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Table of Contents > Conditions > Dementia
Also Listed As:  Senile Dementia
Signs and Symptoms
What Causes It?
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Treatment Options
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Following Up
Special Considerations
Supporting Research

Dementia is a mental disorder that includes memory impairment and at least one of the following: difficulty speaking, impaired movement, and inability to plan and initiate appropriate behaviors socially or at work. Dementia usually occurs in elderly people. It is rare in children. Approximately 2 to 4 percent of the population over age 65 has dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease.

Signs and Symptoms
  • Memory impairment
  • Language problems
  • Motor skills impairment (such as balance and walking)
  • Impaired ability to recognize objects
  • Inability to think abstractly
  • Spatial disorientation (e.g., judging distances)
  • Depression and suicidal behavior
  • Uninhibited behavior
  • Anxiety, mood, and sleep problems
  • Hallucinations

What Causes It?

Alzheimer's disease accounts for half to two-thirds of all dementia cases. Other causes of dementia are listed below.

  • Vascular disease
  • General medical conditions, like traumatic brain injury
  • Parkinson's, Huntington's, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, and other diseases
  • Brain tumor
  • Vitamin B deficiencies
  • Drug or alcohol abuse, medications, or exposure to toxic substances

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Your health care provider will go over your symptoms and will do a physical examination. However, since there is no definitive test for dementia, your provider will rely greatly on interviews with you and your family, especially to discover noticeable declines in mental and physical abilities.

Treatment Options

Treatments are aimed at reversing or lessening the symptoms. A combination of drug and psychiatric or behavioral therapies will be used. Your health care provider may also closely evaluate current medications if you are elderly and have dementia, since older people are extremely sensitive to drugs. Exercise, both physical and mental, can slow the progress of dementia.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies may offer great promise in treating dementia without the side effects of pharmaceuticals. Treatment with nutrition can provide rapid results in some people with nutritional deficiencies. Herbal treatment is widely used in Europe with promising results.

  • Antioxidants are key—vitamin E (400 to 800 IU per day), vitamin C (1,000 mg three times per day), and coenzyme Q10 (10 to 50 mg three times per day)
  • Vitamins: biotin (300 mcg); B1 (50 to 100 mg), B2 (50 mg), B6 (50 to 100 mg), B12 (100 to 1,000 mcg). B12 may need to be administered through injection for best results.
  • Minerals: calcium and magnesium (1,000 and 500 mg per day, respectively), zinc (30 to 50 mg per day); excess of manganese and copper can increase the risk for dementia
  • Intravenous chelating agents such as ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) may help restore normal circulation in the brain.
  • Essential fatty acids, such as those found in alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and evening primrose oil, help regulate certain types of blood cells, stabilize arterial walls and have anti-inflammatory properties. Dietary changes include reducing intake of animal fats and increasing that of fish.


Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.

Choose four to six herbs from the most appropriate category and use one cup or 30 to 60 drops three times per day.

  • Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is specific for preventing and treating Alzheimer's and senile dementia. May be taken in a standardized extract of 40 to 50 mg three times per day. If you are taking an anticoagulant drug, use ginkgo only under the supervision of your provider.
  • Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is a circulatory stimulant.
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) stimulates circulation, improves digestion, relieves depression.
  • Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) or American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium)increase endurance and improve cerebral circulation. Use these herbs with caution if you have high blood pressure.
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) reduces spasms and anxiety.
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale) helps with general weakness.
  • St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) helps relieve depression and anxiety.


Some of the most common remedies used for dementia are listed below. Usually, the dose is 3 to 5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy every one to four hours until your symptoms get better.

  • Alumina for dullness of mind, vagueness, slow answers to questions
  • Argentum nitricum for dementia with irritability, especially with lack of control over impulses
  • Cicuta for dementia after head injuries, especially with convulsions
  • Helleborus for stupefaction, when a person answers questions slowly and stares vacantly
  • Silica for mental deterioration with anxiety over small details

Following Up

Someone with dementia probably will require continuous care and monitoring by both your health care provider and family members.

Special Considerations

Caregiver and patient education focusing on knowledge of the disease, health, and the patient's well-being results in better patient care. Caregivers must also closely monitor patients to make sure they are taking medications appropriately.

Supporting Research

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 1994.

Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Dorset, England: Grace Publishers; 1995:214, 376.

Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:136, 138, 197.

Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, et al., eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Co; 1998:967-968, 1101-1102, 1219-1220, 1229-1230.

Hofferberth B. The efficacy of EGb 761 in patients with senile dementia of the Alzheimer type: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on different levels of investigation. Hum Psychopharmacol. 1994;9:215-222.

Kanowski S, Hermann WM, Stephan K, Wierich W, Horr R. Proof of efficacy of the Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in outpatients suffering from mild to moderate dementia of the Alzheimer's type or multi-infarct dementia. Pharmacopsychiatry. 1996;29:47-56.

Le Bars, et al. A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of an extract of Gingko biloba for dementia. JAMA. 1997;278:1327-1332.

Maurer K, et al. Clinical efficacy of Gingko biloba special extract EGb 761 in dementia of the Alzheimer type. J Psychiatr Res. 1997;31:645-655.

Morrison R. Desktop Guide to Keynotes and Confirmatory Symptoms. Albany, Calif: Hahnemann Clinic Publishing; 1993:17-18, 32-33, 124-125, 176-177, 248-249.

Morris JC, ed. Handbook of Dementing Illnesses. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker Inc; 1994.

National Institutes of Health. Available at

Perry EK, Pickering AT, Wang WW, Houghton P, Perry NS. Medicinal plants and Alzheimer's disease: integrating ethnobotanical and contemporary scientific evidence. J Altern Complement Med. 1998;4:419-428.

Rai GS, Shovlin C, Wesnes KA. A double-blind, placebo controlled study of Ginkgo biloba extract in elderly patients with mild to moderate memory impairment. Curr Med Res Opin. 1991;12:350-355.

Rakel RE. Conn's Current Therapy 1997: Latest Approved Methods of Treatment for the Practicing Physician. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Co; 1997.

Werbach, M. Nutritional Influences on Illness. New Canaan, Conn: Keats Publishing; 1988:149-154.

Review Date: August 1999
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Dahlia Hirsch, MD, Center for Holistic Healing, BelAir, MD; R. Lynn Shumake, PD, Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary & Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; Leonard Wisneski, MD, FACP, George Washington University, Rockville, MD; Tom Wolfe, P.AHG, Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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