You’d certainly think the most popular allergy drugs and insomnia aids on the market would be safe, wouldn’t you?
But a new, unique study outlines some frightening health risks to users. Indiana University School of Medicine researchers actually used brain-imaging technology to detect how anticholinergic drugs impact the brain. An anticholinergic agent is a substance that blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the central and the peripheral nervous system.
Using MRI and PET scan imaging, they showed how people taking anticholinergic drugs experienced lower brain metabolism and higher brain atrophy. Participants also scored lower on memory tests (1) due to the blockage of acetylcholine.
Drugs linked to dementia now include common anticholinergic drugs including popular medications like:
- Advil PM
- Unison among others (2)
Ignorance Is NOT Bliss
So we throw up our hands and say, “Oh, great! Another thing I have to worry about.”
Please try to look at this maddening information as a gift of knowledge, if you can. Ignorance is not bliss in this case. I do list reliable no-side-effect natural alternatives in a second.
Evidence of Drugs Linked to Dementia
This isn’t the first time researchers found a connection between anticholinergic drugs and cognitive decline.
In 2015, a large study at the University of Washington also found the chronic use of certain anticholinergic sleep aids and hayfever meds increased a person’s risk of dementia. (More research is needed to find out if continuous or intermittent use over that time frame leads to the increased risk of dementia.) (3)
Other drugs with anticholinergic action include some medications containing tiotropium used to treat respiratory ailments like COPD and asthma (Atrovent) (Spiriva) and solifenacin-containing drugs like Vesicare for overactive bladder problems.
Natural Remedies for Allergies & Insomnia
It’s often possible to deal with ailments like allergies and insomnia without turning to prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Here are a few remedies to try:
Learn to Use Essential Oils (EOs) for Allergies
Peppermint Oil: Studies show that peppermint oil acts as an expectorant and provides relief for allergies as well as colds, cough, sinusitis, asthma and bronchitis. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology states peppermint oil acts as a relaxant and exhibits antispasmodic activity, inhibiting contractions that causes you to cough. (4) Remedy: Diffuse 5 drops of peppermint essential oil (EO). To reduce inflammation, take 1-2 drops of peppermint EO internally once a day by adding it to a glass of water, cup of tea, or a smoothie.
Eucalyptus Oil: Studies have shown us that Eucalyptus Oil opens up the lungs and bronchial tubes fast thereby allowing a refreshing flow of oxygen to calm the anxious patient. It lowers inflammation and improves all symptoms of allergies. Remedies: Diffuse 5 drops of Eucalyptus EO at home or apply it topically in a carrier oil to chest or temples. To clear nasal passages and break up congestion, pour a cup of boiling water into a bowl and add 1-2 drops of eucalyptus EO. Then cover your head with a towel over the bowl and inhale deeply for 5-10 minutes.
Basil Oil (linalool CT) (5 star reviews): Basil Oil reduces the inflammatory response of allergens, supports the adrenal glands and helps detoxify the body of bacteria and viruses. Remedy: Take 1 drop of basil EO internally per day by adding it to warm soup, salad dressing, or another dish. To support the respiratory system, dilute 2-3 drops of basil oil into 1/4 tsp. of coconut oil and apply it topically to chest, underarms, back of neck, temples or soles of feet.
And homeopathic allergy remedies are VERY effective for my son and me. He especially likes to take these sublinguals starting the day before doing hay. They do not make him drowsy when he is operating heavy equipment!
Top 5 Natural Remedies for Insomnia
- Magnesium Calm non-flavored (as directed, 30-45 minutes before bedtime)
- Melatonin (1-3 mg half hour before bed)
Helps promote sleep, best used for a short period of time.
- Calms Forte (homeopathic, no drugs, take as directed)
- Somnapure – herbal blend (2 tablets 30-60 minutes before bed)
- Passionflower (500 mg before bed)
Helps relax the nervous system and doesn’t cause drowsiness.
- Valerian (600-700 mg before bed)
Is effective for insomnia, but may be a stimulant for some. It’s pretty amazing that a herbal remedy like valerian root can have the same anti-anxiety effects of prescription drugs without all the serious side effects of psychotropic drugs.
- Calcium and magnesium together (500 mg calcium/250 mg magnesium) These minerals work together for relaxation.
- Vitamin B12 (1500 mcg daily) Vitamin B12 supports cellular function and a deficiency can cause insomnia.
- Diffuse lavender EO before bed and during sleep to reduce stress and improve sleep quality.
- Eat melatonin-rich, sleep-inducing foods like bananas, cherries, ginger or radishes as a bedtime snack.
Final Thoughts on OTC Drugs and Dementia Risk
While you shouldn’t stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor, it’s worth a conversation to see if your mediations include anticholinergic drugs linked to dementia. If they are, inquire about possible alternative options with fewer serious side effects, including natural remedies.
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Thanks for reading!