Natural remedies for Alzheimer’s medication side effects

Natural remedies for Alzheimer's medication side effects - Nature Going Smart
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This complete guide lists natural remedies found effective by the current scientific knowledge in reducing major and minor side effects experienced with the medicines commonly prescribed for Alzheimer’s Disease. The natural remedies described are plant-based products which we normally eat as food or use as dietary supplements and are therefore said “nutraceuticals”.

This content aims to support the practical day-to-day life of patient & caretaker. Although it is directed to Alzheimer’s Disease patients, this article can easily be used as well by anyone experiencing the symptoms reported below.

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How does diet affect medication?

The food we eat (any food) is chemistry as much as anything contained in a pill: thus, it stimulates or inhibits pathways.

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Many studies support the concept that the onset of neurodegenerative diseases may be delayed or mitigated with use of dietary agents that protect against β-amyloid plaque formation and oxidative stress. (10,11) Find a more in-depth review on what is best to eat in order to prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Tailoring nutrition around specific needs supports the body’s balance and can aid reducing side effects of medication; some other advantages include increasing medication efficacy, and eventually even lowering the dose of drug required, which would further decrease side effects.

Conventional medication for Alzheimer’s Disease does not come devoid of side effects.

Which is the most common Alzheimer’s Disease medication?

Conventional treatments include:

  • AChE inhibitor treatment, which has been shown to improve the cognitive performance as well as activities of daily living, but only in patients with mild to moderate forms of AD and only short-term (from 9-12 months to 5 years). (1)
  • NMDA antagonist treatment, which have been documented to have a small positive effect on cognitive performances and the ability to perform daily activities only in patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. (2)

Since these compounds do not manage to fill the clinical gap, a number of other drug therapies for AD are being researched and some are currently prescribed including nicotine, melatonin, oestrogens and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the latter being an option soon abandoned, since patients suffered from withdrawal syndrome as a re
sult of gastrointestinal toxicity. (3, 4)

Nature Going Smart natural remedies alzheimerResearch has shown the involvement of cannabinoids on the major issues involving AD; their neuroprotective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to have a myriad of effects on the symptoms, halting and reversing this debilitating disease. (5)  

We discussed the role of cannabinoids for the treatment of this health condition in more depth here: Alzheimer’s Disease & Cannabis

Using Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors

One of the earliest changes in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) progression is loss of the activity of an enzyme (Acetylcholinetransferase) in the cortex and hippocampus, areas deputed to decision making and learning/memory. This enzyme catalyses the synthesis of Acetylcholine from its substrates (choline + Acetyl-CoA). Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter in the Nervous System. This event contributes substantially to the characteristics cognitive symptoms.

Cholinesterase inhibitors (AChE inhibitors) are designed to combat impairment of cholinergic neurons by slowing degradation of Acetylcholine after its release at synapses. However, as AD progresses, these medications lose effectiveness, since they have been shown to not change the natural course of the disease, but only temporarily delay neurodegeneration. (6)

Donezepil (Aricept, 1996), Rivastigmine (Exelon, 2000), Galantamine (Reminyl/Razadyne 2001) are the AChE inhibitors mostly prescribed in the clinics. 

Donepezil and Galantamine have also been documented to inhibit NO-induced cytotoxicity (via production of radicals and mitochondrial dysfunction) and counteract neuronal cell death (7), which may have contributed to their initial treatment success.

Side effects of Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors

Their most common side effects include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, increased bowel movements, dizziness and muscle cramping.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about integrating the natural remedies suggested along with your medication.

Navigate directly to the natural remedies of choice by clicking on it.

Side effectsNatural remedies
Nausea/VomitingRaw cannabis (CBDA) / Ginger
Loss of appetiteHemp & Chia seeds
DiarrhoeaSoluble fibre / Ginger
Dizziness/FatigueGinkgo Biloba / Ginger / Raw cannabis (limonene)
Muscle crampingRaw cannabis (myrcene) / Bananas & Beans
InsomniaLavender / Ginkgo Biloba

Using N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists

Memantine (1968) works by blocking the NMDAR channels, and is classified as an ‘open channel blocker’ because it can enter the channel and block current flow only after such channels have opened (receptor activation).  The NMDAR channels are responsible for controlling synaptic plasticity and memory function.

After memantine blocks NMDARs, the channels close and agonists unbind, ‘trapping’ memantine inside the channel, which prevents the prolonged influx of Ca2+ ions, particularly from extrasynaptic receptors, which forms the basis of neuronal excitotoxicity, an hallmark of neurodegeneration. (8)

What are NMDA antagonists side effects?

Memantine is generally well tolerated, however some side effects can occur. The most common are constipation, dizziness, headache.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about integrating the natural remedies suggested along with your medication.

Navigate directly to the natural remedies of choice by clicking on it.

Side effectsNatural remedies
ConstipationSoluble Fibre
DizzinessGinkgo Biloba / Ginger
Headache /confusionRaw cannabis (limonene)/ Ginger
Loss of appetite / weight lossHemp & Chia seeds
Anxiety/ aggressionRaw cannabis (CBDA) / Lavender / Hemp & Chia seeds
Joint painHemp & Chia seeds / Raw Cannabis (THCA & myrcene)

 

Natural remedies for Alzheimer’s medication

Raw cannabis for controlling cholinergic side effects

Juicing leafs & flowers of hemp (Cannabis) is one of the best ways to treat cholinergic side effects. The juice is devoid of centrally-mediated effects thanks to the abundance of cannabinoid acids such as CBDA & THCA and is therefore safe to intake without any psycho-activity involved.  You can find out more on cannabis juicing in this articleraw cannabis

Nausea and vomiting

CBD, THCA and CBDA in particular, make this unusual vegetable a valuable antiemetic, as it has been shown in studies testing these nutrients both for anticipatory nausea as well as chemotherapy-induced vomiting. (14,15)

Fatigue, confusion, anxiety & depression 

Stress and negative emotions can directly affect the motor and sensory cortex in the brain, resulting in fatigue and pain. Limonene improves neuroendocrine functions, mediating changes in the adrenal glands & an increase in serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood) in the prefrontal cortex, as well as an increase in dopamine (a neurotransmitter that contributes to feeling of reward) in the hippocampus. (17,18) Read more on the relationship between emotions and chronic fatigue here.

Raw cannabis reportedly increases energy levels in cancer & chronically fatigued patients; We recommend selecting a chemovar of hemp (CBDA-rich) high in terpene limonene, or adding this essential oil to a diffuser in your room.
Limonene & CBDA
both found in fresh hemp juices have potent activity at serotoninergic receptors 1A. Compounds acting at these receptors have shown to suppress anxiety in animals. The serotoninergic receptors 1A are targeted either directly or indirectly by all major antidepressant drugs (TCI, SSRI, MAOI). Similarly, CBD is used for its well-established anxyolitic properties. (30)

Pain, muscle cramping and diarrhoea

If you are experiencing pain and muscle cramping, slow juicing cannabis plants rich in terpene myrcene will improve the  muscle relaxant & analgesic properties of THCA. (19) Similarly, daily consumption of this juice may help balancing intestinal movements by the smooth-muscle relaxant properties of cannabinoids.

The digestive tract contains cannabinoid receptors; Activating cannabinoid receptors has been demonstrated to inhibit gastrointestinal fluid secretion and inflammation in animal models and to calm colon spasms, pain, and improving motility, effectively aiding gastrointestinal disorders. (32)

caution

Caution to drink raw cannabis if you are taking any blood-thinning drugs; Like most leafy greens raw cannabis contains high amounts of Vitamin K, which can prevent the liver from metabolising such drugs.

Raw cannabis: how to?

– If you have fresh hemp:

Even if they were grown organically, if the cannabis plants received any kind of phytosanitary treatment (insecticides, fungicides, acaricides…) they are not suitable for making cannabis juice.
Before extracting the juice, it is recommended to clean the material and soak the leaves in cold water for 5 minutes.
In a slow juicer, blend freshly picked hemp leaves and flowers and mix with other fruits adjusting to your taste (apples, carrots, lemon & ginger tastes great but pick any combination based on your choice of local fresh organic produce).
For best results, keep the juice in a glass container away from light and consume throughout the day. Raw cannabis, not rinsed, should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer in bags that extend the freshness of vegetables.

– Alternatively: 

Purchase raw CBD extract (not decarboxylated) from an organic producer and check that CBDa is contained along with the essential oils. Start dosing slow and once you find the quantity that works for managing your nausea, do not increase unless ineffective.
CBD have bi-phasic effects and its antiemetic effect follows a bell-shape pattern, meaning that at too high doses its effectiveness is blunted. CBDA has a wider concentration range & greater potency than CBD in suppressing acute nausea & vomiting, as shown from studies. (20)

Ginger for controlling side effects of medication

ginger

Ginger, or Zingiber officinale, has a long history of medicinal use dating back 2500 years. It’s a traditional remedy for stomach problems, nausea, fever, coughs and diarrhoea. Its latin name is also used for the main fragrance (or terpene) that gives the characteristic smell to ginger, Zingiberene.
Studies have demonstrated the efficacy of ginger extract (mainly consisting of essential oil) against cold and flu, morning and motion sickness and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. (9, 12)

Ginger is also known to relieve dizziness and vertigo thanks to its effects which stimulate circulation, and may help reduce high blood pressure, a possible cause of dizziness. (13)

Thus, do not combine large doses of ginger with anticoagulant drugs.

Ginger: how to use it?

Drink ginger tea, or extract its juice and use it to dress raw and cooked food, or drink ginger’s juice as a tonic for treatment of nausea and diarrhoea.
Check out this pumpkin curry recipe for other ideas on how to include ginger in your daily staples.

Eating soluble fibre to regulate GI tract motility

You have probably heard that grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits are rich in this type of fibre: soluble fibre.

Constipation

Studies have compared daily use of dietary fibre in patients with chronic constipation vs placebo, resulting in significant improvements in global symptoms (86.5% vs. 47.4%), straining (55.6% vs. 28.6%), pain on defecation, and stool consistency, an increase in the mean number of stools per week (3.8 stools per week after therapy compared with 2.9 stools per week at baseline), and a reduction in the number of days between stools. (26)

Diarrhoea

It may seem counteractive to eat plenty of these foods to treat diarrhoea, as you know that they aid guarding against constipation. However, studies have demonstrated how foods such as oatmeal, nuts, beans, apples, and blueberries reduced significantly the water content of faeces. Soluble fibre soaks up water as it passes through the system, helping stools to bulk up, decreasing frequency of daily bowel movements, as demonstrated in trials conducted on elderly patients suffering from diarrhoea. (16)

Soluble fibre: how to?

Soak overnight 1-2 teaspoons of linseed (flaxseed) in half a glass of water. In the morning drink the gel formed, as it is rich in water-soluble fibres (called mucilage) which will greatly help your intestine to absorb nutrients, balancing your bowel movements. You can also use soaked linseed as a substitute for eggs, as it does significantly reduce  levels of LDL Cholesterol over time. (27)
Save this turmeric walnut porridge recipe for later to inspire you introducing neuroprotective ingredients into your diet or read through our recipe section to discover more scrumptious dishes that include plenty of soluble fibres.

Bananas & beans to reduce muscle cramping

Both these foods provide insoluble fibre; Additionally, bananas supply potassium, which boosts muscular function and protects the nervous system, whilst beans and legumes provide magnesium which enhances muscle contraction and prevents muscle cramps. 

How to use?

Get creative with your cooking, you can take inspiration from this legumes-based lasagne or include these ingredients in your favourite dishes.

Hemp & Chia seeds vs wasting, pain & aggressiveness

natural remedies alzheimer hempWasting & lack of appetite

Cannabis or hemp seeds contain all essential amino acids & highly digestible proteins, which are readily absorbed & increase energy levels. Moreover, 80% of total fat composition is made up of the anti-inflammatory PUFA Omega 6:3 in ratio 3:1. Alternatively, also chia or flax seeds might be used to provide a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. (23) Studies show that anorexia is ameliorated using omega-3 fatty acids, probably due to the function of these fatty molecules to modulate up-regulation of hypothalamic orexigenic neuropeptide Y (NPY), balancing appetite levels. (22)

Pain

ω-3 PUFAs are also extensively used as an effective adjunctive treatment for joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and dysmenorrhea, as shown by 17 randomized, controlled trials assessing the pain relieving effects of ω-3 PUFAs. (28)

Anxiety & anger

Studies indicate a strong correlation between an increase in plasma Omega-3 and lower anxiety & anger scores; the study lasted 3 months of daily intake of 3g of Omega-3 fatty acids vs placebo. (31)

Hemp & Chia seeds: how to use?

Add hemp seeds to smoothies, salads or bakeries. We recommend to check this hemp sauce: Anti-inflammatory pesto. You can also sprout them for added benefits. I suggest you to watch our video on sprouting hemp seeds here. Check here for 10 reasons to eat hemp sprouts.

Ginkgo Biloba helps relieve side effects

natural remedies for Alzheimer gingko biloba

Ginkgo biloba is a tall tree native to China. Ginkgo contains antioxidant flavonoids and terpenes.
The terpenes in ginkgo are associated with increasing circulation to the brain, which cause an increase of oxygen supply to the brain, making Ginkgo biloba’s abilities to help vertigo so well documented that researchers use it to test the efficacy of other vertigo treatments.

Due to its ability to improve blood circulation, several studies have shown beneficial effects in the treatment of cerebral insufficiency, poor memory and concentrationinsomnia & in treating dizziness, (even related to vestibular dysfunction, a balance problem originating in the inner ear). (21)

How to use Ginkgo Biloba?

The dosage used in studies for vertigo was 120 mg/day of ginkgo biloba extract standardized to 24 % flavones and 6 % terpene lactones, taken for 3 months.

cautionCaution: Ginkgo may need to be taken for 8 to 12 weeks before effects are noticed. Allergic reactions to ginkgo have been reported.
Do not combine ginkgo with anticoagulant medicine. Consult your doctor before using ginkgo biloba. If you are pregnant or breast feeding, or have a vitamin K deficiency, don’t take ginkgo biloba.

Lavender for sleep disturbances & anxiety

Studies on women suffering with insomnia and depression have shown that subjects exposed to lavender fragrance vs placebo experienced beneficial effects, with improvements in length of time taken to fall asleep, severity of insomnia, and self satisfaction with sleep between 60% and 100%. (25)
The essential oil of lavander contains Linalool, a terpene with well-established anxiolytic activity. You can read more about this terpene here:“What if your psychiatrist prescribed a trip in the forest vs antidepressants?”

A Korean study on elderly with dementia showed that a lavender aromatherapy hand massage program is effective on emotions and aggressive behaviour of elderly with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. (29)

How to use lavender?

Use organic dried lavender flowers to brew your own evening tea.
For higher concentrations use a dietary essential oil (without additives and from controlled source) in your food (1 drop is sufficient for 100 ml of water) or diffuse 6-7 drops in your room.
Alternatively dilute 1-2 drops of essential oil with 100 ml of carrier oil (eg. coconut oil) to use topically for a calming massage. As shown from the trial cited above, the massage doesn’t have to be anything complicated: just a simple hand massage worked efficiently.

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Viola Brugnatelli

Viola Brugnatelli is a Neuroscientist specialised in Cannabinoid circuitry & GPCRs signalling. Her academy and research training let her gain extensive experience on medical cannabis and terpenes both from preclinical as well as clinical perspective.
In her vision, collective human knowledge behold the power for overall improvement of life, thus, it should be accessible and shareable.
Viola is Founder of the science online magazine Nature Going Smart, and works as a consultant for companies & individual patients, as a speaker at seminars and workshops and as a lecturer in a CME course on Medical Cannabis in Italy, at the University of Padua.

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