Three Herbs That Help Fight Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's disease, the most prominent form of dementia, is a progressive illness for which there is no cure; but there are plenty of options for preventing it and for reducing symptoms.
This story is about three herbal cures in particular that lead the pack in alternative medicine: ginkgo; huperzine A; and turmeric.
1. Ginkgo Biloba:
This Chinese herb has long been known for its link to memory boosting. It is a very common herb that acts as an antioxidant and may increase blood circulation to the brain.
Many studies have looked into ginkgo's effect on memory, and they have reported mixed results. One double-blind study found that, in 48 healthy old patients, six weeks of ginkgo treatment led to significant improvements in memory. Several others have reported similar results.
One good study that included nearly 3,300 patients found that 80 to 200 mg of ginkgo a day improved memory. Finally, in a study that lasted 24 weeks and involved 205 Alzheimer's patients, 240 mg of ginkgo a day improved cognitive function. The last word: ginkgo biloba is a promising supplement in improving memory in age-associated memory decline and perhaps in mild Alzheimer's disease.
2. Huperzine A:
This is a purified chemical from a Chinese moss, used for years in the treatment of schizophrenia, inflammation, and memory loss. Chinese medical experts have studied this herb extensively and have arrived at some interesting results. One study reported that patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's experienced improvement in memory, behavior, daily living, and mood when they took this supplement.
Another found that huperzine A led to significant improvement in all tests for cognitive functioning. Another three-month study used the herb on more than 800 patients with Alzheimer's disease at various Chinese hospitals. It found that huperzine A led to improvements in memory, cognitive skills, and functional ability in daily living. One interesting study found that huperzine A -- as well as two milligrams of estrogen -- improved memory significantly in 30 women with Alzheimer's when taken over 24 weeks.
A new study assessed six previous pieces of research on the subject, involving 455 patients in total. It concluded that huperzine A seems to have beneficial effects on cognitive function and functional performance without any severe side effects for Alzheimer's patients.
The spice that contains curcumin, which is what makes curry dishes yellow, has properties that may benefit Alzheimer's patients. Evidence suggests that curcumin naturally protects brain cells against the disease. The only truly tested evidence appears to be in mice, which experienced significant reductions in oxidative damage and inflammation when they were given curcumin.
Food for thought: in India, elderly residents who eat large amounts of curry have the lowest incidence of Alzheimer's in the world.
A study last year assessed all the evidence to date and arrived at this conclusion: curcumin does exert multiple actions on the brain.
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About the author
Dr. Victor Marchione received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years.
Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The Food Doctor newsletter.
Dr. Marchione has also served as Principal Investigator in at least a dozen clinical research projects relating to serious ailments such as bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).