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Medicinal plant extracts for the treatment of dementia: A review of their pharmacology, efficacy and tolerability

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Mantle, Emeritus Professor Elaine Perry


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Various active compounds derived primarily from Oriental and European medicinal plants, including Ginkgo biloba, Panax ginseng, Nicotiana tobaccum, Huperzia serrata, Galanthus nivalis and Salvia officinalis, have been assessed for their efficacy in dementia, primarily in Alzheimer's disease. These plants may be used individually or, particularly in traditional Chinese or Ayurvedic formulations, in combination. The mechanisms of action of medicinal plant extracts in Alzheimer's disease have yet to be fully determined, but are thought to involve anticholinesterase, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and estrogenic activity, and cholinergic receptor activation. Robust clinical trial data are currently scarce. However, those that are available confirm the effectiveness of G. biloba in delaying deterioration or inducing symptomatic improvement in patients with Alzheimer's disease. In addition, the extract does not appear to be associated with adverse or toxic effects. The active component of G. nivalis, the selective acetylcholinesterase inhibitory alkaloid galantamine (galanthamine), is currently commercially available in Austria and is preregistrational in a number of other countries for the symptomatic treatment of mild/moderate Alzheimer's disease. Currently available data indicate galantamine to be well tolerated in the long term, with a relative lack of toxicity at clinically effective dosages. Future development of effective novel therapeutic strategies for dementia may benefit from the combination of conventional Western medical science and traditional Oriental medical practices.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mantle D, Pickering AT, Perry EK

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: CNS Drugs

Year: 2000

Volume: 13

Issue: 3

Pages: 201-213

Print publication date: 01/01/2000

ISSN (print): 1172-7047

ISSN (electronic): 1179-1934


DOI: 10.2165/00023210-200013030-00006