Treatments that have been shown to be useful for people with dementia
Herbal medicine is the use of plants to restore or maintain health. Phytomedicine is a term often used to denote a more scientific approach to herbal medicine, where, for example, products are standardised and concentrated to contain specified amounts of the identified active substances in the herbal products. More rigorous research is also usually undertaken.
There is variation in the quality and, therefore, the levels of the active constituents of herbal products. Herbal medicines are generally regulated as foodstuffs or dietary supplements in the UK. As such, there is the potential for self-medication, as they can be bought over the counter from most health food shops. If you are interested in selfmedication, consult your doctor first and buy a recognised brand by a leading manufacturer.
Silymarin is an extract of milk thistle (silybum marianum L), a tall herb with prickly leaves and a milky sap. Native to the Mediterranean region of Europe, it is now naturalised in California and the eastern USA.
Silymarin is alleged to help the functioning of the liver. It may reduce the side-effects experienced with Tacrine (a conventional drug used to treat dementia, not available in the UK) that may cause liver problems. One study found that 420mg of Silymarin a day seemed to reduce the number of cases of liver toxicity in those taking it and found that the drug was well tolerated.
'Kanpo' is a Japanese variant of Chinese traditional medicine. The 'Kanpo' mixture Choto-san, which contains 11 medicinal plants, has been the subject of investigation. A research study found an improvement over 12 weeks in patients with vascular dementia taking Choto-san. Further research on this preparation seems warranted.
Another Kanpo mixture, Kami-Umtan-To (KUT), which contains 13 different plants, has also been investigated. The KUT review reports that a clinical trial found a slower decline in the group given this preparation.
The Chinese traditional herbal medicine Yizhi capsule (YZC) has also been the subject of investigation. Two studies used patients with vascular dementia. However, although both reported positive results, the studies were not of a high standard. Further research into this preparation also seems warranted.