In the next part of my ongoing series about preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease, I hone in on two promising supplements: vinpocetine and huperzine A.
See some of my previous articles on Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment here
Vinpocetine is a chemical extracted from the periwinkle plant. It was first developed in Hungary over 20 years ago to help increase blood flow to the brain. Since then, it has been widely used in Russia, Poland, Germany, Hungary and Japan for the treatment of cerebrovascular diseases. In animal studies, vinpocetine increases the blood flow to the brain, increases the transport and uptake of glucose in brain cells, protects brain cells from ischemic damage, and increases the availability of acetylcholine.
A meta-analysis of three high-quality studies had 583 people with dementia treated with 30 (milligrams) mg or 60 mg a day or placebo for six months. Those treated with this herb showed significant improvement in their cognitive functions, compared with the placebo treatmentÂ There were no adverse effects.
A proper dose of vinpocetine is 2.5 to 5.0 mg. Rare adverse effects include stomachache, low blood pressure, rash, and dry mouth. In my opinion, since the studies were done over 20 years with a small number of demented patients, better-designed studies are needed. We must further investigate the effects of vinpocentine for the treatment of dementia.
Huperzine A is an extract from Chinese club moss. In animal studies, it raises the acetylcholine levels in the brain and protects nerve cells in the brain. In a meta-analysis of six randomized controlled studies (all conducted in China) that involved 454 Alzheimer’s patients, huperzine-A-treated patients showed better general cognitive functions and behavioral disturbances by week six, and functional performance compared to placebo.
A proper dose is 50 mg once or twice a day and adverse effects may include blurred vision, nausea, muscle twitch, sweating.
In this meta-analysis, the quality of the study was good in just one study ,whereas the rest were rated fair to poor. Specifically, these studies used inconsistent methods of evaluation and reporting outcomes, poor trial design, short duration of study ( less than six months) with poor study design. Before any conclusion can be drawn, future better designed studies that are larger, multi-center andÂ randomized need to be done.