Kampo therapy as an alternative to pharmacotherapy using antipsychotic medicines for behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD)


  • This review article was presented by the author in Symposium of the 22nd Annual Meeting of Japanese Psychogeriatric Society in Osaka, 15–16 November 2007.

Dr Katsuyoshi Mizukami MD, Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Tsukuba, 1-1-1 Tennodai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8575, Japan. Email: mizukami@md.tsukuba.ac.jp


The behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), including aggression, agitation, screaming, wandering, hallucinations, and delusions, occur in 50–90% of patients with dementia, and have a negative impact on the activity of daily living (ADL) of patients, as well as caregivers. Patients with severe BPSD often require management with antipsychotic medicines. However, an increased mortality rate has been reported in patients with dementia taking antipsychotic medicine and, thus, there is an urgent need to develop safer treatments for BPSD. Kampo medicines are an alternative to antipsychotic medicines and several Kampo medicines have been reported to be effective in the treatment of BPSD. Oren-gedoku-to has been reported to be effective for the treatment of irritability and sullenness in patients with vascular dementia, as well as improving excitement, depression, anxiety, and restlessness of patients with cerebrovascular lesions. Choto-san has been reported to be effective in the treatment of delirium, insomnia, and hallucinations/delusions in patients with vascular dementia. Toki-syakuyaku-san has been reported to improve emotional lability, restlessness, and sleep disturbances in patients with dementia. Yokukan-san has been reported to be effective for hallucinations, agitation/aggression, irritability/lability, and aberrant motor activity, as well as being effective in the treatment of visual hallucinations in patients with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). A multicenter randomized crossover study confirmed that Yokukan-san is effective in the treatment of BPSD and is well-tolerated. Kampo medicines do not induce extrapyramidal or anticholinergic symptoms and have no adverse effects on ADL or cognitive function. Thus, Kampo therapy is recommended for patients who cannot tolerate treatment with neuroleptics, patients who have extrapyramidal symptoms and gait disturbance, and patients with DLB. In future, to confirm the effectiveness of Kampo medicines in the treatment of BPSD, further studies, such as randomized control trials, are needed. In addition, basic studies are required to elucidate the processes by which Kampo medicines are metabolized, as well as any interactions between Western and Kampo medicines.