woman with alzheimers and dementia

Alzheimer’s and Dementia

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc, ND

There are many natural treatments that may help prevent and treat Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Vitamins, Minerals and EFA’s for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Healthy brain function requires several key nutrients:

  1. B vitamins.  B vitamins are critical to normal nerve transmission.  B12 is particularly important for healthy brain function and deficiency is common amongst elderly patients due to lower intake of B12 rich foods like eggs and meat and lower stomach acid, which impairs B12 absorption.
  2. Essential Fatty Acids.  These are the healthy fats that we have to get from our diet as our bodies can’t produce them.  Fish and fish oils are a rich source of Omega 3 essential fatty acids, while Omega 6’s are high in corn, sunflower and soybean oils.  Our diets tend to be too heavily weighted in Omega 6’s and much too low in Omega 3’s.
  3. Magnesium.  Vitamin B6 and Magnesium are required for healthy production of neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals that regulate how our brains work.  Neurotransmitters regulate moods like feeling happy, energetic, rewarded and sleepy.  Imbalances in them can create anxiety, depression, insomnia and addiction.
  4. Active folic acid or L-5MTHF.  This particular form of folic acid is used to help maintain normal levels of homocysteine.  High levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risk for heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Lifestyle Factors and Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Aside from these critical nutrients, lifestyle factors like physical activity and maintaining a healthy social life help maintain healthy cognitive function and prevent dementia.  There’s also the “use it or lose it” factor.  Learning new skills and facing intellectual challenges like sudoku or crossword puzzles helps to keep the brain sharp.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

There is a multitude of research on the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM on Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Our naturopathic doctors and acupuncturist are experts in TCM and can help select the most appropriate herbal formulas based on your overall symptoms.  Acupuncture has been shown to help reduce symptoms after 12 weeks.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research

Vitamin B6 and B12:

Agnew-Blais JC, Wassertheil-Smoller S, Kang JH, Hogan PE, Coker LH, Snetselaar LG, Smoller JW. Folate,
vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 intake and mild cognitive impairment and probable dementia in the
Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study.
Akhondzadeh S, Noroozian M, Mohammadi M, Ohadinia S, Jamshidi AH, Khani M. Melissa officinalis
extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double blind,
randomised, placebo controlled trial. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2003; 74(7):863-6.
● At four months, Melissa officinalis extract produced a significantly better outcome on cognitive
function compared to placebo (as measured by change in ADAS-cog and CDR-SB scores)
Bredesen DE. Reversal of cognitive decline: a novel therapeutic program. Aging (Albany NY) . 2014;

H Pylori:

Felice C, Federico C, Andrea F, Riccardo AC, Walter S, Domenico I, Chiara M, Rosanna C. The hypothesis
that Helicobacter pylori predisposes to Alzheimer’s disease is biologically plausible. Sci Rep .
2017; 7(1):7817.
● H pylori peptide modulated 77 genes in human gastric cells, 65 of which are listed in the AlzBase
database and include hallmarks of AD (APP, APOE, PSEN1, PSEN2). A large fraction of genes
30/77 belong to the inflammation pathway

Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Gao J, Inagaki Y, Li X, Kokudo N, Tang W. Research progress on natural products from traditional Chinese
medicine in treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Drug Discov Ther . 2013; 7(2):46-57.
Gottesman RF, Schneider AL, Zhou Y, Coresh J, Green E, Gupta N, Knopman DS, Mintz A, Rahmim A,
Sharrett AR, Wagenknecht LE, Wong DF, Mosley TH. Association between midlife vascular risk
factors and estimated brain amyloid deposition. JAMA . 2017; 317(14): 1443-1450.
● This study found that an increase in the number of midlife vascular risk factors (BMI >30, current
smoking, HTN, diabetes, and total cholesterol > 200 mg/dL) were associated with increase in
amyloid standardized uptake value ratios in PET, a measure indicating brightness of tissue in
brain area and amount of cellular activity in the area. This study is consistent with the theory of
cardiovascular disease role in development of Alzheimer disease.

Korean Red Ginseng:

Hebert LE, Weuve J, Scherr PA, Evans DA. Alzheimer disease in the United States (2010-2050) estimated
using the 2010 census. Neurology . 2013; 80(19):1778-83.
Heo JH, Lee ST, Chu K, Oh MJ, Park HJ, Shim JY, Kim M. An open-label trial of Korean red ginseng as an
adjuvant treatment for cognitive impairment in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Eur J Neurol .
2008; 15(8):865-8.
● High-dose Korean red ginseng group (9 g/day) showed significant improvement on the ADAS and
CDR scale after 12 weeks of therapy compared to control; improvement from baseline was
observed in the ginseng group, but was not statistically significant.


Hooshmand B, Solomon A, Kareholt I, Leiviska J, Rusanen M, Ahtiluoto S, Winblad B, Laatikainen T,
Soininen H, Kivipelto M. Homocysteine and holotranscobalamin and the risk of Alzheimer
disease: a longitudinal study. Neurology . 2010; 75(16):1408-14.
● Increases in homocysteine and holotranscobalamin both may be involved in the development of


Jia Y, Zhang X, Yu J, Han J, Yu T, Shi J, Zhao L, Nie K. Acupuncture for patients with mild to moderate
Alzheimer’s disease: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017; 17:556.
● ADAS-cog scores for the acupuncture group decreased at the 12-week follow up period, as well
as a difference in ADAS-cog scores at baseline to 12-week follow up period compared to the
donepezil hydrochloride group.
● Significant between-group differences detected
● Mean CIBIC-Plus values for the acupuncture group at end of treatment period and after 12-week
follow up were lower than the donepezil hydrochloride group, significant differences between
two groups
● No significant differences between groups in scores of ADAS-ADL and NPI during study period
● No treatment discontinuation for acupuncture group, but 9% discontinued treatment in the
donepezil group.

Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Jiang Y, Gao H, Turdu G. Traditional Chinese medicinal herbs as potential AChE inhibitors for
anti-Alzheimer’s disease: a review. Bioorg Chem . 2017; 75:50-61.
● Herbs include Herba Epimedii, Coptis Chinensis Franch, Rhizoma Curcumae Longae, Green Tea,
Ganoderma, Panax Ginseng.
Kern J, Kern S, Blennow K, Zetterberg H, Waern M, Guo X, Borjesson-Hanson A, Skoog I, Ostling S.

Avoid Calcium:

Calcium supplementation and risk of dementia in women with cerebrovascular disease.
Neurology . 2016; 87(16):1674-1680.
● This study found that calcium supplementation posed increased risk for developing dementia
and subtype stroke-related dementia (vascular and mixed dementias) in women ages 70-92 with
a history of stroke, compared with those who were not taking calcium supplements
Shi X, Zheng Z, Li J, Xiao Z, Qi W, Zhang A, Wu Q, Fang Y. Curcumin inhibits Abeta-induced microglial
inflammatory responses in vitro: involvement of ERK1/2 and p38 signaling pathways. Neurosci
Lett . 2015; 594:105-10.

Physical Activity:

Smith JC, Nielson KA, Woodard JL, Seidenberg M, Drugerian S, Hazlett KE, Figueroa CM, Kandah CC< Kay
CD, Matthews MA, Rao SM. Physical activity reduces hippocampal atrophy in elders at genetic
risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Front Aging Neurosci . 2014; 6:61.
● Over 18 months, hippocampal volume decreased by 3% in the high risk/low physical activity
group, but remained stable in the three remaining groups (high risk/high PA, low risk/low PA,
low risk/high PA)

Chinese Medicine:

Su Y, Wang Q, Wang C, Chan K, Sun Y, Kuang H. The treatment of Alzheimer’s disease using Chinese
medicinal plants: from disease models to potential clinical applications. J Ethnopharmacol . 2014;


Wade AG, Farmer M, Harari G, Fund N, Laudon M, Nir T, Frydman-Marom A, Zisapel N. Add-on
prolonged release melatonin for cognitive function and sleep in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s
disease: a 6-month, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial. Clin Interv Aging . 2014;
● Prolonged release melatonin added to standard therapy of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors with
or without memantine – results showed that the PRM group had significantly improved
cognitive performance compared to placebo, better sleep efficiency, particularly in those with
insomnia comorbidity

Chinese Herbal Medicine:

Wang ZY, Liu JG, Li H, Yang HM. Pharmacological effects of active components of Chinese herbal
medicine in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: a review. Am J Chin Med . 2016;

Yang WT, Zheng XW, Chen S, Shan CS, Xu QC, Zhu JZ, Bao XY, Lin Y, Zheng GQ, Wang Y. Chinese herbal
medicine for Alzheimer’s disease: clinical evidence and possible mechanism of neurogenesis.
Biochem Pharmacol . 2017; 141:143-155.