How To Use Herbs and Supplements To Fight Alzheimer's

Only a few year ago, "Alzheimer's disease" was a catch-all diagnosis applied to anyone with significant impairment due to memory loss, personality changes and loss of normal function. Today, thanks to a better understanding of this devastating disease, even non-specialized physicians can diagnosis Alzheimer's disease with an accuracy rating approaching 90 percent.

If you've been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, or you're caring for someone who has, there are a number of herbal products and nutritional supplements that are showing great promise in the fight for a better quality of life for Alzheimer's patients. The three most promising herbal and nutritional supplements for Alzheimer's disease are:

  1. Ginkgo biloba. Though some of the studies looking at Ginkgo biloba and Alzheimer's have been criticized for their size or design, several credible studies have found Ginkgo biloba, often referred to just as "ginkgo," both safe and effective for the dementia that often accompanies Alzheimer's disease. Working mainly by increasing blood flow to the brain, Ginkgo biloba is well-tolerated by most Alzheimer's patients and, in clinical studies, performs as well as some prescription drugs. Taken mainly in extract form, ginkgo is usually taken in 40 to 80 mg doses two or three times a day.
  2. Huperzine A. Known botanically as Huperzia serrata, Chinese club moss gives us a derivative known as huperzine A. Most of the studies of huperzine A have been conducted in China, but in 2004 the National Institute on Aging began looking at huperzine's potential for Alzheimer's patients who are considered to have mild to moderate forms of the disease. Studies looking at huperzine A for Alzheimer's disease have typically used doses of 200 micrograms daily.
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids. To date, most of the studies looking at omega-3 fatty acids have been too small to convince doctors to recommend omega-3 supplements routinely but the results have been promising. Omega-3 fatty acids have long been recognized for their anti-inflammatory properties, and it is precisely this ability to reduce inflammation that may be their' greatest gift to sufferers of Alzheimer's disease. There is also emerging research suggesting that omega-3 supplements may be helpful in combating the depression that often accompanies Alzheimer's disease.

Unfortunately, two widely-touted supplements have not lived up to expectations. Coral calcium was once heavily marketed as both a treatment for Alzheimer's disease and a preventative, but in 2003, the Federal Trade Commission, working with the Food and Drug Administration, filed formal complaints against several coral calcium distributors citing a lack of scientific evidence. While coral calcium is thought to be safe for most people, no credible scientific evidence exists to support the use coral calcium for either the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer's.

Another supplement that is often mentioned as a possible preventative for Alzheimer's disease is coenzyme Q10. Occurring naturally in the body, coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant needed for normal cell function. Unfortunately, no credible scientific evidence supports the use of coenzyme Q10 or its derivatives for Alzheimer's disease.

If you'd like to learn more about using herbs and supplements in the fight against Alzheimer's disease, talk to your doctor. It's important to remember that herbs and nutritional supplements may interact with the prescription drugs you or your loved one may already be taking. Before beginning an herbal or supplement regimen for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, talk to your primary care provider for more information about the herbs and supplements that are most appropriate for you or your loved one.


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