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  • Chico Xavier

Why Herbs for Neurodegenerative Disease?

Updated: Sep 5



Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzhemeir’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, etc., are debilitating and incurable diseases that are characterized by progressive loss of structure or functions of neurons. Millions of people worldwide are affected by this type of disease each year. As of 2020, there were approximately 50 million people worldwide with Alzhemeir’s disease alone. The total cost for health care, long-term care, and hospital services for neurodegenerative disease can be estimated to be $355 billion, an extremely high amount of money that not many people can afford. Therefore, a cost-effective alternative should be up for consideration.


Herbal Medicine for Neurodegenerative Diseases


Since a long time ago, herbal medicines have been used to treat diseases globally. Herbal medicines have received a lot of attention in recent years and led to new drug discovery and development. Several studies have documented the beneficial effects of herbal medicines. Organs of plants such as leaves, stems, roots, flowers, fruits, and seeds are used as alternatives and complementary therapies. Some derived components from herbs such as resveratrol, curcumin, ginsenoside, polyphenols, triptolide, etc. have neuroprotective effects.



Turmeric

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turmeric)


Herbs such as turmeric, ginseng, ginkgo, etc. are used for treating neurodegenerative diseases. Turmeric contains curcumin which has diverse medicinal properties, some of which includes anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and immune boosting. Curcumin helps in treating Alzheimer’s disease by boosting macrophages in clearing off amyloid plaque, an extracellular deposit of amyloid ꞵ protein in the gray matter of the brain. Ginseng, a Chinese and Korean origin medicinal herb, has been utilized for treating diseases such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorder, hypertension, and diabetes. Ginsenoside, a compound found within ginseng in trace amounts, helps in modulating the neuronal Ca2+ channel and possesses neuroprotective effect. Ginkgo’s leaf contains various chemical compounds such as trilactonic diterpenes, trilactonic sesquiterpene, and various flavonoids. It has been investigated that the leaf extract of Ginkgo has the ability to inhibit the formation of amyloid ꞵ that caused Alzheimer’s disease.


As of now, herbs are much less expensive than the orthodox medicine. The average prescription drug price is about $50 for a month’s supply while herbals cost between $10 to $20 per month supply. By using herbal medicines, one can alleviate and even prevent neurodegenerative diseases. Such capability can allow a person to not have to worry over the extremely high cost of neurodegenerative disease treatment and care.


Challenges and Risk of Using Herbal Medicines


Although the usage of herbal medicines in correct dosage elicit fewer side effects than orthodox medicines, their safety and efficacy cannot be automatically assured. There are numerous examples of herb-induced side effects that have been documented. Ginseng has shown to cause headache, sleep, and gastrointestinal disorder. Due to its anticoagulant effect, gingko can cause bleeding tendencies. It can also cause allergic skin reactions, headache, and seizures. Therefore, clinical trials are needed to determine the safety of herbal medicines for humans. Determining the safety and risks of herbal medicines along with the correct dosage and condition of usage should be prioritized in the future. Fortunately, interest in herbal medicines have grown which would allow further research in herbal medicines.


References

Aronson, J., 2009. Meyler's side effects of herbal medicines. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Ayeni, E., Gong, Y., Yuan, H., Hu, Y., Bai, X. and Liao, X., 2021. Medicinal Plants for Anti-neurodegenerative diseases in West Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 285, p.114468.

Elfahmi, Woerdenbag, H. and Kayser, O., 2014. Jamu: Indonesian traditional herbal medicine towards rational phytopharmacological use. Journal of Herbal Medicine, 4(2), pp.51-73.

Khazdair, M., Anaeigoudari, A., Hashemzehi, M. and Mohebbati, R., 2018. Neuroprotective potency of some spice herbs, a literature review. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 9(2), pp.98-105.

Park, G., Kusuma, I. and Kim, Y., 2018. Multiple Bioactivities of Traditional Medicinal Herbs for Treatment of Neurodegenerative Diseases. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2018, pp.1-2.

Pradeep, S., Jain, A., Dharmashekara, C., Prasad, S., Kollur, S., Syed, A. and Shivamallu, C., 2020. Alzheimer’s Disease and Herbal Combination Therapy: A Comprehensive Review. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease Reports, 4(1), pp.417-429.

Ratheesh, G., Tian, L., Venugopal, J., Ezhilarasu, H., Sadiq, A., Fan, T. and Ramakrishna, S., 2017. Role of medicinal plants in neurodegenerative diseases. Biomanufacturing Reviews, 2(1).


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