Alzheimer's disease (AD) is reaching epidemic proportions yet treatment strategies are limited and are restricted to providing symptomatic relief for the cognitive and behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD). Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) has been a valuable source of medicines for centuries and research has burgeoned in recent years to understand the scientific basis for their use. Some plants have been used in CHM for AD symptoms (e.g., Polygala tenuifolia), while others are CHMs for different conditions, but they show mechanistic effects relevant to AD (e.g., Salvia miltiorrhiza). Some CHMs (e.g., Ginkgo biloba extract, and huperzine A from Huperzia serrata) show pharmacological activities relevant to AD, and promising effects on cognitive functions in clinical trials. Other CHMs show effects relevant to BPSD (e.g., Crocus sativus). This chapter discusses available scientific evidence for CHM plants and formulae that have been used both traditionally for AD, and those that have been used traditionally but not specifically for AD symptoms, and encompasses chemical, pharmacological and clinical studies. The ethnopharmacological approach to understanding the use of CHMs for AD is also discussed.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Ginkgo; Ginseng; Memory; Traditional Chinese medicine.
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