HUPERZINE A Overview Information
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).
Be careful not to confuse huperzine A, which is also called selagine, with similar sounding medications such as selegiline (Eldepryl). Also be careful not to confuse one of the brand names for huperizine A (Cerebra) with the brand names for unrelated prescription drugs such as celecoxib (Celebrex), citalopram (Celexa), and fosphenytoin (Cerebyx).
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.
How does it work?
Huperzine A is thought to be beneficial for problems with memory, loss of mental abilities (dementia), and the muscular disorder myasthenia gravis because it causes an increase in the levels of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is one of the chemicals that our nerves use to communicate in the brain, muscles, and other areas.
Possibly Effective for:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Age-related memory loss.
- Increasing alertness and energy.
- Protection from agents poisonous to nerves.
- Other conditions.
HUPERZINE A Side Effects & Safety
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.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Drying medications (Anticholinergic drugs) interacts with HUPERZINE A
Huperzine A contains chemicals that can affect the brain and heart. Some of these drying medications called anticholinergic drugs can also affect the brain and heart. But huperzine A works differently than drying medications. Huperzine A might decrease the effects of drying medications.
Some of these drying medications include atropine, scopolamine, and some medications used for allergies (antihistamines), and for depression (antidepressants).
- Medications for Alzheimer's disease (Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors) interacts with HUPERZINE A
Huperzine A contains a chemical that affects the brain. Medications for Alzheimer's disease also affect the brain. Taking Huperzine A along with medications for Alzheimer's disease might increase effects and side effects of medications for Alzheimer's disease.
- Various medications used for glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions (Cholinergic drugs) interacts with HUPERZINE A
Huperzine A contains a chemical that affects the body. This chemical is similar to some medications used for glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease and other conditions. Taking Huperzine A with these medications might increase the chance of side effects.
Some of these medications used for glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions include pilocarpine (Pilocar and others), donepezil (Aricept), tacrine (Cognex), and others.
HUPERZINE A Dosing
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- 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.
- For age-related decline in thinking skills (senile or presenile dementia): Doses of 30 mcg twice daily.
- For improving memory in adolescents: Doses of 100 mcg twice daily.
- For prevention of muscle weakness caused by a disease called myasthenia gravis: Healthcare providers give Huperzine A daily as a shot.