The majority of types of alternative medicine for Alzheimer’s disease involve herbal alternative medicine, plant extracts and certain dietary supplements such as Huperzine A and gingko biloba that provide memory and cognition enhancement. However, physicians recommend that people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s should not depend entirely on alternative treatment plans as their primary means of treating the disease.
These products should be used as a supplement to traditional AD medications that are meant to slow the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease progression
Reports from alternative medicine news sources state that Ginkgo leaves contain ingredients that seem to improve overall brain functioning, attention and memory in people with mild to moderate dementia. Ginkgo’s bioactive constituents responsible for improving cognition–namely terpenoids and flavenoids–have had their neuromodulatory and neuroprotective properties researched in various studies, with most of these studies culminating in a modest improvement in the memory and attention abilities of dementia patients.
In 2010, the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry published the results of a trial that described giving patients a daily dose of 240 milligrams of Ginkgo in supplementary pill form. What the researchers found was that those taking the Ginkgo supplements experienced cognitive improvement that was “significantly superior” to dementia subjects who were given a placebo.
Although scientists are not quite sure how types of alternative medicine for Alzheimer’s Disease treatment such as Gingko enhances memory, concentration and attention in dementia patients as well as healthy people. One theory is that Gingko’s bioactive chemicals may act as inhibitory agents on the reuptake of norepinephrine, similar to the way antidepressants work to regulate serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brains of depressed patients. Some research suggests that Ginkgo also enhances circulation, protects cells and tissues against free radical damage and may inhibit blood clot development often seen in heart, kidney and lung diseases.
Side effects reports by people using Ginkgo are minimal and usually disappear after one to two weeks of using the supplement. Dizziness, headache, nausea and diarrhea are the primary symptoms experienced by Ginkgo users.
Many types of alternative medicine are plants and herbs native to Asia. An alkaloid extracted from a type of Chinese club moss, Huperzine A is an NMDA receptor agonist and acetylcholinesterase inhibitor that helps to regulate neuronal plasticity and enhance memory and cognition similar to the way traditional Alzheimer’s medications such as rivastigmine, donepezil and galatnamine alleviate dementia symptoms.
Three years ago, the National Institute on Aging completed trials that evaluated the efficacy and safety of Huperzine A on Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. These studies involved over 200 subjects suffering from mild to moderate AD-related dementia. One group received a placebo while the other group received Huperzine A supplements. Those taking Huperzine A experienced an increased ability to perform daily living activities as well as improved cognition but no change in the manifestation of psychiatric symptoms such as delusions or paranoia.
Researchers consider Huperzine A as a promising AD drug that is well-tolerated and causes minimal side effects that are common to people taking synthetic acetylcholinesterase inhibitors usually prescribed to dementia patients.
Turmeric Alzheimer’s Treatment
Other types of alternative medicine for treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia are herbs such as turmeric, an Asian plant from which antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients are extracted from the root by grounding it into a fine powder. Another powerful component in tumeric has proven to be an effective blocker of TNF, or tumor necrosis factor, a chemical strongly contributing to the development of arthritis and cancer.
Scientists in the U.S. became interested in studying turmeric as a potential Alzheimer’s medication when statistics revealed that elderly adults native to India experience some of the lowest rates of AD in the world, nearly five times less than U.S. rates. Tumeric is widely used as a spice in Indian cuisine and is eaten nearly every day by the majority of Indians.
Other types of alternative medicine treatments used in relieving dementia symptoms include:
Caprylic acid–made from processed palm kernel or coconut oil, in the body caprylic acid breaks down by enzymes to create ketone bodies. Scientists think that these ketone bodies may provide another source energy for the brain to utilize when glucose cannot reach the brain due to disruption of blood flow from strokes or atheriosclerosis.
Omega-3 fatty acids–in addition to benefiting the heart, circulatory system and brain functioning, omega-3s have been found to possibly help slow Alzheimer’s disease progression and cognitive decline by supporting neuronal membranes and myelin creation.
Alzheimer’s Disease Stem Cell Research
Stem cells are cells that have the ability to develop into any cell type and hold great promise as a technique that can be used to “grow” new organs or replace tissues and cells damaged by serious diseases. Scientists are hoping that advances in medicine will soon discover how to use stem cells in the repair of brains damaged by Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementias.
Additional types of alternative medicine include aromatherapy, massage therapy and music therapy which are designed to calm dementia patients suffering from the anxiety, depression and irritability accompanying the rapid cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.