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June 10, 2008


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There was a news report today about a link between coffee and Alzheimer's disease.

Has gotu kola been validated by the FDA? It sounds like something I would want to use. Maybe then, I could remember where I put the invoice I need to pay, my glasses, the remote, etc. I would feel much better trying something natural than some concoction created by a company significantly motivated by its position on the stock market.

What research article did you use to prove the use of gotu kola in the treatment of AD? Is this scientifically proven?

I don’t know about this. Many studies have shown that ginkgo is useful for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The problem is, it interacts with other drugs, such as thiazide diuretics, NSAIDs and warfarin. Alzheimer’s disease is more common in elderly people. Since elderly people are taking many different medications, there is the potential for many different kinds of interactions and adverse effects. I think the best way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease is to keep the brain active.

There have been different approaches saying that vitamin E, ginkgo, etc. help improve memory loss. However, the fact that Alzheimer’s disease itself is still somewhat an unknown to us makes it harder to find a definite answer to which such supplements work for memory loss. This may be a promising cure for AD, but until we know the exact mechanism by which gotu kola works, it still remains unsafe.

This sounds very similar to the “Indian ginseng” called ashwagandha that comes from the root of Withania somnifera. There was a double-blind randomized study done in New Delhi that found that the aging process of 101 males from 50-59 y/o was significantly slowed (i.e., less gray hair, hight RBC counts, lower cholesterol levels).

Other herbs/supplements that purportedly help brain health and cognition are: Scutellaria baicalensis, Acacia catechu, choline and phosphatitylserine.

Here are 2 interesting articles about the use of adult stem cells for Alzheimer's: http://www.stemcellnews.com/articles/stem-cells-could-aid-alzheimers-fight.htm.

In this article, the researchers found that Alzheimer's patients may be able to use their own bone marrow stem cells to fight off nerve cell degeneration that results in dementia.


These researchers found that treating bone marrow cells with the compound made adult stem cells more likely to turn into brain cells in experiments with rats.

Ginkgo, sage and bacopa deserve mention as possible therapies for cognitive decline. Although it is unclear if these therapies may be of benefit in Alzheimer's disease specifically, there is a plentiful research into their effects on memory and cognition.

Traditional herbalists use gotu kola all the time for cognitive-related disorders, so its use in AD makes sense to me. But when I look in the Natural Standard monograph - there are only two studies supporting its use in Alzheimer's patients, and they are a rat study and a laboratory study. I agree that this therapy can be promising - but we need more evidence!!

Also - Shoshanna - I would be careful about making strong conclusions regarding animal studies. Often something won't work in a rat, but it will in a human - which opens up a can of placebo-effect worms...

I think it bears mentioning that there is strong scientific evidence supporting the use of ginkgo in dementia patients. This therapy has been studied and used intensively and may be a very important herbal remedy considering the graying of the population. Overall, the scientific literature suggests that ginkgo benefits people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease and multi-infarct dementia, and it may be as helpful as acetylcholinesterase inhibitor drugs such as donepezil (Aricept®). Well-designed research comparing ginkgo to prescription drug therapies is needed.

I would not agree that the paper by the Baltimore researchers shows potential efficacy of gotu kola for AD. But since there is no real effective preventive strategy or treatment for AD, it does make some sense to explore it further. The best you can say about current conventional treatments is that they MAY delay progression for six months to a year in HALF the patients. Not great. But there are few alternatives, and with the number of people who will be diagnosed with AD expected to rise over the next 20 to 30 years, this therapy really should be investigated.

There is in vitro evidence that asiaticoside derivatives, including asiatic acid and asiaticoside 6, may help reduce hydrogen peroxide-induced cell death, decrease free radical concentrations and inhibit beta amyloid cell death. This suggests a possible role for gotu kola in the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease and beta amyloid toxicity

I’ve read about other “vascular” agents that improve Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but I wonder whether they really have an effect on the disease or if they just temporarily improve the blood supply to the active cells. I wonder whether scientific studies have tried to separate out the effects of improving blood flow and the actual improvement of cells active in memory, cognition, thinking, etc.

One of the most often used therapies for AD is ginkgo. The scientific literature overall does suggest that ginkgo benefits people with early stage Alzheimer's disease and multi-infarct dementia, and it may be as helpful as acetylcholinesterase inhibitor drugs such as donepezil (Aricept®). High-quality studies comparing ginkgo to prescription drug therapies is needed.

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