Updated on 14. November 2021 from ÁYIO-Q Redaktion
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Numerous scientific studies have been conducted in recent years with medicinal herbs, which alternative practitioners and naturopaths often use in the therapy of Alzheimer’s patients. Many of the herbs contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances. Ginseng, liquorice, German chamomile, white willow bark and turmeric are among the medicinal plants that are able to reduce inflammation of the brain cells.
The neurotransmitter acetylcholine plays an important role in cognitive function and logical thinking. People with mild to severe Alzheimer’s dementia have extremely low levels of acetylcholine in the brain. For this reason, herbs that strengthen the body’s cholinergic system can help in therapy.
Effect of medicinal plants and herbs in dementia
In the meantime, several research studies have been conducted with a special extract from the leaves of the ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) in patients with mild and moderate dementia. In the placebo-controlled double-blind studies, cognitive abilities as well as quality of life and activities of daily living improved. A comparison of Ginkgo biloba with the cholinesterase inhibitor Donezipil yielded similar results over a period of two years in patients with mild and moderate Alzheimer’s dementia.1,2
Because of the low side effects, experts therefore recommend the use of ginkgo biloba for the time being. Recently, green tea and Greek verbena have become the talk of the town in connection with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) is rich in antioxidants and secondary plant compounds. Several observational studies in humans have shown that regular tea consumption has a positive effect on memory function and other cognitive performances.3
Currently, Greek verbena (Sideritis scardica), which also goes by the name Greek mountain tea, is the subject of intensive research. In addition to improving mental abilities, it has been shown to have mood-enhancing, antidepressant and neuroprotective (protection of nerve cells) properties. Since extracts from Greek verbena showed efficacy against beta-amyloids in animal experiments, the medicinal plant could help slow down cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients4,5
Can herbs support the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients?
Some herbs like Vacha convolvulus pluricaulis, Shankpushpi, Guduchi, Yashtimadhuk, Musta Arjun, Amalaki, Ashwagandha, Kutaj, Galo satva and some other herbs are extremely useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease:6
Centella Asiatica L.
Gotu kola extracts have been used for a long time in natural medicine. In the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine, they have been shown to improve memory and cognitive functions.
Sage is used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. It has been shown to support brain function as it contains many antioxidants that inhibit acetylcholinesterase activity. Sage contains antioxidants such as rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid.
German chamomile is said to dispel lethargy, stimulate the brain, combat insomnia, aid digestion and support normal immune function. It also has an anti-anxiety and stress-relieving effect.
Curcuma longa, better known as turmeric, is used for the extraction of curcumin, an orange-coloured component of curry powder or turmeric. Curcumin has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function that relieves the patient of further inflammation and helps improve memory and cognitive function. Its regular intake keeps the mind in balance.
Nutrition tips to support the body in Alzheimer’s disease
Various studies have shown that a balanced and healthy diet prevents the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease and slows its progression. Green leafy vegetables, whole grains, berries and eating fish can reduce the risk of developing dementia.
The Mediterranean diet in particular has been shown to be beneficial for memory. Fruits that contain valuable antioxidants are also beneficial. In addition to a balanced diet, regular exercise is recommended to keep body weight in the normal range and reduce the risk of obesity.7
Coconut oil – The new miracle cure for people with Alzheimer’s?
For some time, health experts have suspected that coconut oil can halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. In 2017, a research team from the Catholic University of Valencia tried to confirm this thesis.
The Spanish scientists conducted a study with 44 Alzheimer’s patients, half of whom consumed 40 millilitres of coconut oil per day for three weeks. The rest received a neutral oil (placebo). At the beginning and end of the study, all subjects were subjected to a mini mental status test to document any changes.
The result: An improvement in cognitive abilities was observed in the patients from the coconut oil group, which mainly affected orientation and sentence construction.8
Using the same study design, the research group showed a year later that coconut oil together with a Mediterranean diet can improve memory and orientation in men and women with Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists blame this on so-called ketone bodies, which the human organism produces from certain fatty acids in coconut oil.9
Ketone bodies serve as an alternative energy source for our cells and support the metabolism in the brain. This in turn prevents the death of brain cells and can thus possibly counteract the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.10
Note: Coconut oil is certainly not a miracle cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, the study results to date, as well as numerous testimonials, are so encouraging that there is no harm in trying this inexpensive natural product. It is best to buy a high-quality organic coconut oil and use it daily instead of a conventional cooking oil.
Other naturopathic treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease
Some alternative medicine methods have been shown to be effective for Alzheimer’s disease in scientific studies. These include acupuncture, aromatherapy and light therapy.11
So far, only a few acupuncture studies have been conducted with Alzheimer’s patients. Neuroimaging techniques have shown that brain activity in the temporal and prefrontal lobes increases as a result of treatment. These two areas are related to memory and cognitive function. According to research involving 11 participants, acupuncture can improve depression and anxiety in Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.12,13
The use of essential oils of lavender, lemon, orange and rosemary increases the thinking ability of people with dementia. This is the conclusion of Japanese scientists from Tottori University in Yonago.14
Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s disease affects the circadian rhythm of the brain. Light therapy helps to restore the 24-hour biological rhythm and reduce the risk of falls.15
Related articles: Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Morbus Alzheimer’s disease – Psychological and emotional view of Alzheimer’s disease
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – What is the influence of the human mind?
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – Causes, prevention, treatment
- Morbus Alzheimer’s disease – Overview and conventional therapies
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – Can probiotics, vitamins, minerals and medicinal plants help with dementia?
 Kandiah N et al. Treatment of dementia and mild cognitive impairment with or without cerebrovascular disease: Expert consensus on the use of Ginkgo biloba extract, EGb®. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2019 Feb;25(2):288-298.
 Mazza M et al. Ginkgo biloba and donepezil: a comparison in the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia in a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study. Eur J Neurol. 2006 Sep;13(9):981-5.
 Pervin M et al. Beneficial Effects of Green Tea Catechins on Neurodegenerative Diseases. Molecules. 2018 May 29;23(6):1297.
 Wightman EL et al. The Acute and Chronic Cognitive and Cerebral Blood Flow Effects of a Sideritis scardica (Greek Mountain Tea) Extract: A Double Blind, Randomized, Placebo Controlled, Parallel Groups Study in Healthy Humans. Nutrients. 2018 Jul 24;10(8):955.
 Heiner F et al. Sideritis scardica extracts inhibit aggregation and toxicity of amyloid- β in Caenorhabditis elegans used as a model for Alzheimer’s disease. PeerJ. 2018 Apr 30;6:e4683.
 Singhal AK et al. Medicinal plants with a potential to treat Alzheimer and associated symptoms. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis. 2012 Sep 21;2:84-91.
 Food and Eating, auf https://www.alz.org, Access date 18.09.2021
 De la Rubia Ortí JE et al. How does coconut oil affect cognitive performance in alzheimer patients? Nutr Hosp. 2017 Mar 30;34(2):352-356.
 De la Rubia Ortí JE et al. Improvement of Main Cognitive Functions in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease after Treatment with Coconut Oil Enriched Mediterranean Diet: A Pilot Study. J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;65(2):577-587.
 Kokosöl bringt dem Gehirn mehr Energie, auf https://www.zentrum-der-gesundheit.de, Access date 18.09.2021
 Alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, at https://www.healthline.com, Access date 18.09.2021
 Zeng BY et al. Effect and mechanism of acupuncture on Alzheimer’s disease. Int Rev Neurobiol. 2013;111:181-95.
 Emerson Lombardo N et al. Acupuncture as Treatment for Anxiety and Depression in Persons with Dementia: Results of a Feasibility and Effectiveness Study. Alzheimer’s Care Today. 2001 Jan;2(4).
 Jimbo D et al. Effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Psychogeriatrics. 2009 Dec;9(4):173-9.
 Hanford N, Figueiro M. Light therapy and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia: past, present, and future. J Alzheimers Dis. 2013;33(4):913-22.