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Chinese herbs and acupuncture to improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease

Wei WuLia,b, Horng-Jyh Harna,c, Tzyy-Wen Chioub, Shinn-Zong Lina,d,*

aBioinnovation Center, Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, Hualien, Taiwan, bDepartment of Life Sicence, National Dong Hwa University, Hualien, Taiwan, cDepartment of Pathology, Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, Hualien, Taiwan, dDepartment of Neurosurgery, Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, Hualien, Taiwan

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Open Access funded by Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease with a variety of causes. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which includes the two main approaches of acupuncture and herbal medication, views the human body as a self-controlled system network. Fundamental theories, including “qi,” the five elements, and the theory of viscera, form the basis for classification. Diseases in humans are considered to be caused by an imbalance of “yang qi” and “yin qi” that lead to the nonhomeostasis of organs. Acupuncture is derived from 12 main meridians and 365 acupuncture points characterized by “blood and qi.” Needling of different positions corresponds to specific disease treatments to increase qi. Treatment with Chinese herbal medicines is based on syndrome differentiation characterized as “Zheng” which differs from the cause orientation approach of Western medicine. In this article, we review basic and clinical research studies that describe TCM herbs and acupuncture for the treatment of AD. Moreover, we propose that these two approaches be integrated to improve the outcomes for AD patients.


Keywords: Acupuncture, Alzheimer’s disease, Qi, Traditional Chinese medicine, Zheng

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