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The big three herbs for cognition – Ginkgo, Ginseng and Saffron

Saffron flower

Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in Australians aged 65 years and older and is the second leading cause of death in Australia, with up to 80% of patients with mild cognitive decline (MCI) developing dementia within 6 years. [1]

It’s these kinds of stats that have driven the wonderful research being done in Australia, by the incredible NICM Health Research Institute team at the Western Sydney University, proving the benefits of the herbal medicine combination of ginkgo, ginseng and saffron – SaiLuoTong (SLT) – for better cognition and brain function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). [2]

SLT has also demonstrated a range of cerebrovascular benefits. [3] Both individually and in combination, the bioactive compounds in SLT derived from Panax ginseng, Ginkgo biloba and Crocus sativa have been shown to have therapeutic potential against pathogenic mechanisms associated with MCI, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

SLT’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiapoptotic and antiplatelet aggregating properties, as well as its capacity to increase cerebral blood flow and cholinergic function, and reduce amyloid-beta accumulation, may underpin the cognitive effects of SLT in MCI.

Steiner et al 2023 was the first study to assess the effects of SLT on cognition in people with MCI.

The 65 participants aged 60+ years, with MCI, experienced enhanced memory retrieval and executive function pertaining to switching between cognitive concepts, higher-level divided attention and multitasking (both before and after accounting for the influence of processing speed) with SLT treatment after 12 weeks.

The treatment group was given 180 mg a day of SLT (90 mg morning and night), showing the combination is well tolerated while supporting aspects of memory retrieval and executive function in people with MCI.

Table of multi target mechanisms for ginseng, ginkgo and saffron


  1. Steiner GZ, et al. Study protocol for a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled 12-week pilot phase II trial of Sailuotong (SLT) for cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Trials 2018;19(1):522.

  2. Steiner-Lim GZ, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group 12-week pilot phase II trial of SaiLuoTong (SLT) for cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Alzheimer’s Dement 2023;9:e12420,

  3. Chang D, et al. Herbal medicine for the treatment of vascular dementia: An overview of scientific evidence. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2016;2016:7293626.


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