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Alzheimer’s Disease and Non-Alzheimer’s Dementia

Alzheimer disease is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is a loss in mental function that impacts daily life. The ability to learn, remember, and function is slowly lost. It is related to abnormal deposits of protein and twisted fibers in nerve cells in the brain. The cause of this is not known. Less common disease forms include those associated with heart disease and Parkinson disease.

There is no cure. Some medications can treat symptoms and may slow cognitive loss. Some patients and caregivers look to natural treatments to help manage changes related to dementia. They may ease anxiety, improve sleep, or improve clarity in thought process.

Natural Therapies

Likely Effective

Dementia is serious and requires standard medical treatment and close supervision. The following alternative treatments may favorably effect cognitive function:

  • Ginkgo biloba —may improve cognition and activities of daily living. (Note: Ginkgo biloba may interact harmfully with other medications.)A1-A8
  • Huperzine A —may improve cognitive function and activities of daily living. (Note: Huperzine A may interact harmfully with other medications. It is not advised for patients with certain health condition, such as asthma. It may also cause nausea, sweating, and blurred vision.B2, B14

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution

Talk to your doctor about all herbs or supplements you are taking. Some may interact with your treatment plan or health conditions. Some supplements discussed here have certain concerns such as:

  • Ginkgo biloba may interact harmfully with a number of commonly prescribed medications. Talk to your doctor about the medications you are taking.
  • Huperzine A may interact with other medications used to treat dementia.



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Last reviewed February 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Richard Glickman-Simon, MD