July 25, 2016

Huperzine A

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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).


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