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Alzheimer's Disease in Ayurveda – Part 1

Ayurveda, an ancient system of preventive health care, was developed in India over 6,000 years ago. Ayurveda (meaning knowledge of life) seeks to create balance and strengthen the body's healing abilities.

According to Ayurveda, as humans get older, the body and brain become more agitated and dry. Alzheimer's disease (AD) has been associated with marked shrinkage of the brain. In Ayurveda, this "drying" effect can be remedied through proper diet, digestion, routine, and rejuvenation programs. The secret to successful aging is to keep the doshas (vata , pitta , and kapha ) in balance . Longevity and health can be supported by strengthening kapha, increasing lubrication and stability, and decreasing vata, which diminishes dryness and unsettledness of the mind and body. Ayurveda states that with advancing age, the makeup of the brain and body gradually becomes more and more agitated and dry, an increase in vata. These tendencies greatly increase the likelihood of disease, including insomnia, anxiety, stroke, and dementia. Changes in diet and lifestyle may help prevent the onset and delay the progression of AD. Ayurveda seeks to enliven the body's inner intelligence and restore balance to physiological and psychological functioning, and it provides certain treatments to accomplish this balance.

Some Ayurvedic treatments which aid in counteracting age-related drying effects by lubricating the brain include Abhyanga, Shirodhara, and Nasya. Abhyanga is an herbalized oil massage, often with sesame oil as the base, that helps lubricate the skin, aid in circulation, and draw out the impurities in the cells. It can be self-administered prior to taking a shower. Shirodhara is a soothing, continuous flow of herbalized oil poured slowly and gently over the forehead which settles and balances the nervous system (See HC News April 30, 2009). In Ayurveda, the nose is considered the gateway to the brain. The purpose of Nasya therapy is to remove impurities from the head via the nasal passages. This treatment features an herbalized oil application to your head and face followed by the inhalation of herbalized steam. Special herbal preparations are then administered through the nasal passages, purifying the head area and bringing increased clarity to the brain.


In HerbClip issue # 460, HC 061253-460 covers a study where the ginkgo extract EGb 761® (Dr. Willmar Schwabe GmbH & Co. KG; Karlsruhe, Germany) was found to improve cognitive performance and psychiatric symptoms in patients with mild-to-moderate AD. Also, HC 071255-460 reviews an ethnobotanical study of plants and their phytochemicals which might benefit patients with AD and dementia.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor