Part 2 of 2: Natural Remedies for Dementia

Dementia is a devastating disease. Most of us have seen or experienced the toll on families that comes with caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Currently, there are an estimated 8.5 million family members providing dementia care at home and, with no cure on the horizon, this number is expected to rise sharply.

Although there is no cure, when it comes to dementia (including Alzheimer’s and other forms), research shows that when more formal pharmaceutical treatments are complemented by natural remedies and healthy habits, greater improvement can often be seen. As described in Part 1 of this article, it has been shown that some of the most effective home remedies for dementia include the use of certain food products such as ginseng, salvia, bananas, and more, as well as behavior changes, including breaking routine, creative stimulation, Reiki, meditation, and aromatherapy. Today, we’ll look at some additional natural remedies that are still natural, but are more “medicinal” in nature because you typically take them in a pill form, including vitamin B12, ginkgo, fish oil, club moss, turmeric and, perhaps most surprisingly, lithium.

Please note before reading: As I mentioned previously, these natural remedies are intended to boost quality of life and delay or slow the progression of dementia; they are not a cure. As always, ask your doctor before starting any natural remedies, as even natural remedies can have unwanted side effects such as negative impact on the liver and kidneys.

Club Moss: This popular Chinese herb has long been trusted to improve cognition, and research studies have shown a 50% improvement in cognitive performance and memory in those patients taking regular club moss supplements.

B12 Supplements: If you are suffering from younger-onset dementia, there is a good chance that you are also suffering from a B12 deficiency, which can be easily fixed by supplements, or by consuming foods like sardines, shrimp, tuna, beef, and yogurt!

Ginkgo is one of the oldest and most trusted natural remedies for dementia and Alzheimer’s. It has been shown in numerous research studies that ginkgo is able to increase circulation within the brain and boost short-term memory. Ginkgo biloba supplements are some of the most popular herbal remedies for cognitive function in the world.

Fish Oil: Omega-3 fatty acids are the “good” cholesterol that is so often overlooked when pursuing total health. These beneficial fatty acids can prevent brain lesions, which are often precursors or causative elements behind dementia, so don’t be afraid of taking a fish oil supplement, which is rich in omega-3s, when you’re feeling a bit fuzzy.

Turmeric: You might expect rates of dementia to be similar across the world, but in fact, India has a significantly lower rate of dementia than other parts of the world. The high prevalence of turmeric in their diet may have something to do with this, as it has been shown to block the creation of meta-amyloid, which is the source of plaque in the brain that compounds the issues of dementia.

Lithium and Dementia

Despite lithium’s main reputation as being a drug used to treat bipolar disorder, it is actually a natural occurring mineral – related to sodium and potassium – and low doses of this mineral are generally considered safe and can have significant cognitive benefits, as well as many other health benefits.

According to Dr. Edward Group, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM, “most people are unaware that lithium is a naturally occurring mineral from the earth. Just like calcium and potassium, lithium is something that every human body requires.”

Dr. Jonathan V. Wright of the Tahoma Clinic explains in a two-part series that lithium is a Misunderstood Mineral. He says “The biggest problem with lithium treatment is people’s perception of it. Since its most well known use is for bi-polar disorder, lithium sometimes encounters the same stigma as mental illness itself.”

According to Davangere Devanand, M.D., director of the geriatric psychiatry program at Columbia University, in an interview with Psychiatric News, “More recently there has been some preliminary evidence that low doses of lithium may have beneficial effects on cognition in patients with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, though the findings are not yet consistent and have been obtained in small samples.”

In a recent study, Davanand and colleagues from the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University and the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University conducted a large-scale, retrospective study of patients with bipolar disorder. As the group reports in the study published last month in the British Journal of Psychiatry, lithium treatment was associated with a decreased risk for dementia in patients with bipolar disorder, the opposite of what the scientists originally expected.

To conduct the study, the team gathered clinical data from 27,700 Medicaid and Medicare enrollees aged 50 and older with bipolar disorder who did not receive dementia-related services in the past year. Lithium use at various doses was observed in 6,900 patients who had multiple follow-up visits within a given year.

Each visit, including the initial day of prescription, was categorized by duration of lithium exposure within that year. The categories included no exposure to lithium (0 days), sporadic exposure to lithium (1 to 60 days), intermediate exposure to lithium (61 to 300 days), and continuous exposure to lithium (301 to 365 days). Patients who used anticonvulsive therapy (20,788) as treatment for bipolar disorder were used as negative controls.

The results showed that increasing the duration of lithium exposure in the past year was associated with a gradual decrease in the incident rate for dementia. In fact, continuous exposure to lithium was statistically significant in reducing the risk of dementia by 44% when compared with patients in the group that had no lithium exposure.

“The results suggest that long-term lithium use may have beneficial effects on cognition and may be potentially worth testing in patients with cognitive disorders like mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease in the future,” said Devanand.

Other studies include one by doctors at Wayne State University (Detroit), reported in report in the Lancet in October 2000 that lithium has the ability to both protect and renew brain cells. Eight of ten individuals who took high dose lithium showed an average 3 percent increase in brain grey matter in just four weeks.

Another group of researchers reported in the journal Neuroscience in 2003 that lithium enhances nerve cell DNA replication – actually generating entirely new cells.

Dr. Wright cautions that “The Wayne State study used high-dose lithium, but . . . prescription quantities of lithium just aren’t necessary for ‘everyday’ brain cell protection and re-growth.” He also states that “Studies done years ago have shown that very low amounts of lithium can also measurably influence brain function for the better.”

So, if you’re interested in keeping your brain as young as possible for as long as possible, lithium therapy may be a consideration for you. High-dose lithium is available only by prescription. But low-dose lithium is easily available from most natural food stores and from and other online retailers. The most recommended form of low-dose lithium is lithium orotate.

Dr. Group says that low-dose lithium orotate may also:

  • Protect the body from toxins, particularly in the grey matter of the brain
  • Promote normal white blood cell count
  • Support liver health
  • Stimulate general well-being
  • Encourage normal thyroid health
  • Prompt mental balance and a good mood, and
  • Support eyesight

Be sure to review the information about lithium and the other natural remedies described with your own doctor or with a physician that is skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine before taking them.

Considering taking a vitamin or supplement to treat dementia?

WebMD offers a list of common natural remedies used to treat or reduce the symptoms of dementia, with information about effectiveness, and links to read about common uses, side effects, and dosage details here.

Do you or a loved one have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia?

Controlling the high costs of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, and navigating the emotionally and physically demanding requirements of caregiving, require the assistance of a highly skilled and specialized expert in the field of Alzheimer’s Planning. At Farr Law Firm, P.C., we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from dementia and their loved ones. Please call us as soon as possible to make an appointment for a consultation:

Fairfax Alzheimer’s Planning: 703-691-1888

Fredericksburg Alzheimer’s Planning: 540-479-1435

Rockville Alzheimer’s Planning: 301-519-8041

DC Alzheimer’s Planning: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.