NutraIngredients-USA talked with botanical experts Chris Kilham, aka The Medicine Hunter, and Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council. Both had numerous ingredients to share that have been shown to have cognitive health benetifs.
First, to efficacy. Cognitive health is a broad brush; it can mean anything from mild memory impairment to more serious conditions gathered under the umbrella of Age Related Cognitive Decline. Stepping further one comes up against the 800-lb. gorilla in the room, Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease, and 1 in 3 seniors will die while afflicted with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. A new case of Alzheimer’s crops up every 67 seconds in the US, the organization said.
As far as this extreme end of the spectrum is concerned, even organizations favorable to dietary supplementation are cautious about recommending alternative therapies in dealing with dementia. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a division of the National Institutes of Health, recently rounded up the state of evidence for ginkgo, vitamin E, fish oils, curcumin and two different types of ginseng as it relates to cognitive decline. “There is no strong evidence that any complementary health approach or diet can prevent cognitive impairment," the Center said.
“I’m not sure NCCAM is the best source. I think even there is built into in the supposedly unbiased view a presumption that pharmaceuticals are the standard and all other agents are encroaching into the territory of credible medicine,” Kilham said. “If you look at the 1,500-plus studies on curcumin, the hundreds of studies on rhodiola, the hundreds of studies on other botanicals, it’s very obvious that the science is strong. It’s definitive and it shows that traditional uses written down in scriptures or other texts were right on even though people didn’t understand the mechanism of action.”
When forming his list, Kilham was quick to point out his top candidates:
Schisandra. “There are actually few if any botanicals that match the cognitive benefits of Schisandra berry,” Kilham said. This botanical is native to northeast China and has been a mainstay of traditional Chinese medicine for many centuries. Credited as being an adaptogen, the botanical is used in many preparations, including those meant for cognitive function.
“This botanical probably has more studies around for functional brain parameters than any other. Granted, many of these studies were conducted in China,” Kilham said. A small study published in Phytomedicine in 2010 found that a preparation of Schisandra, rhodiola end eluthero helped tired test subjects perform better on cognitive tasks.
“It’s just super broad. I think this could be the definitive replacement for Adderall,” Kilham said.