Integrative Medicine: Hopes developing for Alzheimer's treatment
Special to The Bee
Published Thursday, Mar. 22, 2012
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, there are some additional unusual therapeutic holistic regimens that may be of benefit in improving cognition. Two new scientific studies in the past couple of months have shown some benefit in helping brain functioning amid Alzheimer's: one on meditation, the other on rosemary oil aromatherapy.
For the study on meditation and Alzheimer's, researchers enrolled 15 older adults with memory problems that ranged from mild age-associated memory impairment to mild impairment, on a Kirtan Kriya mantra-based meditation course. Participants meditated 12 minutes per day for eight weeks. The control group listened to classical music for the same amount of time over eight weeks.
Early findings showed a surprising, substantial increase in cerebral blood flow in the patients' prefrontal, superior frontal and superior parietal cortices, and also better cognitive function in the group that performed regular meditation.
In the rosemary oil aromatherapy study, the investigators tested cognitive performance and mood of 20 people, who were exposed to varying levels of the rosemary aroma. Using blood samples to detect the amount of 1,8-cineole (a measure of the aromatherapy rosemary oil in the bloodstream) the researchers applied speed and accuracy tests, and mood assessments to judge the rosemary oil's effects.
Results indicate for the first time in human subjects that concentration of 1,8- cineole in the blood is related to an individual's cognitive performance – with higher concentrations resulting in improved performance. Both speed and accuracy were improved in the study in cognitive functioning.
What do these two studies tell us about Alzheimer's? The brain is a complex organism, with many complex mechanisms that lead to optimum functioning. Early trials show that aromatherapy and meditation improve blood supply and enhance cognitive skills. Ongoing data are showing us that we have much power to help treat Alzheimer's integratively, keeping in mind that environment, exercise, health, lifestyle, meditation, music and smells can be all be beneficial in improving brain function.
Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden are medical directors of Sutter Downtown Integrative Medicine program. Have a question related to alternative medicine? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NB: In our study of the olfactory system, we cover information on the connection between olfaction and dementia. People with all forms of senility, from mild dementia to full-blown Alzheiimer's, typically exhibit a loss of the sense of smell. This inhibits their ability to take in familiar scent-chemicals that identify people and possessions - hence, they forget who their loved ones are, and they forget where they live.