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Alternative Treatments for Alzheimer's Disease

Numerous clinical trials have examined treatment options for dementia. These include:

  • cognitive training
  • antioxidants (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene)
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • DHA supplements
  • Hormone therapy
  • type-2 diabetes treatment
  • exercise
  • cardiovascular treatments

However, to date there are no alternative treatments that can prevent, treat, reverse, or cure dementia.

What about Ginkgo biloba? 

Gingko biloba, or ginkgo tree leaves, is one of the most researched alternative treatments for dementia and AD. But so far the results are not convincing.

The largest study that examined ginkgo’s effect on dementia and AD was the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study. Here, more than 3,000 volunteers, age 75 and older, took ginkgo on a daily basis.

Yet, the researchers found ginkgo did not lower the overall rate of dementia and AD in the elderly. Ginkgo also did not slow mental decline.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) sponsored another trial. It found that ginkgo taken daily for six weeks did not improve the memory among 200-plus healthy adults over age 60.

Ginkgo Caution

Ginkgo is relatively safe when taken the right way. But like any herb it can have side effects and not be right for everyone. Here are some precautions from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM):

  • Side effects may include headache, nausea, digestive problems, dizziness, or allergic skin reactions. More severe allergic reactions have occasionally been reported.
  • Ginkgo may increase bleeding. People on drug to prevent blood clots or who suffer from bleeding disorders, should first consult their doctor. You should also be careful if have a scheduled surgery or dental appointment.
  • Raw ginkgo seeds contain large amounts of a chemical called ginkgotoxin, which can cause serious reactions, including seizures and even death.
  • Products made from standardized ginkgo leaf extracts contain little ginkgotoxin and are safe when used correctly.  

Read Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention for information on how various strategies and lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, and social engagement, may reduce your risk for developing dementia.

Content licensed from:

Written by: Wendy Leonard, MPH
Medically reviewed : Jennifer Monti, MPH, MD

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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