Natural substances and Alzheimer's disease: from preclinical studies to evidence based medicine

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 May;1822(5):616-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2011.09.004. Epub 2011 Sep 14.


Over the last 10 years, the potential therapeutic effects of nutraceuticals to prevent or delay Alzheimer's disease were proposed. Among dietary antioxidants curcumin, Ginkgo biloba and carnitines were extensively studied for their neuroprotective effects. The rationale for this alternative therapeutic approach was based on several preclinical studies which suggested the neuroprotective effects for curcumin, Ginkgo biloba and acetyl-l-carnitine due to either a free radical scavenging activity or the inhibition of pro-inflammatory pathways or the potentiation of the cell stress response. However, although these are interesting premises, clinical studies were not able to demonstrate significant beneficial effects of curcumin, Ginkgo biloba and acetyl-l-carnitine in improving cognitive functions in Alzheimer's disease patients. The aim of this review is to summarize the main pharmacologic features of curcumin, Ginkgo biloba and carnitines as well as to underlie the main outcomes reached by clinical studies designed to demonstrate the efficacy of these natural substances in Alzheimer's disease patients. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Antioxidants and Antioxidant Treatment in Disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / therapy*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans


  • Antioxidants
  • Biological Products