Alternative Options for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

About 4 million Americans—or 10% of people older than 65 and nearly half of those over 85—have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Relatives of patients with this disease are searching books, magazines and the Internet to find anything that offers hope.

Eating just one weekly 4-ounce serving of fish containing omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent Alzheimer’s, according to the December 1998 Prevention. A study showed that 5000 Dutch men and women who followed this dietary guideline for two years were 70% less likely to develop the disease. Well-Connected, a series of Internet reports (available at http://noah.cuny.edu/wellconn/) that are reviewed by physicians at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, says a low-fat diet may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. The report cites a study which found that diets high in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol were associated with dementia.

The September 1998 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter mentions ginkgo biloba and estrogen as possible "alternative treatments" and vitamin E as a nutritional preventive. Vitamin C also received coverage as a possible preventive in the March 1998 Harper’s Bazaar.

A report on the Alzheimers.com web site says that carnitine, the nutrient composed of lysine and methionine, may slow cognitive deterioration in Alzheimer’s patients. The site also suggests aromatherapy, using calming oils such as chamomile, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, or ylang-ylang, for the positive effects it has on Alzheimer’s patients.

The anti-inflammatory properties of aspirin may reduce mental decline and help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to the July 1998 Better Homes and Gardens. The article reports a study in which people who took aspirin regularly had a 25% lower chance of developing the disease than those who did not.

In The Green Pharmacy, James Duke, PhD, suggests people with a family history of Alzheimer’s start an herb garden, since more than 10 herbs show promise for treating or preventing the disease. Among the plants he recommends are horsebalm, rosemary, dandelion, fenugreek, ginkgo, sage, stinging nettle, willow, and gotu kola.

The Oriental medicine web site Meditopia claims that in a treatment trial of 36 patients in China, 58% of Alzheimer’s patients who took Chinese herbal medicine three times a day and had Oriental (Tuina) massage on the face, chest, and back of the head were "cured" within 90 days. In this particular trial, only 8% had "no response."