning.

Researchers from the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences (CACMS) Xiyuan Hospital and Western Sydney University's National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) are set to conduct testing for a new treatment for dementia called Sailuotong (SLT).

The herbal medicine is derived from a combination of saffron, ginkgo and ginseng.

It has been studied in laboratory settings systematically and has gone through clinical trials for the past 10 years.

Now, the developers of Sailuotong are about to carry out trials for the new dementia drug involving more the 200 people living in Australia.

The new drug has been shown to be particularly effective at improving the cognitive skills of patients and retarding the effects of memory impairment typically associated with the onset of vascular dementia.

Vascular Dementia

Known as one of the most common forms of dementia, vascular dementia is often linked to diabetes, hypertension and occurrences of minor strokes, which remain largely undetected by the patient. Sufferers are left with declining cognitive ability and loss of memory.

Dennis Chang, an associate professor at NICM and lead researcher of the clinical trial, said SLT was designed to target vascular dementia as well as a form of mixed dementia that combines vascular dementia with another devastating mental condition, Alzheimer's disease.

"Current pharmaceutical drug treatments for vascular dementia are ineffective because they don't address the multiple factors associated with the disease," Chang said.

"However in Chinese medicine, the combination of several herbal compounds which work together to address different causes and symptoms of a disease is common."

Chang pointed out that the preliminary studies on the effects of SLT showed that the herbal drug helped increase the flow of blood to the brain as well as improve the scores of patients on standard evaluations of cognitive skills.

There is yet to be a specific vascular dementia treatment, but Chang said that if the larger clinical trial on SLT proves successful, the herbal drug could become a first stage treatment for the many people around the world who suffer from the debilitating condition.

Estimates show that there are around 47.5 million worldwide who suffer from dementia and around 7.7 million additional cases of the condition are diagnosed every year.

In Australia alone, one person is diagnosed with the mental condition every six minutes. Vascular dementia accounts for close to 20 to 30 percent of total dementia diagnoses.

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