Researchers at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad report 1 that Amalaki Rasayana (AR) – a preparation derived from gooseberry ( Emblica officinalis ) fruit and used in India's traditional system of Ayurveda – is a potential remedy for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive loss of memory and cognitive function.

Their animal studies have shown AR to be as good as donepezil, a standard drug approved for Alzheimer's by the US FDA.

In Ayurvedic practice, AR is being used as part of the rejuvenating therapy to improve life span, stress tolerance, and minimise age-related disorders. The CCMB study was prompted by the finding of Subhash Lakhotia at the Benaras Hindu University that AR inhibits the progress of degenerative changes in the nervous system of genetically engineered fruit flies.

The researchers at CCMB assessed the effects of AR supplementation on memory and neurometabolic activities in humanised transgenic mouse models of AD using the standard 'Morris Water Maze' test.

"The intervention with AR enhanced learning and memory in (the transgenic) mice without any detectable side-effects suggesting that it has good potential to improve cognitive functions in AD," the authors say.

"AR has been used as a general tonic for the entire body," Marthandam Valiathan, head of the government task force on Ayurvedic Biology who initiated the study told Nature India . "But it has, as far as I know, never been used for treating Alzheimer's or other neurodegenerative disorders."