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Hyperzine A
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Huperzine A is a substance purified from a plant called Chinese club moss. Although the makers of huperzine A start with a plant, their product is the result of a lot of laboratory manipulation. It is a highly purified drug, unlike herbs that typically contain hundreds of chemical ingredients. As a result, some people regard huperzine A as a drug, and they argue that it stretches the guidelines of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).
Huperzine A is used for Alzheimer's disease, memory and learning enhancement, and age-related memory impairment. It is also used for treating a muscle disease called myasthenia gravis, for increasing alertness and energy, and for protecting against agents that damage the nerves such as nerve gases.
Products that combine huperzine A with certain drugs used for treating Alzheimer's disease are being studied. These “hybrid” products are of interest because they may be effective at lower doses and, therefore, cause fewer side effects. One hybrid, called huprine X, combines huperzine A with the drug donepezil. Another hybrid being studied contains huperzine A and the drug tacrine.

What is Huperzine A ?
Hyperzine A
(1R,9S,13E)- 1-Amino- 13-ethylidene- 11-methyl- 6-azatricyclo[7.3.1.02,7] trideca- 2(7),3,10- trien

Huperzine A is an extract from a club moss (Huperzia serrata) that has been used for centuries in Chinese folk medicine. Huperzine's action has been attributed to its ability to strongly inhibit acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine in the synaptic cleft. Acetylcholine is involved in memory and learning. By inhibiting the enzyme that breaks it down, more acetylcholine becomes available to stimulate neurons. Alzheimer's disease is a condition where there's a relative shortage of acetylcholine.

Several studies have been done over the past few years with huperzine A both in China and the United States. These studies have shown that Huperzine A is many times more effective and selective than tacrine (a cholinesterase-inhibiting pharmaceutical drug) in inhibiting cholinesterase (Cheng 1996). Huperzine A has also been found to be beneficial in patients with Alzheimer's disease. Scientists at Zhejiang Medical University, in Hangzhou, China administered 200 mcg of huperzine A to fifty patients with Alzheimer's disease for a period of eight weeks and compared the results to a group who received placebo pills (Xu 1995). The study was done in a double blind, placebo controlled and randomized manner. The results showed 58 percent of the patients treated with huperzine A had improvements in memory, cognition, and behavioral functions whereas only 36 percent of those on placebo improved. No severe side effects were found. Blood pressure, heart rate, electrocardiogram, electroencephalogram, liver and urine tests did not show any major abnormalities. The researchers say, "Huperzine A is a promising drug for symptomatic treatment of Alzheimer's disease."

Where it is found
Huperzine A is a substance purified from a plant called Chinese club moss.

See Hyperzine A related videos:
video icon Huperzine-A (video module - 1.30 minutes)
video icon Huperzine A Alzheimer's and Vinpocetine Brain Benefits (video module - 3.47 minutes)
Product related PDF file
Huperzine & Vinpocetine - The Brain Tonic

Benefits / uses
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Improving memory, mental function, and behavior in people with certain conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, multi-infarct dementia, or senile dementia. One study showed improved memory and thinking skills in patients with Alzheimer's disease after 8 weeks of treatment. Another study showed patients with multi-infarct and senile dementia benefited after 2-4 weeks of treatment. But long-term, large-scale research studies are needed to confirm these findings and determine what role huperzine A might have in treating dementia.


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Improving memory in healthy adolescents. In one well-designed research project, huperzine A significantly improved the memory of Chinese middle school children who complained of memory problems.


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Use by injection to prevent muscle weakness due to the muscular disorder called myasthenia gravis. The beneficial effects of huperzine A seem to last longer than the conventional medication neostigmine - 7 hours instead of 4. But well-controlled, large-scale trials are needed to confirm huperzine A's potential benefit in myasthenia gravis.


arw Age-related memory loss.


arw Increasing alertness and energy.


arw Protection from agents poisonous to nerves.

Doses
BY MOUTH:


arw For Alzheimer's disease and declining thinking skills due to changes in the blood vessels in the brain (vascular dementia; also known as multi-infarct dementia): Doses of 50-200 mcg of Huperzine A twice daily.


arw For age-related decline in thinking skills (senile or presenile dementia): Doses of 30 mcg twice daily.


arw For improving memory in adolescents: Doses of 100 mcg twice daily.

BY INJECTION:
For prevention of muscle weakness caused by a disease called myasthenia gravis. Healthcare providers give Huperzine A daily as a shot.
Possi ble Side effects / Precautions / Possible Interactions:
Huperzine A seems to be safe when used for a short time, such as less than one month. It can cause some side effects including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, blurred vision, slurred speech, restlessness, loss of appetite (anorexia), contraction and twitching of muscle fibers (fasciculations), cramping, increased saliva and urine, inability to control urination (incontinence), high blood pressure, and slowed heart rate (bradycardia).

Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of huperzine A during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Heart disease: Huperzine A can slow the heart rate. This might be a problem for people who already have a slow heart rate (bradycardia) or other heart conditions related to heart rate. If you have heart disease, use huperzine A cautiously.

Epilepsy: Since huperzine A seems to affect brain chemicals, there is concern that it might make epilepsy worse. If you have a seizure disorder such as epilepsy, use huperzine A cautiously.

Gastrointestinal (GI) tract blockage: There is a concern that using huperzine A might make GI blockage worse. That is because huperzine A can increase mucous and fluid secretions in the intestine, causing “congestion.” This “pro-secretory effect” is due to the way huperzine A affects a body chemical called acetylcholine. If you have a GI tract blockage, check with your healthcare provider before you use huperzine A.

Sores in the stomach or the first part of the small intestine (peptic ulcers): There is a concern that using huperzine A might make peptic ulcers worse. That is because huperzine A can increase mucous and fluid secretions in the stomach and intestine, causing “congestion.” This “pro-secretory effect” is due to the way huperzine A affects a body chemical called acetylcholine. If you have peptic ulcers, check with your healthcare provider before you use huperzine A.

Lung conditions such as asthma or emphysema: There is a concern that using huperzine A might make asthma or emphysema worse. That is because huperzine A can increase mucous and fluid secretions in the lung, causing “congestion.” This “pro-secretory effect” is due to the way huperzine A affects a body chemical called acetylcholine. If you have asthma or emphysema, check with your healthcare provider before you use huperzine A.

Urinary tract or reproductive system blockage: There is a concern that using huperzine A might make blockage of the urinary or reproductive system worse. That is because huperzine A can increase mucous and fluid secretions in these organs, causing “congestion.” This “pro-secretory effect” is due to the way huperzine A affects a body chemical called acetylcholine. If you have a urinary tract or reproductive system blockage, check with your healthcare provider before you use huperzine A.

Research studies / References

arw Kozikowski, Alan P.; Tueckmantel, Werner (1999). "Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Clinical Efficacy of the Chinese Nootropic Agent Huperzine A". Accounts of Chemical Research 32 (8): 641-650. doi:10.1021/ar9800892.


arw P. Scalfaro, V. Nicolas, M.P. Simonin, S. Charbon, M. McCormick, F. Heimgartner. The sustained release of the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor ZT-1 confers the potential for a more efficient neuroprotection in rats. Neurobiology of Aging Conference in New Orleans, Nov 2003.


arw Wang, Bai-Song; Wang, Hao; Wei, Zhao-hui; Song, Yan-yan; Zhang, Lu; Chen, Hong-Zhuan (2009). "Efficacy and safety of natural acetylcholinesterase inhibitor huperzine A in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease: an updated meta-analysis". Journal of Neural Transmission 116 (4): 457. doi:10.1007/s00702-009-0189-x. PMID 19221692.


arw Sun, QQ; Xu, SS; Pan, JL; Guo, HM; Cao, WQ (1999). "Huperzine-A capsules enhance memory and learning performance in 34 pairs of matched adolescent students.". Zhongguo yao li xue bao = Acta pharmacologica Sinica 20 (7): 601-3. PMID 10678121.


arw a b Wang, BS; Wang, H; Wei, ZH; Song, YY; Zhang, L; Chen, HZ (2009). "Efficacy and safety of natural acetylcholinesterase inhibitor huperzine A in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease: an updated meta-analysis.". Journal of neural transmission (Vienna, Austria : 1996) 116 (4): 457-65. doi:10.1007/s00702-009-0189-x. PMID 19221692.


arw Coleman, BR; Ratcliffe, RH; Oguntayo, SA; Shi, X; Doctor, BP; Gordon, RK; Nambiar, MP (2008). "+-Huperzine A treatment protects against N-methyl-D-aspartate-induced seizure/status epilepticus in rats.". Chemico-biological interactions 175 (1-3): 387-95. doi:10.1016/j.cbi.2008.05.023. PMID 18588864.


arw Zangara, A (2003). "The psychopharmacology of huperzine A: an alkaloid with cognitive enhancing and neuroprotective properties of interest in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease". Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 75 (3): 675-86. doi:10.1016/S0091-3057(03)00111-4. PMID 12895686.


arw a b Bai, D. L.; Tang, X. C.; He, X. C. (2000). "Huperzine A, a potential therapeutic agent for treatment of Alzheimer's disease". Current Medicinal Chemistry 7 (3): 355-374. PMID 10637369.


arw Tang, X. C.; He, X. C.; Bai, D. L. (1999). "Huperzine A: a novel acetylcholinesterase inhibitor". Drugs of the Future 24 (6): 647-663. doi:10.1358/dof.1999.024.06.545143.


arw Tang, L., Wang, R., Tang, X. (2005). "Effects of huperzine A on secretion of nerve growth factor in cultured rat cortical astrocytes and neurite outgrowth in rat PC12 cells". Acta Pharmacologica Sinica 26 (6): 673-678. doi:10.1111/j.1745-7254.2005.00130.x. PMID 15916732.


arw Huperzine A, Alzherimer Research Forum