Herbal Medicine Eases Dementia
An herbal medicine used in Asia for
2,000 years can reduce the impact of dementia, a small study suggests.
After 16 people took the Chinese
herbal preparation ba wei di huang wan (BDW) for 8 weeks, they
showed a boost in mental functioning, and had less trouble doing
their day-to-day activities. In contrast, people who took an inactive
(placebo) pill experienced no improvements over the same time
"These results argue the benefits
of BDW in the treatment of dementia," the authors, led by Dr.
Koh Iwasaki of Tohoku University School of Medicine in Miyagi,
The National Institute of Aging
recommends that elderly people use caution when taking herbal
treatments, since many can interfere with other medicines.
According to the Journal of the
American Geriatrics Society report, BDW has been used for centuries
by older adults throughout China, Japan and Korea. Evidence also
suggests the herbal treatment may ease fatigue, cold sensation,
and muscle weakness.
To investigate whether BDW helps
improve the mental abilities of people with dementia, Iwasaki
and colleagues asked 33 patients with mild to severe forms of
the condition to try either the treatment or a placebo for 8 weeks.
None of the patients, who were an average of 84 years old, were
told which they were taking.
Participants had dementia for an
average of 5 years. By the end of the study period, the authors
noted that people who were given BDW showed a significant improvement
in their mental functioning, and in their ability to complete
Even participants who showed minor
improvements in mental functioning "became quick in their action
and response to caregivers," the authors write. "Nurses and families
felt that the patients looked cheerful."
People taking the placebo showed
no significant improvement in either daily activities or mental
functioning, the authors note.
None of the patients taking BDW
experienced any side effects.
The reasons why BDW may improve
dementia remain unclear, Iwasaki and his colleagues write. Some
research suggests the treatment may boost the activity of important
proteins in the brain, increase the amount of brain substances
associated with learning and memory, or improve blood flow to
"A traditional Chinese medicine
is not simply a purified substance but contains many ingredients,
and the interaction of these ingredients is important," the authors
write. "Eight herbs in BDW were carefully devised to interlock
according to the traditional rules."
SOURCE: Journal of the American
Geriatrics Society, September 2004.
Reference Source 89
Oct 26, 2004