Question: Three of my family members—my wife, her father and my own father—are all showing signs of cognitive deterioration and short-term memory loss, and all are getting worse by the month. Can you offer any advice on natural ways to stop or even reverse the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease? The drugs don’t seem to work.
Answer: Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by a progressive loss of intellectual capabilities. Happily, there are a few unusual, but effective, natural solutions that can help.
Believe it or not, a number of edible mushrooms have been shown to improve the health of nerve cells. The lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) has a well-documented ability to heal and restore the motor and sensory nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. In one study from Malaysia, an extract of this mushroom was found to contain compounds that stimulated the synthesis of nerve growth factor, essential for brain cell health, and also increased the growth of the ‘neurites’ (axons and dendrites) on nerve cells that send and receive the electrochemical ‘messages’ (cell signals) between nerve cells and the rest of the body.1
The tiger milk mushroom (Lignosus rhinocerotis) is another edible fungus that, as a traditional herbal medicine, has been used for conditions like fever, cancer, food poisoning, coughs and asthma.
Like lion’s mane, it has been proven in laboratory studies to promote neurite outgrowths—by 21 percent in the brain, 25 percent in the spinal cord and 21 percent in eye retinal cells.2
As the authors concluded: “Taken as a whole, these medicinal mushrooms have shown neurological properties such as neuronal survival and neurite outgrowth activities, including improvement in recovery and function,” at least in animal studies.”2
I recommend introducing these mushrooms into your relatives’ diet.
Dried lion’s mane mushrooms are available online, and a quick look on the internet will reap a variety of recipes for preparing these edible medicinals. Or you can buy lion’s mane mushroom extract
(in powder form) and tiger milk capsules from various sites online or in many health-food stores.
Better known as water hyssop or ‘brahmi,’ this perennial creeping medicinal herb is native to the wetlands of nearly all continents, but it has been in use since at least the 6th century as part of traditional Ayurvedic medicine in India. It is taken to sharpen the intellect and slow mental decline, and has even been used by Vedic scholars to help them memorize those lengthy sacred hymns and scriptures.
In 2014, a pooled analysis of nine randomized controlled trials, involving a total of 518 men and women, looked at the effectiveness of B. monnieri extract for improving cognitive function and memory. The results showed that this herbal medicine has “the potential to improve cognition, particularly speed of attention.”3
I suggest that your family gets into the habit of drinking a tea made from an infusion of dried water hyssop leaves with their meals, three times a day, as a mental stimulant.4
Alternatively, supplements containing B. monnieri extract are available from health food stores and online (try Super Brain Booster, see page 55).
Extracts of the lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor) flowering
plant have long been thought to improve blood flow to the brain. For this reason, it is used to enhance memory and to stave off Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions affecting learning, memory and information-processing skills as people age.
Vinpocetine can also reduce the chances of disability and death due to ischemic stroke, when a blood clot stops the flow of blood in the brain, causing brain cells (neurons) to die of oxygen deprivation, and so it is usually administered immediately after a stroke. In a small preliminary study of 56 “cognitively impaired patients” suffering from epilepsy and/or dementia, “there were significant improvements in memory and concentration,” compared to controls.5
I suggest taking vinpocetine as part of a nutritional supplement called Super Brain Booster (available from www.wellnessresources.com), which also includes B. monnieri. The preparation also contains agents that are the ‘building blocks’ of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline (norepinephrine), both associated with alertness, drive and motivation, and essential for making thyroid hormones. One of these, acetyl-l-tyrosine, helps maintain cognitive function under stress; as it easily crosses the blood–brain barrier, it’s an exceptional nutrient for brain health.
Another supplement ingredient is a natural and highly bioavailable form of choline, which aids mental focus by helping to make acetylcholine, the primary neurotransmitter involved in memory and learning.
Choline also keeps brain cell membranes healthy and, at high doses (400 mg three times a day), has helped patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s by slowing the rate of cognitive decline.6
Neurotransmitters: Brain chemicals that communicate information throughout your brain and body
The link with infections
An editorial signed by 33 senior scientists from different centers across the UK, US and Europe raised the idea that “specific microbes in the elderly brain, notably herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), Chlamydia pneumoniae, and several types of spirochete” could well be responsible for the onset of Alzheimer’s in later life.
Citing an extensive list of 79 published reports, they suggested there was solid evidence that these infectious agents lie in wait in the brain and are reactivated with age as the immune system weakens or during bouts of stress. The ensuing inflammation leads or contributes to “synaptic dysfunction, neuronal loss, and ultimately AD.”7
Although more research is undoubtedly needed, my advice is to err on the side of caution. If you fall victim to any infectious disease involving herpesviruses, Chlamydia or Lyme disease (from tick bites), make sure you begin proper treatment without delay. As for herpes, I’ve had astonishing success with elderberry extract. My favorite? Nature’s Answer Sambucus Black Elder Berry Extract (available online).