Researchers at Oregon Health Science University and the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) in the US are launching a clinical trial to determine whether a dietary supplement commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine has any impact on memory in the elderly.
The supplement is derived from a plant, called Bacopa monniera or Brahmi, that grows in marshy areas throughout India. Used in Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic system of healing that evolved from ancient India some 3,000-5,000 years ago, the plant is more commonly known in the West for its use in aquariums as an ornamental water plant.
"In prior clinical trials, Bacopa has been shown to assist in memory and learning enhancement in younger patient populations," said Carlo Calabrese, principal investigator of the study, a research professor at NCNM and a clinical assistant professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine. "However, it has not been studied in the elderly."
The researchers will study the impact of Bacopa on 50 reasonably healthy people older than 65, in the double-blind, placebo-controlled project. Half of the participants will take 300mg of Bacopa daily for a 12-week period. The comparison group will take a placebo or "sugar pill" during the same amount of time.
They will use a commonly used verbal test which evaluates short-term memory to measure the supplement's effect. Other measures will assess attention, the ability to ignore irrelevant information and reaction time.
"A certain amount of cognitive decline is a normal effect of ageing," said Dr Barry Oken, professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine and director of ORCCAMIND. "The goal of this study is to maximise cognitive function as much as possible."
The study is being sponsored by the Oregon Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Neurological Disorders (ORCCAMIND) at OHSU. The alternative medicine research centre receives its funding from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a component of the US' National Institutes of Health.