Ayurveda For Alzheimer’s: Approach And Treatments

Ayurveda For Alzheimer's: Approach And Treatments
Ayurveda For Alzheimer's: Approach And Treatments

Sometimes we come across some behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia in a person, more commonly in his or her later age. These could be like having hallucinations, delusions, apathy, depression, agitation, irritability and wandering which disturbs the individual’s quality of life. This person might be suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. 

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

[pullquote] According to the principles of Ayurveda, Alzheimer’s disease is caused as a result of the imbalance in Vata dosha which is quite common as Vata naturally manifests as a person begins to grow older.[/pullquote] Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative neurological disorder. This is the most common form of Dementia in which the brain becomes unable to function properly and is generally related to old age.


Signs And Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

An individual who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease could be showing following signs and symptoms:


Difficulty in thinking and reasoning

-Making judgements and decisions


-Difficulty in recognizing known people or things

-Depression and anxiety


-Inability to do routine chores like bathing, grooming or eating

-Inability to remember recent activities or events


-Highly emotional behaviour and social withdrawal

-Forgetting common words while speaking, reading or writing


-Mood swings, Distrust in others, Irritability and aggressiveness, Changes in sleeping habits, Wandering, Loss of inhibitions, Delusions, such as believing something has been stolen.

Ayurvedic Understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the principles of Ayurveda, Alzheimer’s disease is caused as a result of the imbalance in Vata dosha which is quite common as Vata naturally manifests as a person begins to grow older. Ayurveda believes that the Alzheimer’s disease affects the vata in the tissues of the central nervous system of the body mainly the brain then slowly becomes imbalanced. Ayurvedic treatment in Alzheimer’s disease patients begins with a Vata Balancing Diet. However, adapting the living situation to the needs of a person with Alzheimer’s disease, along with physical exercises (preferably yoga poses and Pranayama) and proper nutrition is an important part of the Ayurvedic treatment plan.


Ayurvedic Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease

It includes medicines to prevent degeneration and at the same time those for strengthening of the brain. Such treatments for Alzheimer’s disease comprises of the use of herbs, which acts upon the majja dhatu and mano vaha srotas.

Certain herbs that serve as nerve tonics are mainly used in treating the disease through the science of Ayurveda.

-Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

-Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri)

-Haridra (Turmeric) – Recent reports have suggested therapeutic potential of Turmeric (powdered rhizome of the plant Curcuma longa) in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, because of its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-amyloid effects.


-Vacha (Acorus calamus)

Panchakarma Ayurvedic Treatments

Specialized Panchakarma Ayurvedic treatments are advised which are highly beneficial for providing thorough detoxification as well as aid in dosha balancing. A special part of treatment in Ayurveda is aimed at removing toxins from the body and servicing it for a better efficacy. Vamana, Virechana, Basti, Nasya is advised.

Ayurveda therapies such as Rasayana therapies, Shiro vasti, Shiro Dhara, Shiro Pichu, Abhyanga are commonly prescribed for Alzheimer’s patients.

Ayurvedic Case-Studies on Alzheimer’s Disease

Clinical case studies were performed on three patients at Department of Neurology, Kariya Toyota General Hospital, Kariya City, Aichi, Japan with the Alzheimer’s Disease whose cognitive decline and behavioural and psychological symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) were very severe and they were showing the behavioural symptoms like irritability, agitation, anxiety, and apathy, two patients suffer from urinary incontinence and wonderings.

As a result of the turmeric treatment (turmeric powder capsules), which is the traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, their behavioural symptoms were improved without any adverse reaction in the laboratory data. After 12 weeks of the treatment, a total score of the Neuro-Psychiatric Inventory-brief questionnaire decreased significantly in both acuity of symptoms and burden of caregivers. The three cases with the Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) whose behavioural symptoms and ability perform Activities of Daily Living (ADL) were improved by turmeric treatment without any adverse effects are as follows:

Study 1

A study was conducted on an 83-year-old female patient who developed progressive dementia. At the age of 76 she started to exhibit disturbances of short-term memory and orientation, along with a difficulty in learning new information. Without any past history of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and head injury. Although she had some psycho-behavioural changes, such as apathy, anxiety, agitation, and irritability. She required the presence of a caregiver though she was prescribed AChE inhibitor (donepezil 10 mg) and Yokukansan, which is a traditional Japanese medicine (Kampo).

When she was 83 years old, she scored on 1/30 her Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), which was used for evaluation of cognitive functions. After turmeric 764 mg/day (curcumin 100 mg/day) treatment for 12 weeks, both scores of acuity of symptoms and burden of caregivers were decreased by the Japanese version of neuropsychiatric inventory-brief questionnaire (NPI-Q). Among the NPI-Q subscales, her agitation, apathy, anxiety, and irritability were relieved. She began to tell about the need to urinate. Furthermore, she came to join in the laughter watching TV comedy program, began to sing some songs and do knitting, which she used to do. After taking turmeric for more than 1 year, she came to recognize her family and seem to remind her late husband and she lives a peaceful life without a significant BPSD.

Study 2

Another study on an 84-year-old female at the hospital suffering from progressive dementia was done, where she had symptoms of forgetfulness, disorientation to place and time, hallucination, delusion, agitation, irritability, depression, apathy, confabulation, wandering, and incontinence of urine, which developed several years prior to presentation. She also had a history of hypertension but was a non-smoker and drank a little alcohol.

 All her physical examinations and her laboratory data were normal but her cognitive decline was already very severe and her MMSE score was 0/30. On cerebral MRI revealed moderate bilateral temporal atrophy with the mild ventricular dilation. AChE inhibitor (donepezil) could not use because of the side-effects. Her BPSD, including agitation, irritability, and anxiety was not improved though she was prescribed Yokukansanand atypical antipsychotic drugs.

She was administered turmeric 764 mg/day (curcumin 100 mg/day) and her BPSD (hallucination, delusion, depression, agitation, apathy, anxiety, and irritability) were relieved and she gradually calmed down. She stopped urinating outside the front door. She came to put on her clothes properly, and distinguish her family from staffs of the care centre. After 12 weeks, judging from the Japanese version of NPI-Q, both acuity of BPSD and burden of caregivers were relieved. She has been taking turmeric for more than 1 year; she lives in a peacefully serene manner with her family.

Study 3

Yet another 79-year-old male was reported the short term memory loss gradually developed over several years, though he was already prescribed AChE inhibitor (donepezil 5 mg) by his previous doctor for 3 years. He had a history of hypertension being treated with losartan potassium. His physical and routine blood tests reports were normal. Cerebral MRI demonstrated mild bilateral temporal atrophy with mild ischemic changes in deep white matter. Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography showed typical AD pattern, which means perfusion in the temporal, parietal, and posterior cingulate is significantly decreased.

His MMSE score was 12/30, with poor orientation to place and time, calculation, concentration, recall, transcription of the figure, spontaneous writing, and verbal fluency. His BPSD was agitation, depression, apathy, anxiety, euphoria, aberrant eating behaviour, and irritability. Turmeric 764 mg/day (curcumin 100 mg/day) treatment for 12 weeks relieved the patient’s BPDS, especially agitation, irritability, and depression. His MMSE score was up five points, 17/30, improving calculation, concentration, transcription of the figure, and spontaneous writing. He has been taking turmeric for more than one year.