By: Tracy Everhart, MSN (masters in nursing), MSCAM (masters in complementary alternative medicine)

Huperzine A is an important memory enhancing ingredient in Neurolon. It is an extracted alkaloid compound that comes from the Chinese Club Moss (Huperzia serrata). This a highly purified substance, unlike whole herbs that typically contain hundreds of chemical ingredients. It has been used for centuries to restore memory, treat muscular disorders and protect against the damages associated with chemical poisoning. This herb, sometimes called Qian Ceng Ta, has been used to reduce inflammation and improve circulation as well.

Huperzine A has been receiving a lot of nootropic attention for improving memory and learning enhancement, age-related memory impairment (dementia) and combating Alzheimer’s disease. It is used in the treatment of the muscular disorder Myasthenia Gravis, because it causes an increase in the levels of acetylcholine in the nervous system. Acetylcholine is one of the chemicals that our nerves use to communicate in the brain, muscles, and other areas of the body. It is also associated with memory retention, mental clarity, and enhanced cognitive control. A direct relationship between Huperzine A, increased acetylcholine levels, and cognitive performance (including helping the brain retain new information) has been shown in many medical studies.

An important communication pathway in the nervous system involves neurons that respond to and release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Recent studies have correlated acetylcholine receptor dysfunction with the progressive loss of neurologic functions and cognitive deficits of Alzheimer’s disease, Epilepsy, Schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. Not only do acetylcholine levels drop with different disease states, but they also drop during the course of the normal aging process. These lower levels of acetylcholine result in the indiscriminate loss of short-term memory seen in our aging population. In fact, research studies have found up to a 90% decrease in acetylcholine levels among patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The Huperzine A in Neurolon, works by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. As a result, more acetylcholine becomes available to stimulate the neurons. The neuron is the functional unit of the brain and communication between neurons is the foundation for brain function. Any interruption of neural communication can cause changes in cognitive processes and behavior.
Huperzine A also boosts nerve growth factor, which is a protein vital for the development, growth, and protection of neurons.

Other studies indicates that the Huperzine A might modify the formation of brain synapses, which is essential to neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt to new behaviors, environments, thoughts, emotions, as well as bodily injuries. To put it simply, if you’re adapting to changes in your life, your brain is probably engaged in neuroplasticity. So, the brain has the ability to reorganize by creating new neural pathways to adapt, as it needs to. Neuroplasticity is based on the theory that, the more you focus and practice something the better you become at the new skill that you are learning or an obstacle you are trying to overcome. By doing this, new neural connections are created in the brain as synapses that don’t usually fire together do, which help us to sharpen our new skill. It is believed that Huperzine A aids in this process by modifying these connections.

Huperzine A is a safe alternative to other substances. Studies in rodents, canines, and healthy human volunteers indicated that Huperzine A is absorbed rapidly, distributed widely in the body, and eliminated at a moderate rate with the property of slow and prolonged release after oral administration. Animal and clinical safety tests also showed that Huperzine A had no unexpected toxicity, compared to the dose-limiting liver toxicity induced by Tacrine. Tacrine is a prescription drug commonly known as Cognex and is used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical trials in China have demonstrated that Huperzine A significantly improved memory deficits in elderly people with forgetfulness, and patients with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. This was observed with minimal peripheral anticholinergic side effects (dry mouth, constipation, urinary retention, blurred vision, increased heart rate, decreased sweating) and no unexpected toxicity. As with all of the ingredients included in Neurolon, Huperzine A is a safe and effective source for brain nutrition.

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