Cholinesterase inhibitors are the primary method of drug treatment for Alzheimer’s in the early to mid stages of the disease. However, these drugs only slow the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms in about half of the people who take them. As a result, researchers are becoming interested in other, more effective and curative methods of treatment for Alzheimer’s. Some evidence suggests that herbal remedies may be potential Alzheimer’s treatment options.

Herbs and Alzheimer’s Treatment: Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba, an extract from the ginkgo tree leaf, is a centuries-old traditional Chinese remedy for a variety of ailments. Some people believe that ginkgo biloba may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and circulatory properties that promote brain health.

Ginkgo biloba has attracted interest as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s, although clinical trials have produced mixed results. A handful of small studies have shown that individuals with early dementia exhibited modest improvements in cognitive function when taking ginkgo biloba. A large-scale study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2008), on the other hand, found that ginkgo biloba wasn’t an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Despite these results, ginkgo biloba is a widely used treatment for Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders in Europe.

Herbs and Alzheimer’s Treatment: Huperzine A

Huperzine A (pronounced HOOP-ur-zeen) is an extract from a Chinese club moss called “Huperzia serrata.” Like ginkgo biloba, huperzine A has a long history of use in Chinese medicine. Recently, it has sparked a great deal of interest as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Huperzine A appears to affect certain neurotransmitters in the same way that cholinesterase inhibitors do.

Along with two other collaborators, the National Institute on Aging (2004) conducted a study on the effectiveness of huperzine A as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. Researchers studied participants with mild to moderate symptoms of Alzheimer’s. They found that those who took a 400 mg dose of huperzine A twice a day demonstrated more cognitive improvement, as compared to participants who took a placebo. They also found that huperzine A was safe and that participants tolerated it well.

A Warning About Herbs and Alzheimer’s Treatment

Doctors generally advise against taking any herbs for Alzheimer’s treatment not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as they may:

  • Contain impurities that are hazardous to your health
  • Produce undesirable side effects
  • React adversely with other medications.

Resources

Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.) Alternative treatments. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_alternative_treatments.asp#ginkgo.

American Health Assistance Foundation. (n.d.) Potential Alzheimer’s treatments. Retrieved June 15, 2010, from http://www.ahaf.org/alzheimers/treatment/potential/.

Bauer, B. A. (2010). Can ginkgo biloba prevent memory loss and improve cognitive function in people with Alzheimer’s disease? Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ginkgo-biloba-memory-loss/AN01981.

Dharmananda, S. (1996). Alzheimer’s disease: Treatment with Chinese herbs. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.itmonline.org/arts/alzheimers.htm.

Drugs.com. (2008, February 1). Neuro-Hitech reports cognitive improvement from phase two clinical trial of huperzine A in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.drugs.com/clinical_trials/neuro-hitech-reports-cognitive-improvement-phase-two-clinical-trial-huperzine-alzheimer-s-patients-3310.html.

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Alternative medicine. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161/DSECTION=alternative-medicine.

Smith, G. (2009). Can huperzine A prevent memory loss and improve cognitive function in people with Alzheimer’s disease? Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/huperzine-a/AN02022.

U.S. National Institutes of Health – National Institute of Aging. (n.d.) Progress report on AD 2005-2006. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/ADProgress2005_2006/Part2/putting.htm.htm.

 Posted on : June 14, 2014