Huperzine A has been making waves in the dietary supplement world, as it has many wondering if it has the ability to help with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, myasthenia gravis, and other diseases, that are related to age and memory loss.
Those familiar with Alzheimer’s disease will know that this is a terrible disease that slowly causes individuals to lose their memory. Today there is currently no cure for it, and the only thing that presently is done for it, is to try and slow it down.
Several small studies have suggested that huperzine A could majorly improve cognitive performance in people with AD. The only problem is that an in-depth review found that the quality of the evidence provided was low.
Some studies have found evidence, saying that huperzine A might significantly improve cognitive performance in those with Alzheimer’s disease. However, a recent systematic review found that the nature of the evidence of huperzine A’s effectiveness was low.
One of the most troubling findings with huperzine A data, is that there haven’t been any significantly long studies. Most of the studies conducted lasted three months or less, and many participants in the trials had side effects, that including nausea and vomiting.
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What is Huperzine A?
Huperzine A is a chemical that is derived from ancient Chinese medicine, “Huperzia Serrata,” and it is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor; found naturally in Chinese club moss.
This is a type of medication that aims to heighten the level of neurotransmitters in the brain. Huperzine A helps prevent the breakdown of choline, one of the brain’s fundamental neurotransmitters.
It is commonly taken orally as a way to help with mental functionality, and it doesn’t need to be ingested with food. It’s typically not very harsh on an empty stomach, but if you feel more comfortable, you can swallow it with other food.
In studies, it is often abbreviated at Hup A.
It comes from Huperzia species, including H. elmeri, H. carinat, and H. aqualupia.
Is Huperzine A Safe?
Huperzine A is said to be safe in low doses, and for short periods of time. There haven’t been enough long-term studies in order to conclude that it is safe for more extended periods.
Always be sure to consult with a doctor before beginning to take Huperzine A to make sure that it doesn’t react with any other medications that you may be taking.
The Alzheimer’s Association recently recommended not to take huperzine A if you’re taking a cholinesterase inhibitor, such as galantamine, rivastigmine or donepezil.
How Should Huperzine A Be Taken?
It is commonly taken orally through the mouth. A few studies administer Huperzine A via injections.
Can Huperzine A Help With Cocaine Addiction?
Cocaine is one of the hardest drugs in the world to get off of because it greatens levels of dopamine in individuals. Cocaine is also the leading drug that leads to suicide, once individuals are clean of it.
This is because individuals have a hard time finding happiness once they are off it. In a study from 2009, researchers found that out of 406 abstinent cocaine users, 43.5% of them had attempted suicide.
This is an absurd amount, and dopamine is something that is at play here. To get a better understanding of this, let’s look at what type of happiness dopamine is associated with.
A study has shown that acetylcholinesterase inhibitors like huperzine A could be useful as treatments for cocaine disorders.
In this study, they took a double-blind controlled placebo in which participants (n=14-17/group) were randomized to huperzine A, with doses of (0.4 or 0.8mg), or the placebo. The participants then were given random infusions of cocaine between 0 and 40mg on days 1 and 9. On day 10, participants were given non-contingent, randomized infusions of cocaine (0 and 20mg) before making five choices to receive additional infusions.
The results were the huperzine A was safe and well-tolerated, and when it was compared with the placebo, huperzine A did not cause significant changes in cocaine pharmacokinetic parameters. Peak analysis showed that treatment with 0.4mg of huperzine A significantly attenuated cocaine-induced increases of willingness to pay for the drug.
This study provided a significant contribution to the addiction field, as it is the first published report on the safety and potential positive efficacy of huperzine A as a treatment for cocaine disorder.
Dopamine and Happiness
Dopamine is responsible for the happiness that is found from being rewarded. For example, dopamine is released when you see the finish line in a race, or when you receive a raise at work. What cocaine does is blocks the reuptake of dopamine, which leaves the neurotransmitters in the synaptic gap longer.
What is Huperzine A Used For?
Huperzine A is used for dementia, alzheimer’s, and even myasthenia gravis. With this being said, there hasn’t been substantial research for long-term effects on these diseases.
In 2006, Alzheimer’s had become a significant health problem across the world, and it was increasing in prevalence. One of the main reasons why it was so detrimental was that it was a tremendous cost, a caregiver burden, and usually of prolonged duration.
What is found with AD, is the degeneration of acetylcholine-containing neurons in the basal forebrain. It was known that cholinesterase inhibitors could block the degradation of acetylcholine, which would increase the efficacy of the remaining neurons.
Huperzine A is a linearly competitive, reversible inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase, that is said to have both central and peripheral activity, including the ability to protect cells from hydrogen peroxide, beta-amyloid protein, glutamate, ischemia, and apoptosis.
This is the information that would lead doctors and to wonder if huperzine A would work for AD.
In 2006, a study was conducted that would assess the efficacy and safety of huperzine A as a treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Six trials, including a total of 454 patients, met the inclusion criteria. A placebo was given, along with an actual dosage of huperzine A. The methodological quality of most included trails was not high.
The data showed that, compared to the placebo, huperzine A had beneficial effects on the general cognitive function measured. Unfortunately, huperzine A was not superior to the placebo in the improvement of general cognitive function, measured by the Hasegawa Dementia scale.
There was no additional data given about the quality of life, or caregiver burden, as this would be a different study.
The researchers concluded that huperzine A seems to have some beneficial effects on the improvement of general cognitive function, functional performance, behavioral disturbance, and global clinical status, with no apparent serious side effects for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The main problem with this study is that only one study was of adequate quality and size. As a result, it was concluded that there was inadequate evidence to make any recommendations about its use.
Another study used huperzine A in China for the treatment of dementia. In the preclinical studies, it was suggested that there were possible neuroprotective mechanisms. However, a recent phase II trial in the USA failed to demonstrate the efficacy of the usual dose in China, which is 200 mcg, twice daily.
When it failed, they switched to double the dosage, and researchers reported some evidence of cognitive enhancement.
Huperzine A has not been cleared as being completely safe. It is possibly safe to use by adults, when taken orally, and for no longer than six months at a time.
For children, it is said to be possibly safe again. However, it isn’t recommended to be taken for longer than one month at a time.
It is advised by doctors that pregnant women should side with caution, and not take huperzine A, due to a lack of evidence to support it, either way.
- dry mouth
- blurred vision
- slurred speech
- loss of appetite
Additionally, people can experience twitching of muscle fibers, cramping, increased urination and saliva, slowed heart rate, insomnia, dizziness, high blood pressure, and swelling.
Slowed Heart Rate and Huperzine A
Huperzine A can slow one’s heart rate. This can be a significant problem for those who already have heart conditions that involve their heart rate. Because of this, doctors advise individuals to use huperzine A with caution.
GI Blockage Associated With Huperzine A
It is advised people check with their doctor before using huperzine A if they have GI blockage. Doctors are concerned that using huperzine A could make GI obstruction worse. The thought behind this is that it can increase an individual’s mucous and fluid secretions in the intestine.
Ulcers and Huperzine A
This is another area of concern. Due to the reasons above pertaining to mucus and fluid secretions, doctors and scientists think that this could make the condition worse. As always, be sure to check with your doctor prior to taking a dosage.
Lung Conditions and Huperzine A
While there is currently a limited amount of evidence with lung conditions and huperzine A, doctors believe that it may make conditions worse. This is due to the same reasons as the conditions mentioned above; mucus and fluid. Be sure to consult a doctor before taking huperzine A if you have any lung conditions.
Does Huperzine Make You Sleepy?
It may make people sleepy, due to the impact it has on the heart. It can slow down the heart rate, and when the heart rate is slowed down, it can leave people feeling fatigued, tired, or lazy.
Excess fatigue may cause people to feel exhausted after simple tasks, like walking up the stairs, or feeling exhausted after a short grocery shopping trip.
Does Huperzine A Have Negative Interactions With Other Medications?
Yes, it can have some adverse reactions when taken with other medications, or supplements.
Since it has properties that can affect the brain and the heart, it can react poorly with drying medications. Drying medication can include atropine and scopolamine, which can be decreased when mixed with Huperzine A.
Medications for Alchzimes might additionally be affected when used with Huperzine A, since they both interact with the brain.
Epilepsy and Huperzine A
Many people who suffer from seizures have epilepsy.
Because huperzine A seems to have some effect on the brain chemicals, doctors are concerned that there’s a chance that it could make epilepsy worse. Moreover, there isn’t currently any evidence that supports this. With this being said, doctors advise using huperzine A cautiously.
Huperzine A and Seizure Induction
There has been a significant effort put into Huperzine A, and induced seizures. An overall in-depth study was done inducing seizures via:
- 6 Hz psychomotor seizure induction
- Maximal electroshock seizure induction
- Pentylenetetrazole seizure induction
- Flurothyl seizure induction
- Hyperthermia seizure induction
- Chronic Hup A treatment
This study was designed to validate the 6 Hz seizure as a model of therapy-resistant epilepsy. 6 Hz seizure was determined at varying current intensities, using seven established AEDs, and five second-generation AEDs.
Seizures were induced by the 6 Hz paradigm an hour before seizure induction, at which point each mouse was manually restrained. Over this six week experimental period, each mouse was given a seizure one time per week. Results suggest that the 6 Hz stimulation may provide a useful model of therapy-resistant limbic seizures. Mice were housed on a 12 hour light/dark cycle, with food and water available as needed.
The study also found the two lowest Hup A doses (0.1 and 0.18 mg/kg) resulted in a 25% reduction in AChE activity when compared to vehicle-injected mice.
Is Huperzine A a Nootropic?
Huperzine A, on its own, is not a nootropic, but is an ingredient found in nootropics.
Huperzine A is an ingredient commonly found in nootropics, due to its possible benefits on memory and acetylcholine signaling. It is found at most pharmacies as an over the counter supplement.
It is an all-around safe supplement, however, caution should be taken when it is mixed with any drug containing bradycardia. Combining the two may decrease heart rate.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.