Alzheimer’s Treatment

Rare Chinese compound reproduced in US lab

Alzheimer’s disease is a condition that scares many of us. “Senior moments” such as losing track of our keys, stumbling over names, and losing our train of thought may leave us wondering if more serious issues such as not recognizing close friends and relatives, forgetting how to dress, and losing muscular control are right around the corner.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, disrupting memory, memory, cognition, and behavior. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases as we age, especially above age 65, yet the condition is not part of the normal aging process. Of the two distinct types of Alzheimer’s—early onset and late onset—between five and ten percent of patients are under age 50.

It is often even harder for spouses and family members to watch their loved ones face this tragic condition. Personality changes, losing interest in activities that were once enjoyed, and even personal hygiene issues can appear as the condition advances. This is even more distressing when the patient is physically fit in all other aspects of life.

As baby boomers age and see higher instances of Alzheimer’s, an abundance of products from the pharmaceutical and supplement industries have appeared to help address this tragic condition. Included in this group is huperzine A, a compound which occurs naturally in a species of moss found in China. This enzyme inhibitor has been used to treat Alzheimer’s in China since the 1990s. The moss comes from the Huperzia serrate plant, which takes decades to grow and is nearing extinction due to overharvesting.

Scientists at Yale University recently developed the first practical method to synthesize huperzine A in the lab, partnering with an industrial firm to produce it on a large scale. In the next step, the partnership seeks to produce enough of the compound to supply studies which will evaluate the long-term benefits of huperzine A and its related risks. A number of planned studies are now recruiting volunteers.

This is only one of many potential products that may treat or possibly cure this devastating condition. In the next several issues, Alternative Medicine will examine many aspects of Alzheimer’s. Your input for the story is encouraged. To comment or provide information, contact