Other Proposed Natural Treatments
Which of us would not want a boost in mental function if we could get it? Whether it is remembering names, numbers, computer passwords, or why we walked into a room (so-called “destinesia”), we have all been frustrated by the occasional limitations of our ability to remember.
Mental function often declines particularly under conditions of stress or fatigue. In addition, most people over the age of 40 experience some memory loss, technically known as age-related cognitive decline (ARCD) or age-associated memory impairment (AAMI). We do not know what causes this normal experience, and there is no conventional treatment available for it. As you shall see in this section, there are a few natural treatments that might be helpful for these problems.
Certain conditions can cause a far more serious loss of mental function. These are discussed in the article on Alzheimer's disease and related conditions .
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
Statistically speaking, it is easier to demonstrate a big improvement than a small one, and for that reason it is more difficult to prove the effectiveness of a treatment in a mild condition than in a severe one. Because of this, there is far more evidence supporting the use of natural supplements for treating Alzheimer’s disease than for improving mental function in healthy people. Nonetheless, there is some evidence for the latter, and we present it here.
An extract made from the herb Ginkgo biloba is a well-established herbal treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Ginkgo may also be helpful for improving normal age-related memory loss, and even for enhancing mental function in younger people.
In 6 out of 9 double-blind studies, use of Ginkgo biloba extract significantly improved age-related mental decline compared to placebo.
Besides these negative trials, there is another weakness in the evidence. There are numerous measurable aspects of memory and mental function, and studies of ginkgo for improving memory and mental function have examined a great many of these. Unfortunately the exact areas of benefits seen vary widely. For example, in one positive study, ginkgo may speed up the ability to memorize letters but not expand the number of letters that can be retained; while in another positive study, the reverse may be true. This type of inconsistency tends to decrease the confidence one can place in these apparently positive studies, because if ginkgo were really working, one would expect its effects to be more reproducible.
The bottom line: Ginkgo may help normal age-related memory loss, but more research is necessary before we will know for sure.
Like ginkgo, the supplement phosphatidylserine (PS) is widely used in Europe to treat various forms of dementia. There is some evidence that PS can also help people with ordinary age-related memory loss.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full Phosphatidylserine article.
Several studies have found indications that the herb ginseng might enhance mental function. However, the specific benefits seen have varied considerably from trial to trial, tending to make the actual cognitive effects of ginseng (if there are any) difficult to discern.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full Ginseng article.
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -