Huperzine A, is a naturally occurring sesquiterpene alkaloid found in the extracts of the firmoss Huperzia serrata. The botanical has been used in China for centuries for the treatment of swelling, fever and blood disorders. Recently in clinical trials in China, it has demonstrated neuroprotective effects. It is currently being investigated as a possible treatment for diseases characterized by neurodegeneration – particularly Alzheimer’s disease.
Huperzine A has attracted the attention of Western medical science. It has been found to be an inhibitor of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. This is the same mechanism of action of pharmaceutical drugs such as galantamine and donepezil used to treat Alzheimer's disease.
Clinical trials in China have shown that huperzine A is comparably effective to the drugs currently on the market, and may even be a bit safer in terms of side effects. Currently, the National Institute on Aging is conducting a Phase II clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficiency of huperzine A in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease in a randomized controlled trial of its effect on cognitive function. Recently, it has been investigated for its effectiveness against epilepsy in an initial 20-person clinical study by Harvard University neuroscientists examining its worth and side effects in those who are not satisfactorily treated by existing pharmaceuticals.
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- Bai, D. L.; Tang, X. C.; He, X. C. Huperzine A, a potential therapeutic agent for treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Current Medicinal Chemistry , 2000, vol. 7, iss. 3, p. 355-374.
- Tang, X. C.; He, X. C.; Bai, D. L. Huperzine A: a novel acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Drugs of the Future, 1999, vol. 24, iss 6, p. 647-663.
- Kozikowski, Alan P.; Tueckmantel, Werner. Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Clinical Efficacy of the Chinese Nootropic Agent Huperzine A. Accounts of Chemical Research, 1999, vol 32, iss 8, p. 641-650.
- PDR entry for Huperzine A