Herbal Therapy in Alzheimers Disease or AD
Curcumin (turmeric) is an ancient herb and spice that has been used in curry and other spicy dishes, and has been a culinary enjoyment of cultures around the globe. Over time, it has been noted that curcumin not only has culinary uses, but that is also has impressive medicinal qualities, particularly anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to relieve pain and inflammation.
Originating from India, turmeric is a sterile, seedless plant that grows approx. 3 – 5 feet tall and has dull yellow flowers. The underground rhizomes (roots) of the plant have been used for medicinal and food preparation. The rhizome is boiled and dried to become turmeric. The curcumin that is obtained from this plant was discovered to possess antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
Hence, it was used widely in areas of Asia and India as a medicinal agent. The incidence and prevalence rates of AD (Alzheimers Disease) in India were observed to have been far lower than the rates in other countries, and consequently, researchers began to investigate the association between curry consumption and cognitive levels in Asia.
In one study, 1010 Asians cognitive abilities were compared to those of subjects who consumed curcumin vs. those who did not. The researchers reported that those participants who had occasionally or often eaten curry tended to perform better on standard cognitive testing, such as the Mini -Mental Status Exam, than those participants who had no curry consumption.
Also noted was that patients who had consumed curcumin were able to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) or, Activities of Daily Living, with minimal or no difficulty. The studied ADLs included brushing teeth, buttoning shirts, setting alarm clocks, and recalling names and phone numbers.
Further research discovered that curcumin consumption not only improved Alzheimers Disease from a symptomatic perspective, but also displayed encouraging effects at the molecular and cellular levels.
Turmeric – A Case Study
The patient was an 83‑year‑old female who developed Alzheimers Disease. She had started to exhibit disturbances of short‑term memory and orientation, when she was 76 years old. There was no past history of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and head injury.
The medical family history was unremarkable. She also had difficulty in learning new information. Gradually, her daily activity was disturbed. She had increasing difficulty in getting dressed, cooking, and coordination household tasks.
She wandered aimlessly around the house, had incontinence of urine. She had some psycho-behavioral changes, such as apathy, anxiety, agitation, and irritability. She required the presence of caregiver, though she was prescribed AChE inhibitor (donepezil 10 mg) and Yokukansan, which is a traditional Japanese medicine (Kampo).
When she was 83 years old, she scored on 1/30 her Mini‑Mental State Examination (MMSE), which was used for evaluation of cognitive functions. Her physical examination was largely normal. There were no pyramidal or extra‑pyramidal signs.
Findings on laboratory tests were normal. Cerebral Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) demonstrated symmetrical bilateral temporal atrophy. After turmeric 764 mg/day (curcumin 100 mg/day) treatment for 12 weeks, both scores of acuity of symptoms and burden of caregivers were decreased by the Japanese version of neuropsychiatric inventory‑brief questionnaire (NPI‑Q). Among the NPI‑Q sub-scales, her agitation, apathy, anxiety, and irritability were relieved.
She began to tell about the need to urinate. Furthermore, she came to join in the laughter watching TV comedy program, began to sing some songs and do knitting, which she used to do. After taking turmeric for more than 1 year, she came to recognize her family. She lives a peaceful life without a significant BPSD.