Huperzine A - Alternative Approach:  Study - Moss Extract As Alzheimer's Support

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Huperzine A - Alternative Approach:  Study - Moss Extract As Alzheimer's Support
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Alternative Approach : Current Study Looking at Moss Extract As Alzheimer's Support

Chicago Daily Herald

08-03-05

Is it possible that one of the answers to treating and preventing Alzheimer's disease could be derived from moss?  The answer might be determined in an ongoing national study on Huperzine-A (Huperzia serrata), an extract of Chinese Club Moss.

Alzheimer's is a devastating disease.  A German physician, Alois Alzheimer, first described it in 1907 and at that time, it was very rare.  However, as the American population continues to age, it is becoming increasingly common.

It has been estimated that 50 percent of people over 85 years old are at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.  Current medical costs exceed $50,000 per year per person.  Annual expenditures for Alzheimer's disease are more than $50 billion.

Alzheimer's disease is characterized by memory loss, especially short-term memory.  Later, finding words is difficult and understanding language becomes a problem.  In the later stages of Alzheimer's disease, hallucinations and delusions might become evident.  It is like a computer slowly shutting down, one system at a time ... and it seems to be irreversible.

A limited number of medications are used to slow the progress of this disease, but they are not effective long term and are expensive.  Chinese medicine, however, might offer real options.

Huperzine A has been used in Chinese medicine for memory and possibly helpful with Alzheimer's Disease.  Huperzine A acts to prevent the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.  Increased acetylcholine might enhance nerve function and slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease.  Some research suggests huperzine A might be at least as effective as current medications.  In addition, huperzine A has antioxidant properties that might protect brain cells from death, something current medications do not do.

The National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study is sponsoring a national trial of huperzine A.  This study is designed to see how effective it is for improving cognitive functioning in patients with Alzheimer's disease.  People with Alzheimer's disease are randomized into three groups:  those receiving 400 mg of huperzine A per day, those receiving 200 mg of huperzine A per day and those receiving a placebo.  Each participant is in the study for 16 weeks.  Measurements of mental functioning are done at the beginning and end of the study.

The researchers are looking for people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  The study is being conducted at many sites nationwide, including Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.  For information on the study at Rush, call Julie Bach at (312) 942-8264 or e-mail jbach@@rush.edu.

More information on the huperzine-A study can be found at http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT0083590.

I cannot say if huperzine A is the solution to Alzheimer's disease, but it is increasingly important to research herbs.  As we explore the thousands and thousands of medicinal herbs used worldwide, I believe that we will find many solutions to diseases, including Alzheimer's.

Patrick B. Massey, M.D., Ph.D., is medical director for alternative and complementary medicine for Alexian Brothers Hospital Network.

More Information:  Huperzine-A (huperzia serrata) - Ingredients/Dose

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