Currently, more than 4 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or other dementias. AD affects 47% of people over the age of 85. In AD, in addition to degenerative changes and atrophy, individual brain cells begin to produce a sticky proteinous substances which swell the interior of the cell (neurofibrillary tangles) and “gum up” the exterior (amyloid plaques). In essence, the brain petrifies. Causes of dementias include hardening of the arteries and mini-strokes. Inflammation is a major contributor to neuronal damage in neuro-degenerative disorders such as AD, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (Torreilles F et al. 1999).
lood flow to neural tissue is an important consideration. Nitric oxide, which helps dilate arteries, has been shown to play a specific role in neuro-degeneration (Strijbos 1998).
The historical use of herbal medicines to treat dementia diseases like Alzheimer’s varies according to the different traditions. According to TAM and TCM theories, dementias result from multi-systemic decline and brain destruction due to aging, and thus can be prevented or slowed by maintaining overall health and using tonics. Consequently, our preventive and treatment goals are the reduction of oxidative damage, reduction of cellular toxins and inflammation, and improvement of cerebral circulation and oxygen and glucose transport.
• Neural circulation can be improved with blood moving herbs, especially corydalis rhizome (yan hu suo), which slows the breakdown of choline. (Kim 1999)
• According to studies of the pharmacological properties of gingko leaf, gingkolides exhibit anti-oxidant, neuro-protective and cholinergic
activities relevant to Alzheimer’s disease mechanisms (DeFeudis, 1991).
• In numerous well-controlled clinical studies in Europe and the US, extracts of ginkgo leaf have proven “effective therapy for a wide variety of disturbances of cerebral function, including multi-infarct dementia, early cognitive decline, and mild-to-moderate cases of the more severe types of senile dementia including Alzheimer’s disease (Clostre 1999).
• Tonics that can prevent mental and neurological decline include flaxseed oil, DHA (Docosahexanoic acid from fish oils – more info), guggul gum, rehmannia root, amla fruit, American ginseng root, ginseng root, ashwaghanda root, dang gui root, garlic bulb, gotu kola, guduchi stem, shou wu root, maitake mushroom, milk thistle seed, ganoderma mushroom, shilajatu, and Siberian eleuthero root bark.
• Anti-oxidant protection comes from eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and using herbs like amla fruit, triphala and wheat sprouts.
• Because neurotransmitters and other brain chemicals are formed from amino acids, and digestion declines with age, digestion-strengthening herbs like bromelain or trikatu can be used to ensure proper protein and nutrient assimilation.
Learning Therapy and Alzheimers