Alternative medicine

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Several dietary supplements, herbal remedies and therapies have been studied for people with dementia. Some may be beneficial.

Dietary supplements, vitamins and herbal remedies

Use caution when considering dietary supplements, vitamins or herbal remedies to slow the progress of dementia, especially if you're taking other medications.

Dietary supplements, vitamins and herbal remedies aren't regulated, and claims about their benefits aren't always based on scientific research. Some alternative medicine options for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia that have been studied include:

  • Vitamin E. Some studies have shown that vitamin E may slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Doctors warn against taking large doses of vitamin E because it may have a higher risk of mortality, especially in people with heart disease.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid found in fish and nuts, may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and mild cognitive impairment. However, in studies, omega-3 fatty acids haven't significantly slowed cognitive decline in mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. More research is needed to understand whether omega-3 fatty acids benefit people with Alzheimer's and other types of dementia.
  • Coenzyme Q10. This antioxidant occurs naturally in your body. It's also necessary for normal cell reactions.

    A synthetic version of this compound, called idebenone, showed some positive results in testing for Alzheimer's disease.

    More studies are needed to determine safe dosages and potential benefits of coenzyme Q10.

  • Ginkgo. Extracts from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may protect cells in your brain from breaking down.

    Some studies have shown that ginkgo may slow the progression of memory problems in people with Alzheimer's or other types of dementia. Other studies have found that ginkgo doesn't slow or delay the onset of dementia.

Other therapies

People with dementia often experience worse symptoms when they're frustrated or anxious. The following techniques may help reduce agitation and promote relaxation in people with dementia.

  • Music therapy, which involves listening to soothing music
  • Pet therapy, which involves use of animals, such as visits from dogs, to promote improved moods and behaviors in people with dementia
  • Aromatherapy, which uses fragrant plant oils
  • Massage therapy
Apr. 16, 2013