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Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen. 2006 Mar-Apr;21(2):113-8.

Herbal medicine in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

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  • 1Psychiatric Research Center, Roozbeh Hospital, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized by profound memory loss sufficient to interfere with social and occupational functioning. It is the most common form of dementia, affecting more than 20 million people worldwide. AD is characterized by an insidious loss of memory, associated functional decline, and behavioral disturbances. Patients may live for more than a decade after they are diagnosed with AD, making it the leading cause of disability in the elderly. The incidence of AD ranges from 1 to 4 percent of the population per year, rising from its lowest level at ages 65 to 70 years to rates that may approach 6 percent for those over the age of 85 years. The first neurotransmitter defect discovered in AD involved acetylcholine (ACh). As cholinergic function is required for short-term memory, the cholinergic deficit in AD was also believed to be responsible for much of the short-term memory deficit. Clinical drug trials in patients with AD have focused on drugs that augment levels of ACh in the brain to compensate for the loss of cholinergic function. These drugs have included ACh precursors, muscarinic agonists, nicotinic agonists, and acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. The most highly developed and successful approaches to date have employed acetylcholinestrase inhibition. Although some Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs are available for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, the outcomes are often unsatisfactory, and there is a place for alternative medicine, in particular, herbal medicine. This paper reviews the clinical effects of a number of commonly used types of herbal medicines for the treatment of AD.

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