Huperzine A

Quick Guide to Dementia

What other names is Huperzine A known by?

HupA, Huperzina A, Huperzine, Huperzine-A, Selagine, Sélagine.

What is Huperzine A?

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.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Dementia. Some research suggests that taking huperzine A by mouth for up to 8 weeks may improve memory, mental function, and behavior in people with conditions such as Alzheimer's disease or dementia. The long-term effects of huperizine A in people with these conditions is not yet known.
  • Memory. Some research shows that taking huperzine A by mouth for 4 weeks improves the memory older children and teenagers who complain of memory problems.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Mental impairment. Early research suggests that taking huperzine A by mouth for 12 weeks might improve memory in adults with mild cognitive (mental) impairment.
  • A muscular disorder called myasthenia gravis. Early research suggests that giving huperzine A intramuscularly for 10 days may prevent muscle weakness in patients with myasthenia gravis and may have equal or longer lasting effects compared to intramuscular neostigmine.
  • Age-related memory loss.
  • Increasing alertness and energy.
  • Protection from agents poisonous to nerves.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of huperzine A for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Quick GuideDementia, Alzheimer's Disease, and Aging Brains

Dementia, Alzheimer's Disease, and Aging Brains

How does Huperzine A 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.

Are there safety concerns?

Huperzine A is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth for a short period of time (less than 3 months). It can cause some side effects including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, blurred vision, slurred speech, restlessness, loss of appetite, contraction and twitching of muscle fibers, cramping, increased saliva and urine, inability to control urination, high blood pressure, and slowed heart rate.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Children: Huperzine A is POSSIBLY SAFE in children when taken by mouth for a short period of time (less than one month). Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking huperzine A if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Slow heart rate or other heart diseases: Huperzine A can slow the heart rate. This might be a problem for people who already have a slow heart rate or other heart conditions involving the 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." 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." 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." 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." If you have a urinary tract or reproductive system blockage, check with your healthcare provider before you use huperzine A.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Drying medications (Anticholinergic drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

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, benztropine (Cogentin), biperiden (Akineton), procyclidine (Kemadrin), scopolamine, trihexyphenidyl (Artane), and some medications used for allergies (antihistamines), and for depression (antidepressants).



Medications for Alzheimer's disease (Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

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.

Some of these medications include donepezil (Aricept), echothiophate (Phospholine Iodide), edrophonium (Enlon, Reversol, Tensilon), neostigmine (Prostigmin), physostigmine (Antilirium), pyridostigmine (Mestinon, Regonol), and tacrine (Cognex).



Various medications used for glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions (Cholinergic drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

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.

Dosing considerations for Huperzine A.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
  • 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.
BY INJECTION:
  • For prevention of muscle weakness caused by a disease called myasthenia gravis: Healthcare providers give Huperzine A daily as a shot.
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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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