Huperzine A: An All-Natural Secret Weapon Against Brain Aging
Anyone interested in brain health and longevity should be aware of an extract known as huperzine A, a phytonutrient from the Chinese club moss plant, Huperzia serrata.
According to Chinese researchers, huperzine A helps people with Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain disorders by promoting nerve cell growth, enabling brain cells to better communicate.(1)
Another important benefit of huperzine A is protecting acetylcholine, one of your most important neurotransmitters from chemical breakdown in the brain. Because acetylcholine is a key player in memory function and learning, dwindling levels are a major contributor to Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
There are numerous pharmaceutical drugs on the market that inhibit the breakdown of acetylcholine. Huperzine A has been shown to work as well or better than many of these expensive drugs without the common side effects.
Here’s an example. Studies have shown that compared to Alzheimer’s drugs like donepezil and galantamine, huperzine A crosses the blood-brain barrier more easily, has greater bioavailability, and has longer lasting benefits.(2)
In an earlier study, researchers gave either placebo or 200 mcg of huperzine A to 50 patients with Alzheimer’s disease. At the study’s conclusion, 58% of the huperzine A treated patients showed improvements in memory, cognition, and behavioral functions compared to only 36% in the placebo group.
Researchers observed no severe side effects in the huperzine A treated patients. Blood pressure, heart rate, electrocardiogram, electroencephalogram, liver and urine tests did not show any major abnormalities.(3)
Promoting the growth of neurites is another way huperzine A protects against Alzheimer’s and cognitive loss.
Neurites are the tiny projections that make connections between brain cells, allowing messages to be transmitted. Huperzine A has been shown to promote the growth of neurites. In one study, researchers found that after just 48 hours of treatment with huperzine A, the number of brain cell neurites increased dramatically. (1)
What about ingested toxins? We know that an accumulation of chemical toxins and heavy metals destroys brain cells over time due to the damaging free radicals they produce.
When huperzine A was tested on aging lab animals, it dramatically decreased the levels of elevated free radicals in the brain. The same reduction of reduced free radicals was shown in the blood of Alzheimer’s patients. This indicates that huperzine A can provide significant protection against ingested toxins that contribute to Alzheimer’s and other forms of neurodegenerative disease.(4)
These impressive results indicate that huperzine A is an all-around brain-enhancing phytonutrient that strengthens nerve cells, prevents neurotransmitter breakdown, improves neuronal communication, and protects healthy brain cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
Dharma S. Khalsa, M.D., is President and Medical Director of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation in Tucson, Arizona. The ARPF is dedicated to fighting Alzheimer’s disease and finding a cure through research and prevention. Dr. Khalsa wrote about Alzheimer’s for HealthCentral.