Are there alternative treatments for Alzheimer's disease?

An extract from the leaves of the ginkgo tree is widely marketed (and used) in the United States for its alleged memory-enhancing abilities, but research has found it ineffective. A review that included 35 studies of ginkgo biloba found "inconsistent and unconvincing" evidence that it offered any help for people with dementia or cognitive impairment.

A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that included more than 3,000 people with either normal memory or mild cognitive impairment who took the drug or a placebo for six years reached the same conclusion: ginkgo doesn't protect against Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. A subsequent paper, also published in JAMA, looked at the initial results from that study to see if ginkgo biloba extract had any effect on cognitive decline in older adults, specifically memory, visual-spatial construction, language, attention, and executive function. Researchers found no effect.

In general, evening primrose oil can benefit the brain because it contains an omega-6 fatty acid important for maintaining brain function. It has been shown in one study to improve memory and calm the mental states of psychiatric patients with tardive dyskinesia (abnormal, involuntary movements). However, researchers do not know whether it can help treat brain-related conditions like Alzheimer's disease, hyperactivity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), multiple sclerosis, depression and schizophrenia.

Dr. Gary Wenk
Psychology Specialist

Currently, clinical trials are being conducted to see if curcumin can help to prevent Alzheimer's disease. Epidemiological studies have found that people in India develop Alzheimer's disease at a greatly reduced rate as compared to other countries in the world. Also, studies of animal models of Alzheimer's disease suggest that curcumin is safe and should be quite effective as long as you plan on eating a lot of Indian food.

Judith London, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Curcumin is an antidote to inflammation which may be one of the variables that contributes to the onset of Alzheimer's. A diet consisting of lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish such as salmon, walnuts, flax and small amounts of red wine—mainly a Mediterranean type of diet—also is associated with lower rates of Alzheimer's.

J.Lucy Boyd
Epidemiology Specialist

There is currently no cure for the disease, but a balanced diet rich in antioxidants is the best diet for someone with Alzheimer's. Those with suspected Alzheimer's should see a physician to learn about different treatment options, including medication that may slow the progression of the disease. lists ongoing clinical trials involving Alzheimer's disease. is another excellent source for the latest research findings on the disease.

Dr. David A. Merrill, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

It has been said that coconut oil can help Alzheimer's disease, but it hasn’t been definitively evaluated yet. 

There are alternative treatments for just about everything, and Alzheimer's disease is no exception. There are a number of herbal remedies and dietary supplements on the market that claim to boost memory and help delay dementia symptoms. Be warned that these treatments have unknown effectiveness and safety guidelines, their purity is unclear and they may have serious interactions with prescribed medications. Please discuss these options with a doctor before starting them.

Researchers are constantly studying alternative treatment options for Alzheimer's disease, but so far the results have been inconclusive. Vitamin E may help prolong someone's ability to perform simple daily tasks like getting dressed, but it will not increase brain function and large doses could do more harm than good. Ginko is another popular alternative to medication, but there is no evidence to support its benefits with regards to Alzheimer's, and it can have negative effects when combined with blood thinning medications. Huperzine A, a Chinese alternative, appears to work much like cholinesterase inhibitors but if combined with a prescription drug like donezepil, the side effects can be deadly. Your best option is to consult your doctor, eat healthy, and exercise both your mind and body.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.