Ginseng for Alzheimer's Disease

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The herb ginseng is sometimes taken to fight Alzheimer's disease, a condition estimated to affect 5.3 million Americans. Several types of ginseng (including Korean red ginseng and Panax ginseng) are said to aid in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease, as well as improve cognitive function and preserve memory in Alzheimer's patients.

Why Is Ginseng Used to Fight Alzheimer's Disease?

In preliminary research, scientists have found that certain compounds in ginseng may help inhibit the development or progression of Alzheimer's disease.

These compounds include ginsenosides, a class of chemicals with anti-inflammatory effects.

In a study published in FASEB Journal: The Official Publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in 2006, for example, animal-based experiments showed that treatment with ginsenosides led to significant reductions in brain levels of amyloid beta (a substance that forms the harmful brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease).

Research on Ginseng and Alzheimer's Disease

So far, very few clinical trials have tested the potential benefits of using any type of ginseng in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

The available clinical trials focusing on ginseng and Alzheimer's disease include a small study published in the European Journal of Neurology in 2008. For the study, 61 Alzheimer's patients were randomly split into three groups: the first group received a low dose of Korean red ginseng, the second group received a high dose of Korean red ginseng, and the third group received no Korean red ginseng.

After 12 weeks of treatment, patients assigned to the high dose of Korean red ginseng showed significantly greater improvement in certain symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, compared to those who did not receive Korean red ginseng.

In another 2008 study (published in Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders), researchers found that Panax ginseng shows promise for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

In this study, 58 people with Alzheimer's disease were treated with Panax ginseng for 12 weeks, while another 39 Alzheimer's patients were placed in a control group. By the study's end, patients given Panax ginseng showed a greater improvement in cognitive performance than those placed in the control group.

Caveats

Use of ginseng may trigger a range of side effects. For instance, Panax ginseng and/or Korean red ginseng may cause insomnia, diarrhea, headache, and changes in blood pressure.

What's more, since Panax ginseng and Korean red ginseng can have hormone-like effects, people with hormone-sensitive conditions such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids should take caution when using these herbs.

Alzheimer's is a major disease that can severely impair mental and physical health. In order to slow the progression of Alzheimer's symptoms and protect against the host of complications associated with this condition (such as depression, loss of control of certain bodily functions, and increased risk of falling), a combination of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions is typically needed.

Using natural remedies such as ginseng as a substitute for such interventions may have serious consequences.

Using Ginseng for Alzheimer's Disease

In order to lower your risk of Alzheimer's disease, it's important to follow a balanced diet (including foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids), exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, avoid smoking, and stay socially and mentally active as you age.

While taking natural remedies like ginseng (as well as turmeric, resveratrol, and ginkgo biloba) may be of some benefit in the protection against Alzheimer's disease, more research is needed before any of these strategies can be recommended for Alzheimer's prevention.

Before using any type of ginseng in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, it's crucial to consult your health care provider.

Sources

Chen F1, Eckman EA, Eckman CB. "Reductions in levels of the Alzheimer's amyloid beta peptide after oral administration of ginsenosides." FASEB J. 2006 Jun;20(8):1269-71.

Heo JH1, Lee ST, Chu K, Oh MJ, Park HJ, Shim JY, Kim M. "An open-label trial of Korean red ginseng as an adjuvant treatment for cognitive impairment in patients with Alzheimer's disease." Eur J Neurol. 2008 Aug;15(8):865-8.

Heo JH, Lee ST, Chu K, Oh MJ, Park HJ, Shim JY, Kim M. "Heat-processed ginseng enhances the cognitive function in patients with moderately severe Alzheimer's disease." Nutr Neurosci. 2012 Jul 9.

Heo JH1, Lee ST, Oh MJ, Park HJ, Shim JY, Chu K, Kim M. "Improvement of cognitive deficit in Alzheimer's disease patients by long term treatment with korean red ginseng." J Ginseng Res. 2011 Nov;35(4):457-61.

Howes MJ1, Perry E. "The role of phytochemicals in the treatment and prevention of dementia." Drugs Aging. 2011 Jun 1;28(6):439-68.

Lee MS1, Yang EJ, Kim JI, Ernst E. "Ginseng for cognitive function in Alzheimer's disease: a systematic review." J Alzheimers Dis. 2009;18(2):339-44. 

Lee ST1, Chu K, Sim JY, Heo JH, Kim M. "Panax ginseng enhances cognitive performance in Alzheimer disease." Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2008 Jul-Sep;22(3):222-6.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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