Ginseng (1999, '08, '11, '16) & Alzheimer's
Asian ginseng (panax ginseng) root extract has been widely used in the far eastern countries such as China, Japan, and Korea for thousands of years as a traditional tonic for longevity, and is known for energizing the body or increasing vital energy and mood elevation with few if any side effects. Ginseng may reduce amyloid and neurofibrillary fiber build-up related to Alzheimer's.1
A number of studies have shown that the long-term administration of Korean red ginseng extract to patients with AD, combined with conventional AD drugs, gradually improved cognitive function, as assessed using the mini-mental state examination (MMSE) and Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale (ADAS-Cog) tests, with minor adverse effects,2, 3, 4 with positive indication of frontal cortical activity, such as right temporal, parietal, and occipital areas, in elderly patients with AD.
Gintonin found in ginseng when applied to neuroblastoma cells decreased Aβ formation and attenuated Aβ-induced neurotoxicity, indicating that gintonin could affect APP processing in the brain.5
However a review and meta-analysis of research on ginseng and Alzheimer's reports that studies have had small sample size, questionable methodology, and missing placebos. Further research is needed.6
1. Rege NN, Thatte UM, Dahanukar SA (1999). Adaptogenic properties of six rasayana herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine. Phytother Res. 1999;13:275-291.
2. Heo JH, Lee ST, Chu K, Oh MJ, Park HJ, et al. (2008). An open-label trial of Korean red ginseng as an adjuvant treatment for cognitive impairment in patients with Alzheimer's disease. Eur J Neurol. 2008;15:865-868.
3. Heo JH, Lee ST., Oh MJ, Park HJ, Shim JY, et al. (2011). Improvement of cognitive deficit in Alzheimer's disease patients by long term treatment with Korean red ginseng. J Ginseng Res. 2011;35:457-461.
4. Lee ST, Chu K, Sim JY, Heo JH, Kim M. (2008). Panax ginseng enhances cognitive performance in Alzheimer disease. Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2008;22:222-226.
5. Hwang SH, Shin EJ, Shin TJ, Lee BH, Choi SH, et al. (2012). Gintonin, a ginseng-derived lysophosphatidic acid receptor ligand, attenuates Alzheimer's disease-related neuropathies: involvement of non-amyloidogenic processing. J Alzheimer's Dis. 2012;31:207-223.
6. Yang G, Gong J, Lu F, Diao Q, et al. (2016). Ginseng for Alzheimer's Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Curr Top Med Chem. 2016;16(5):529-35.