Chinese Medicine for Dementia
TCM, Dementia, and Alzheimers
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Alzheimer’s disease represents about 75% of all cases of senile dementia in the U.S. The disorder is marked by development of amyloid plaques, and degeneration of brain tissue. Alzheimer’s usually occurs after the age of 60.
Modern medical treatment involves use of hydergine, dexedrine, and antidepressant drugs. In Europe there is widespread use of Ginkgo biloba leaf for this condition.
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Alzheimer’s
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and most forms of dementia, such as loss of memory and irritability are understood by Chinese medicine to be associated with the Kidneys or the Heart.
In China, one of the most promising modern-day herbal treatments for Alzheimer’s disease involves an alkaloid extracted from the herb huperzia which inhibits the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, increasing neurotransmission in the body. Though one can’t get enough Huperzine-A by simply consuming the whole herb, certain traditional Chinese herbs and herbal formulas may also significantly increase levels of acetylcholine. Coptis HUANG LIAN is one such herb.
Seeing a practitioner skilled in the use of Chinese herbs is most important.
For those unable to find a practitioner near them, the herbs zizyphus, biota, polygala, and acorus are traditionally used to treat heart disorders involving memory. Kidney tonics should be added.
Good herbal medicines containing many heart nourishing herbs are:
Bu Nao Wan (Healthy Brain Pills)
Good Sleep & Worry Free Pills
Tian Wang Bu XIN Wan
Golden Book Pills
Acupuncture For Alzheimers
Research presented at the World Alzheimer’s Conference in Washington, D.C. has shown promising results with acupuncture. In two small studies – one at the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, the other at the University of Hong Kong, scientists have found that acupuncture can increase a patient’s verbal and motor skills and improve mood and cognitive function.
In the first study, Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo at Wellesley College in Massachusetts studied 11 patients, 10 with Alzheimer’s and one with vascular dementia. Subjects were treated with acupuncture twice a week for three months, with each subject receiving a minimum of 22 treatments. Patients were subjected to a variety of tests before and after being treated, including the Cornell Scale for Depression, the Speilberger State Anxiety Inventory, and the Mini-Mental Status Exam (MMSE) for cognitive function.
The researchers found “statistically significant improvements” in the depression and anxiety scores of patients. For example, the average Spielberger anxiety score at the start of treatment was 49.5; at the end of three months, it had decreased to 40.1. Four subjects experienced “substantial improvement” in mood symptoms after undergoing acupuncture; of those whose moods improved, two also showed improved MMSE scores, and a third improved in tests for fluency and naming ability.
While cognitive function was not measured scientifically (no control group was used), Lombardo said that those delivering treatment seemed to note an improvement in their subjects’ thinking skills along with the other improvements, which she believes indicates a close relationship between cognitive ability, anxiety and depression.
“I think people should check it out. Besides anxiety and depression, they are likely to have other issues such as pain that can be helped with acupuncture.” said Dr. Lombardo.
In Dr. Kao’s study, eight patients diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease were treated at the University of Hong Kong. Treatment consisted of needling and fine finger turning at eight acupoints: the si shen cong (Estra 7, four points on the scalp), shen men (HT7 on the wrists) and tai xi (KI3 on the feet).
Needling lasting a total of 30 minutes. Needles were inserted and reinserted every 10 minutes. Patients were given 3 seven-day treatment cycles with a three-day break in between for a total of 30 days.
Patients were graded using the TCM Symptoms Checklist for Alzheimer’s and the MMSE exam to measure their levels of orientation; memory; attention; and the ability to name an object, follow verbal and written commands, and write a sentence spontaneously.
Kao’s team reported that patients “significantly improved” on measures of verbal orientation and motor coordination and had higher overall MMSE scores. They also noted that patients “showed a significant overall clinical improvement” on the checklist, and concluded that acupuncture treatment “has shown significant therapeutic effects” in reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.