My experience in the health sector brought me closer to elderly people suffering from dementia. It baffles me a lot to see a full-fledged adult who at some point in his/her lifetime, totally forgets everything about life, especially what is happening at the present time. Such people rather intermittently remember what had happened countless years ago and then recognise such past event as if it is presently happening.
A major concern is that the increasing number of people living with this undesirable health condition, which is known as dementia is becoming a global challenge and this really necessitates immense attention. Despite the medications given to dementia patients, there appear to be no reversals to normalcy nor any cure. The point is that most drugs such as donepezil, used for treating dementia patients have been reported to exhibit terrible side effects. Besides, caring for dementia patients has never been easy as the patients usually have special dementia care plan.
Honestly, this actually got me thinking about other natural ways without side-effects that can be used to tackle this devastating menace to humanity. But before delving into these nature’s ways of dealing with dementia, let’s take a glance at what dementia is all about. So a quick question is; what is dementia?
Toh et al., (2016) define dementia as a neurocognitive disease that is marked by a progressive decline in mental abilities including learning, orientation, understanding, memory, language and perception. A cognitive diseases that is most interchangeably used together with dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is also a progressive mental disease that is named after German physician Aloes Alzheimer in 1906. Since both diseases are related to the progressive neurological decline, one can argue that both diseases are the same.
While dementia is a neurological disorder that affects human communication and daily performance, Alzheimer’s disease, on the other hand is a form of dementia that basically affects the parts of human brain that control language, memory and thought. Another form of dementia is Huntington’s disease. Huntington’s disease is a hereditary health condition that is associated with the damage of the brain nerve cells. This brain damage tends to progress over time thereby affecting behaviour, movement and cognition (thinking, perception, awareness and judgement) of the affected individual.
Studies reveal that Alzheimer’s disease is the most popular form of dementia and affects approximately 10 million individuals all over the world. Alzheimer’s disease is distinguished by its ability to destroy the essential brain cells thereby inflicting damaging effects on human memory, intellectual ability, reasoning, orientation and ways of doing things. This menace tends to destabilize an affected individual’s way of living including the social life, human relationship, work life and every aspects of the person’s life. AD sufferers exhibit an increased state of confusion, anxiety, insomnia, depression, disruptive behavior and delusions. They also hallucinate quite a lot and lose their total sense of reasoning. Clinically, Alzheimer’s disease is marked by the inflammation of the brain tissue, discharge of β amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, free radicals, acetylcholine deficiency as well as the deterioration of the cholinergic basal forebrain.
Brain nerve cells communicate with each other by releasing chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Acetylcholine is an essential neurotransmitter for memory however, individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease exhibit low levels of acetylcholine in their brain. According to Singhal et al., (2012), some herbs can improve the functioning of the brain however, scientific findings to prove their ability to treat Alzheimer’s disease are quite little. Several researchers have attributed dementia and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases to oxidative stress. As a result, experiments have been carried out to ascertain the relationship between antioxidants and neurological disorders.
Interestingly, Ramassamy (2006) agree that polyphenolic antioxidants from fruits and vegetables can reduce or block neuronal death occurring in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative disorders. This suggests that there is a strong significant correlation between antioxidants and oxidative stress thus the need to tackle dementia with natural herbs, plants and fruits that are packed with powerful antioxidants. Many studies attested that natural antioxidants such as flavonoids, vitamin E, beta-carotene and vitamin C can scavenge for free radicals produced during the onset and progression of dementia.
It is worthy to note that the brain structures that control memory are highly sensitive to oxidative stress as a result of their high demand for oxygen. So if you believe that this disease is not for you, then you definitely need to cut down your stress level. Even though most cases of this disease develops after 60 years of age with 70 % of the cases being hereditary, it is always advisable to avoid stress. The onset of dementia is marked by loss of short term memory, which further progresses to long term memory loss. The sad news about this health challenge is that it has no cure however, studies reveal that it can be hindered from progressing to detrimental stage.
Three stages of Dementia
Stage 1 – This is the onset of dementia that involves short term memory loss, confusion, disorientation, forgetfulness, mood changes and anxiety. This stage usually lasts from 2 to 4 years.
Stage 2 – In this stage, the Alzheimer’s patients suffer from restlessness, reduced memory, irritability, hallucinations, muscle spasms and incoherence. This stage lasts between 2 to 10 years.
Stage 3 – This stage is the advanced stage marked by seizures, difficulty in swallowing, head injury, skin infections and incontinence in Alzheimer’s patients. This stage usually lasts from 1 to 3 years.
In an attempt to unravel treatment methods without side effects for this mental disease, studies reveal that herbs are pertinent for the early treatment of dementia and other neurological conditions. By going through existing literature, it is evident that an early treatment of dementia especially with herbs is necessary for preventing the disease from advancing to a devastating stage. As a result, individuals from the dementia lineages are highly recommended to incorporate natural preventive measures so as to prevent the onset of this disease.
23 Powerful Herbs for Treating Dementia
Several herbs have been proven effective for slowing down the degeneration of the brain cells caused as a result of dementia. Agarwal et al., (2012) reviewed several herbal medicines with potential therapeutic effects on Alzheimer’s disease. Their study suggests the need to identify and use these essential herbs as a means of tackling AD. These herbs improve the mental state as well as boost the brain’s functionality. Some of the essential herbs are discussed below;
Heart-leaved moonseed is botanically known as Tinospora cordifolia and belongs to the family of Menispermaceae. It is a smooth, deciduous, perennial and climbing shrub of fleshy stem widely believed to protect the body against diseases. This plant is equally known as a rejuvenator or an adaptogen. It consists of chemical components such as phenolics, alkaloids, steroids, glycosides, sesquiterpenoid, diterpenoid lactones, polysaccharides and aliphatic compounds. Both the roots, leaves and barks of the heart-leaved moonseed herb contain these essential compounds.
This powerful plant is found mainly in Myanmar, India and Sri Lanka and is known by several names such as giloy or guduchi. Various Asian regions have different names for this plant for example, Hindi refer to it as geloy (गिलोय), gulvel refer to it गुळवेल, Bengali call it gulancha, Nepali call it gurjo or गुर्जो, Punjabi refer to it as گلو or gllow, Sanskrit people call it guduchi, Sinhala refer to it as rasakinda while Gujarati refer to it as अमृत, galac, amrta or garo. Tinospora cordifolia has been proven suitable for improving cerebral ischaemia by preventing oxidative stress injury and regulating the cytokines.
Madhav and Maitreyee (2011) revealed that this herb contains anti-stress activity, which is beneficial for boosting memory, improving cognition and for fighting depression. Its antidepressant mechanisms require inhibiting the reuptake of amines in the brain. The central antioxidant and protective properties of Tinospora cordifolia is integral for boosting memory, improving cognition and maintaining concentration.
Urtica dioica L.
Urtica dioica is popularly known as a stinging nettle, burn haze, common nettle, burn weed or burn nettle and it belongs to the family of Urticaceae or Clusiaceae. It is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant that is originally from Asia, North America, Europe and northern Africa before spreading to other parts of the world. The plant is dioecious in nature, being that the male and female reproductive organs are formed in separate plants. It bears rooted rhizomes and bright yellow stolons as well as greenish leaves that measure between 3 to 15 cm long. The leaves bear serrated margin with greenish brown flowers in dense axillary inflorescences.
Most species bear non-stinging hairs on the stems and leaves while subspecies bear several stinging hairs known as trichomes. The tips of these stinging hairs usually protrude and transform into tiny needles when touched. These needles can release chemicals such as formic acid, acetylcholine, histamine, leukotrienes, 5-HT (serotonin), moroidin once they pierce the body. The release of these chemical compounds causes a painful sensation to the body.
Stinging Nettle contains the boron mineral, which has been reported to be essential for boosting the estrogen levels. Estrogen is a hormone in the body, which has been reported to be essential for preventing short-term memory loss. The herb also helps to raise the mood of an Alzheimer’s patients (Keyvan et al., 2007).
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
St. John’s Wort is botanically known as Hypericum perforatum. It is a herbaceous perennial plant that is distinguished by its glabrous and creepy stem. It grows between 30 to 80 cm height and the sessile leaves are spoon-shaped in appearance. Both the leaves and branches of St. John’s Wort herb contain compounds such as flavonoids, tannins, choline, hayperciyn, hayperpyron and essential oils. The herb contains anti-anxiety, antidepressant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties.
Khalifa (2001) tested the effect of St. John’s Wort extract on memory retrieval 24 hours after training on a one-trial passive avoidance task in mice. The result shows that St. John’s Wort extract might be a suitable alternative for treating depression that is associated with dementia unlike other antidepressants that have anticholinergic side effects. In old age dementias, this herb is therefore considered as one medication that can target both amnesia and depression with reduced side effects.
Furthermore, Trofimiuk et al., (2005) tested the hypothesis that St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) could counteract stress-induced memory impairment. These researchers observed that this herb prevented the harmful effects of both chronic restraint stress and long-term corticosterone on learning and memory. The results showed that the herb did not only prevented stress and corticosterone-induced memory impairments, but significantly improved recognition memory (p < 0.01) in comparison to control. Their study supports that St. John’s Wort has the ability to prevent stress memory disorders.
Bacopa monnieri is an aquatic, greenish creeping plant that is known by other names such as herb of grace, brahmā, water hyssop, bacopa, brahmi, waterhyssop or thyme-leafed gratiola. It is a perennial herb that is originally from Asia, South America, India, Europe, Australia and Africa. Brahmā leaves are succulent, oblanceolate, oblong, thick and arranged opposite each other on the stems.
The small white flowers are radially symmetrical in appearance and bear 4 to 5 petals. The plant is mostly propagated through cuttings and it can grow in aquatic, damp, marshy or brackish areas. Brahmi plant can also be grown hydroponically i.e. a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water in the absence of soil.
Goswami et al., (2011) evaluated the impact of Bacopa monnieri on the cognitive functioning of Alzheimer’s disease patients. The study dementia patients showed significant improvements in various aspects of MMSES (The Mini-Mental State Examinations) at the end of trial. These include; attention, language components (reading, writing and comprehension), orientation of time, place and person. The study patients also displayed improved quality of life, reduced irritability and insomnia.
Based on the clinical trial results of these researchers, they concluded that Bacopa monnieri standardized extract (Bacognize® 300 mg twice daily) oral intake for 6 months results in improvement of certain aspects of cognitive functioning in older Alzheimer’s patients. Even though the above results are impressive, considering the remarkable improvement in cognitive functions of the study patients, these researchers recommended further studies that will include a control group in other to validate their findings.
Padma (Nelumbo nucifera)
Edible Nelumbo nucifera or lotus is an aquatic perennial plant that belongs to the family of Nelumbonaceae. This herb have been used since time immemorial for treating several ailments. The broad leathery leaves usually float while the petioles of the aerial leaves are erect. Almost every part of this plant can serve as medicine and food for example, the fresh leaves can be eaten as vegetables, the thalamus can serve as fruit, the rhizome can serve as food, the stalks can be pickled, the leaves can serve as local plate known as thali, the petals can be used for colour extraction while the seeds can be used for preparing medicines.
Chowdary (2013) examined the neuropharmacological activities of the ethanolic extract of lotus seeds in mice and rats. The ethanolic extract of lotus showed a significant (p<0.05) depression in overall behavioural tests. This also includes the potentiation of phenobarbitone induced sleeping time, and anxiolytic action in dose-dependent manner. The results show that the lotus plant contains anti-stress activity, which is essential for tackling dementia.
This is an aromatic plant with erect sword-shaped basal leaves that have similar semblance with the iris leaves. The small fruits are berry like in appearance with few seeds. The herb is originally from North America, Central Asia, Eurasia and eastern Europe. Vacha is known by several names such as ugragandha, bach, sweet roots, acorus calamus, sweet flag, golomi or vekhanda. The rhizome is an excellent source of vitamin C, tanning substances and calamediol, which is an essential oil. Vacha is also a rich source of bsitosterol, cineol, sugenol, copaene, cyperenone, cyperolone, mustakone, cyperol and kobusone.
The herb can be used for preparing herbal brain tonic that boosts the functioning of the brain. It works by targeting the nervous system and penetrating deep down into the brain tissues where it eliminates toxins from the subtle channels in the mind. Vacha can also be used for treating emotional imbalance, headache and mental stress. According to Deep et al., (2014), vacha is among the most powerful herbs for treating dementia, memory loss, mental illness and diseases of the nervous system.
Ginseng or the Chinese ginseng is a perennial herb that belongs to the family of Araliaceae. This is a popular herb used mostly in traditional medicine especially in the Asian parts of the world such as Japan, Korea and China. The herb is mostly used for boosting the energy and memory levels. There are different types of ginseng such as Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), the American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), Korean red ginseng and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). The key active pharmacological constituents of the Panax ginseng are the ginsenosides, which are the derivatives of triterpenoid dammarane. Ginseng can be used for treating neurological disorders such as dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
Heo et al., (2011) studied the effectiveness of the Korean red ginseng on dementia patients with the extended period up to two years. A 24-week randomized open-label study with Korean red ginseng (KRG) showed remarkable improvement in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. To further ascertain the long-term impact of the Korean red ginseng, the study group were recruited and followed up to two years. The cognitive functions of the selected individuals were evaluated on a twelve-weeks basis using the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS) and the Korean version of the Mini Mental Status Examination (K-MMSE). The results showed a significant improvement in KRG-treated groups at 24 weeks.
Being that the effect of the Korean red ginseng effects on cognitive functionings was sustained throughout the 2-year follow-up period, suggests that this herb is a potential remedy for long-term follow-up of people with dementia.
Convolvulus pluricaulis is also known as Shankhpushpi. This is a perennial herb that looks like morning glory. Both the leaves, stem and roots of this herb have been proven to contain medicinal and therapeutic properties. According to Singhal et al., (2012), Convolvulus pluricaulis is an excellent herb for slowing down the degeneration of the brain cell caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Convolvulus pluricaulis is also effective for reducing various types of stress and for improving the brain functions.
The herb helps to boost the functioning of the brain’s cells while providing stability once it is properly used. Convolvulus pluricaulis is an excellent source of steroids phytosterol, confoline, convoline, convosine, convolidine, convolvine and kampferol. The herb can also serve as a brain tonic, tranquillizer and psychostimulant (a stimulant that induces a temporary improvement in either mental or physical functions such as improved alertness, movement and wakefulness etc).
Amalaki is botanically known as Emblica officinalis and also known by other names such as phyllanica emblica, amla, Phyllanthus emblica, emblic, emblic myrobalan, amalika, myrobalan, malacca or Indian gooseberry. Amla tree is deciduous in nature and belongs to the family of Phyllanthaceae. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine for enhancing the cognitive functioning of the brain as well as for promoting longevity. Both the leaves, fruit, flowers, seeds, root and bark of the alma plant is used in Ayurveda for preparing herbal medicines for treating diseases.
Ashwlayan and Singh (2011) investigated the methanolic extract of the amla fruit to ascertain its reversal effect on memory deficits in mice. They administered two doses of the extract (75 and 150 mg/kg, i.p.) for 7 consecutive days. Sodium nitrite (75 mg/kg, i.p.) and scopolamine (0.4 mg/kg, i.p.) were used to induce memory loss (amnesia) while elevated plus maze (EPM) and Morris water maze (MWM) were used to assess the short and long-term memory respectively. Both the sodium nitrite and scopolamine treatment produced significant impairment of elevated plus maze and Morris water maze performance thereby suggesting impairment of memory. However, the methanolic fruit extract significantly improved the elevated plus maze and Morris water maze performance of scopolamine and sodium nitrite treated mice. The results suggest the ability of the amla plant to relieve memory loss.
Curcuma longa L.
Turmeric is botanically known as Curcuma longa and belongs to the ginger family of Zingiberaceae. Turmeric is a herbaceous perennial plant that usually bears rhizomatous roots. It is originally from southern Asia before spreading to other parts of the world. The most widely used part of this plant is the rhizomes that serve as food flavouring and used for medicinal purposes. The rhizomes are usually dried and ground into a powder that is orange-yellow in colour. This powder is mostly used for spicing food.
Hishikawa et al., (2012) observed three Alzheimer’s patients whose behavioral symptoms were significantly improved following a treatment with turmeric. These researchers observed that the cognitive decline, behavioral and psychological symptoms of these Alzheimer’s patients were very severe. The three dementia patients exhibited anxiety, irritability, agitation, and apathy while two of the dementia patients suffer from wonderings and urinary incontinence. These Alzheimer’s patients were prescribed turmeric powder capsules and they started recovering from these symptoms without any adverse reaction in the clinical symptom and laboratory data. After 12 weeks of the turmeric treatment, the total score of the Neuro-Psychiatric Inventory-brief questionnaire reduced remarkably in both acuity of symptoms and burden of caregivers. Generally, the behavioral symptoms and mental states of these Alzheimer’s patients improved quite a lot that most of them even recognized their family members within 1 year of treatment.
Gotu Kola, which is botanically known as Centella asiatica belongs to the family of Apiaceae that is previously known as Umbelliferae. It is a perennial, creeping aromatic herb that is also known as the Indian Pennywort. It grows mainly in the swampy areas and is distinguished by its slender stems with creeping stolons. Gotu Kola bears long-stalked, rounded apices that have smooth texture with palmately netted veins. The green leaves are borne on pericladial petioles while the roots are made up of rhizomes. The white or pinkish-red flowers are borne in rounded bunches close to the surface of the soil. Each flower bears 2 styles and 5 stamens.
Gotu Kola rhizomes are distinguished by their cream color and they are also covered with root hairs. This plant thrives mainly in the tropical and subtropical parts of World especially Indonesia, India, China, Madagascar and Nepal.
Gotu Kola is a rich source of Asiaticoside and Asiatic acid. According to Dhanasekaran et al., (2009), this herb inhibits beta-amyloid cell death in vitro and this suggests why it is useful for treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease and beta-amyloid toxicity. The herb is also suitable for boosting intelligence and memory.
Ginkgo biloba L. (Ginkgoaceae)
Ginkgo biloba, which is also known as gingko, ginkgo or the maidenhair tree is the only surviving species in the Ginkgophyta division. This plant is found on fossils as far back as 270 million years ago. The tree is originally from China before spreading to other parts of the world. The tree serves as a source of food and for medicinal purposes. Teris and Beek (2002) reported that this plant is a rich source of alkylphenols, proanthocyanidins, biflavones, terpene trilactones, polyprenols, ginkgolides A, B, C, J and bilobalide.
Due to the chemical compounds present in this plant, it can serve as a scavenger for scavenging free radicals that are major contributors to memory decline, brain cell damage and excessive lipid peroxidation observed in dementia. The herbal preparation from this plant is effective for treating mild to moderate dementia at a higher single dose of 240 mg daily. It plays a major role in boosting the memory. It is worthy to note that ginkgo may have side effects, especially among dementia patients that also suffer from blood circulation disorders as well as those taking anticoagulants such as warfarin or aspirin.
Terminalia arjuna is known as arjun, arjuna, matthimara, kumbuk, thella maddi, neer maruthu or musta arjun. The plant grows between 20 to 25 metres in height and is distinguished by its buttressed trunk. The tree forms a broad canopy at the apex, from which the various branches drop downwards. It bears smooth, conical leaves that are green on the top and brown underneath. It also produces pale yellowish flowers that normally appear between March and June. The fibrous woody fruits, which are divided into five wings bloom between September and November.
The plant usually grows on river banks or very close to dry river beds. It is native to central India, Bangladesh, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Anil et al., (2012) reported that Terminalia arjuna is an excellent herb for slowing down the degeneration of the brain cell caused by Alzheimer disease. An herbal preparation from this plant can be taken to support and boost the functioning of the brain.
Galanthus nivalis L. (Amaryllidaceae)
Galanthus nivalis is popularly known as common snowdrop or snowdrop and it belongs to the genus of Galanthus. Snowdrop grows between 7 to 15 cm tall and it usually flowers between January and May. It is a perennial, herbaceous plant that usually grows from a bulb that bears two straight or a narrow lanceolate. The greyish-green leaves and the upright flowering stalk appear at the apex and the two bract-like spathe valves are connected by a papery membrane. In between them grows a solitary, droopy, bell-shaped white flower that is attached on a slender pedicel.
Snowdrop flower is made up of 6 tepals or segments. The inner flower segments are marked on their outer surface with a bridge-shaped green or greenish-yellow colour at the apex of each tepal. The six pointed anthers open by short slits or pores and the three-celled ovary usually ripens into a three-celled capsule. The main chemical component of the common snowdrop is Galanthamine, which is an isoquinoline alkaloid. Studies reveal that Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors or anticholinesterase drugs have been confirmed a suitable treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Ilkay et al., (2010) reported that galanthamine is the long-acting and specific inhibitor of the AChE enzyme thus essential for treating dementia.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is botanically referred to as Withania somnifera and known by other names such as; winter cherry, Indian ginseng or poison gooseberry. Ashwagandha belongs to the nightshade or Solanaceae family. The main chemical components of ashwagandha are alkaloids, tropine, steroidal lactones and cuscohygrine. The leaves are an excellent source of withanolides, steroidal lactones and withaferin A. Ashwagandha also contains withasomniferols A to C, dehydrowithanolide R, withanolides A to Y, withasomniferin A, withanone, withasomidienone, withanamides and withaferin A.
Studies reveal that the withanamides in this plant are powerful antioxidants for scavenging free radicals produced during the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, the neuronal cell death caused by amyloid plaques can also be blocked by withanamides. Mishra et al., (2000) reported that ashwagandha can be used as an antioxidant for scavenging free radicals as well as for supporting the immune system and the central nervous system against Alzheimer’s disease.
Jyotishmati is botanically known as Celastrus paniculatus and belongs to the family of Celastraceae. Jyotishmati is known by other names such as black-oil tree, svarnalota, malkangni, intellect tree, kangani, sphutabandhani or climbing-staff plant. It is a deciduous, woody climbing shrub that can grow to a very large size. The broad leaves are smooth, leathery, oval and elliptic in shape. They alternate on each other on their short petioles with toothed margins and grow on singular stems. The tiny flowers are whitish green to yellow green in color and they grow on the apex of the main stalk.
The stem is distinguished by its rough, pale or reddish brown exfoliating bark that is densely covered with small pointed white lenticels. The cork-like and light inner bark bears yellow sapwood. Jyotishmati small, oval shaped seeds usually grow in round pods that usually change from a yellowish colour to a red color while maturing. Both the leaves, seeds and bark of this plant can be used for medicinal purposes.
Raut et al., (2015) evaluated the memory enhancing impact of Celastrus paniculatus seed oil. Their results show that celastrus paniculatus seed oil has memory enhancing effect thus can be developed as a potential drug for treating dementia patients.
Commiphora wightii is also known as guggul, mukul myrrh tree, Indian bdellium-tree, gugal or gugul. It is a flowering plant that belongs to the family of Burseraceae and it is prevalent in northern India, central Asia and northern Africa. This shrub grows up to 13 ft height with thorny branches and thin papery bark. The broad leaves are irregularly toothed and the flowers are reddish-pink in colour with four petals. Commiphora wightii is used mostly for its gummy resin that can be collected from the plant’s bark through the process of tapping. The resin, which is known as gum guggul, has a similar smell to that of myrrh and this suggests why it is mostly used for making perfumes and incense.
Commiphora whighitti extract known as guglipid, gugulipid or guggulipid is widely used in Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine since time immemorial. A powerful chemical constituent of gugul extract is the steroid guggulsterone. This steroid antagonises the farnesoid X receptor as soon as it observes that there is a possibility of decreased cholesterol synthesis in the liver. Interestingly, Gurjan et al., (2007) pointed out that this plant is suitable for treating dementia.
Maca, which is botanically known as Lepidium meyenii is an herbaceous biennial plant that belongs to the crucifer family. Maca is also known as ayak willku, maca-maca, chichira, ayak or maino. The herb is originally from the high Andes of Peru and is cultivated mainly for its fleshy hypocotyl that serves as a medicinal herb or root vegetable. Lepidium meyenii is the only member of its genus that produces a fleshy hypocotyl that fuses with the taproot to form a rough inverted pear-shaped body.
Rubio et al., (2011) tested two different doses of aqueous extract of black maca on learning and memory in ovariectomized (OVX) mice and their relation with malonalehyde (MDA), acetylcholinesterase (Ache) and monoamine oxidase (MAO) brain levels. Their experiments showed that black maca reduced monoamine oxidase and acetylcholinesterase levels in ovariectomized mice. However, they observed no differences in the monoamine oxidase levels. Their study supports that the black maca ability to improve experimental memory impairment induced by ovariectomy, is attributed to its antioxidant and Ache inhibitory properties.
Rosemary is botanically known as Rosmarinus officinalis and belongs to the mint family of Lamiaceae. This woody, perennial herb is distinguished by its fragrant greenish needle-like leaves. It bears purple, white, blue or pink flowers as well as fibrous roots. The evergreen leaves are used for flavoring food and for medicinal purposes. Rosemary thrives well on dusty loam soil with good drainage in a sunny weather condition. It grows best in neutral to alkaline soil conditions at a pH 7–7.8. It can be propagated from an existing plant by cutting the stalk, stripping some leaves from the bottom and planting it straight into the soil.
Rosemary is a rich source of several phytochemicals such as rosmanol, carnosic acid, rosmarinic acid, rosmaridiphenol, camphor, ursolic acid, carnosol, caffeic acid and betulinic acid.
These chemical compounds in this plant act as powerful inhibitors of lipid peroxidation. Katerinopoulos et al., (2005) reported that the plant helps to improve memory, protect the brain from strokes and other health challenges such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
Sage is also known as broadleaf sage, purple sage, golden sage, true sage, garden sage, culinary sage, red sage, dalmatian sage, kitchen sage or common sage and botanically known as Salvia officinalis. This perennial evergreen shrub belongs to the family of Lamiaceae and originated from the Mediterranean region before spreading to other parts of the world. Common sage can be distilled for its essential oil that contains thujone, cineole and borneol.
Studies reveal that sage leaf is an excellent source of chlorogenic acid, cineole, fumaric acid, borneol, flavonoid glycosides, thujone, tannic acid, caffeic acid, nicotinamide, oleic acid, ursolic acid,estrogenic substances and carnosole. A couple of randomized, clinical, double-blind,balanced-crossover and placebo-controlled studies on sage have proven its efficacy for boosting memory, brain function, understanding, alertness, coherence and mood improvement following a single dosage of cholinesterase-inhibiting sage extracts or essential oils.
According to Akhondzadeh et al., (2003), sage contains powerful antioxidants as well as Acetylcholinesterase-inhibiting compounds that have been found effective for managing Alzheimer’s patients.
Lemon balm is known by other names such as common balm, balm mint or balm and botanically known as Melissa officinalis. It is a perennial herbaceous plant that belongs to the mint family of Lamiaceae. Lemon balm originates from the Mediterranean region, Central Asia, Europe and North Africa before spreading to other parts of the world.
The leaves are distinguished by their mild minty lemon flavour that comes from citronellal (24%), caryophyllene (12%), geranial (16%) and linalyl acetate (12%). Lemon balm also contains hydroxycinnamic acid, caffeic acid, luteolin-7-O-glucoside, methyl carnosoate, isoquercitrin, rhamnocitrin, ferulic acid and rosmarinic acid.
Howes et al., (2003) reported that Alzheimer’s patients who took a standardized extract of lemon balm orally on a daily basis for 4 months showed reduced agitation, anxiety and Alzheimer’s symptoms. Studies also support that lemon balm preparations are essential for improving mood and mental performance.
Prunella vulgaris (P. vulgaris)
Prunella vulgaris, which is also known as heal-all or common self-heal belongs to the genus Prunella. It is an herbaceous plant found mainly in Europe, Korea, China or Japan. The leaves are serrated, lance-shaped and reddish at the apex. The leaves measure approximately 2.5 cm long and 1.5 cm broad and they tend to grow opposite each other down the stem. Each leaf has 3-7 veins that shoot off at the middle vein to the margin. The stalks of the leaves are short and measure approximately 5 centimetres long. This herb contains antiviral, anti-allergy, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidizing properties. Studies reveal that Prunella vulgaris contains many active compounds such as flavonoids, rosmarinic acid, oleic acid, butyric acid and ursolic acid.
Park et al., (2010) examined the effects of the ethanolic extract of the flower of Prunella vulgaris var. lilacina (EEPV) on drug-induced learning and memory impairment using the passive avoidance, the Y-maze, and the Morris water maze tasks in mice. The EEPV significantly improved scopolamine-induced cognitive impairments in the passive avoidance and Y-maze tasks (P < 0.05). These results suggest that Prunella vulgaris is suitable for treating mental impairments caused by cholinergic dysfunction.
Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Liquorice, licorice or Yashtimadhuk is botanically known as Glycyrrhiza glabra. It is a herbaceous perennial plant that is originally from Asia and the southern part of Europe. It approximately grows up to 1 meter in height and the pinnate leaves measure between 7 to 15 centimetres long. Liquorice normally bears 9 to 17 leaflets and the flowers measure between 0.8 to 1.2 centimetres long. The plant produces an oblong pod that usually contains many seeds. The fruit pod measures between 2 to 3 centimetres long and turns brown when dry.
Liquorice thrives best in a properly drained soil condition and it is usually harvested during the autumn season at least two to three years after planting. Licorice root is an excellent source of antidepressant compounds including flavonoids and several plant estrogens known as phytoestrogens. Its main therapeutic compound is glycyrrhizin, which has been reported to be fifty times sweeter than sugar.
Singhal et al., (2012) reported that licorice is a powerful herb for slowing down the degeneration of the brain cells caused by Alzheimer’s disease. The herb improves resistance to stress as well as enhances the brain’s functionality thereby providing stability if used appropriately.
Where to Buy some of these Herbs!!!
DISCLAIMER This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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