Search Term: " UpShot "
Huperzine And Memory
December 04, 2008 01:20 PM
Chinese club moss goes by the name Huperzia serrata, and gives its name to the sesquiterpene alkaloid it contains: huperzine A. This alkaloid has been found to be a superstar in the arena of brain-saving treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer's and age-related senility. Studies in China have found up to 60% improvements in the cognitive functions of such patients, and its potential has been recorded in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This is no mere folk remedy, and is the subject of serious study.
Known as Qian Ceng Ta, Chinese club moss has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries for the treatment of fever and inflammation, which is not surprising considering that most plants contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. However, what is unusual is the fact that it has also been found effective in treating some forms of dementia and depression, and also helps to reduce the incidence of panic attacks in those susceptible to them.
Not only that, but the plant has been found to possess diuretic properties, and a reduction in the swelling associated with water retention could also help to reduce the pain and other effects of swelling and inflammation. However, for now it is its effect on the brain that we are concerned, and research has indicated the likely mechanism by which huperzine A works.
Huperzine is an enzyme inhibitor - specifically inhibiting the enzyme acetylcholinesterase that breaks down acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in the processes of memory, learning and mood. Outside the brain, it is involved in the movement of skeletal muscle tissue as well as in the regulation of cardiac and other smooth muscles such as those of the blood vessels.
When acetylcholinesterase (AChE) attacks acetylcholine (ACh), the latter attaches to a chemical site on the enzyme where it is then destroyed. It is a deliberate function of the body, designed to terminate a synaptic transmission. The purpose of a neurotransmitter is to allow the transmission of an electrical impulse form one nerve cell to another over a gap between them known as a synapse. Once the transmission has been completed, the enzyme can destroy the neurotransmitter, and then another takes its place. In fact one molecule of AChE can destroy around 5,000 molecules of ACh.
However, with age and for other reasons, these neurotransmitters can become depleted so that it becomes increasingly more difficult for brain cells to communicate with each other, and their destruction becomes undesirable. There are drugs available to help prevent this happening (e.g. donepezil, galantamine and tacrine), and so help to improve the memory and mental function of people as they grow older or contract conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.
Huperzine A has been found to take up the site in the acetylcholinesterase molecule that would normally have been used by the acetylcholine, and so save it from destruction. The more Huperzine A molecules present, the more acetylcholine available to pass messages between brain cells, and the stronger the cognitive function of the subject or patient. The pharmaceutical drugs mentioned in the previous paragraph work in exactly the same way.
This is a very specific reaction, one molecule adopting exactly the same space as the other, and has been proved scientifically by comparing the physical shapes of the two molecules. It's just like a jigsaw puzzle, where only one piece can fit into each position. Except here there are two: Huperzine A and acetylcholine both fit into the exact same place in the chemical structure of the acetylcholinesterase molecule.
The biochemistry of the reactions involved is very complex, and shall not be discussed here, but the UpShot is that Huperzine A can do exactly the same job as modern drugs to avoid this hydroxylation of the ACh needed for the proper functioning of your brain.
In fact, clinical trials have indicated Huperzine A not only to be comparable in effect to the drugs current used, but also likely safer with respect to the possible side effects. This has still to be confirmed, but the National Institute on Aging is currently carrying out a trial to evaluate this claim in tandem with its effect on Alzheimer's disease. It has also been examined at Harvard University for its effect on epilepsy on patients with whom alternative pharmaceutical treatments have been unsuccessful.
Another suggested benefit of Huperzine A is that it is an NMDA (N-methyl D-aspartate) receptor antagonist that provides protection against damage to the brain by an excess of glutamates, and that it can also help to protect nerve cells from damage. Since NDMA is responsible for the transmission of some types of pain, the antagonist can also act as an analgesic.
There are other benefits that Chinese club moss can provide, and myasthenia gravis is one of them. Although relatively rare, this is a serious condition in which acetylcholine receptors are deactivated on muscle cells. This is achieved through the autoimmune system malfunctioning and creating antibodies against the receptors, and the end result is paralysis and respiratory failure.
Huperzine A reduces the AChE available and so might possibly enable the acetylcholine to work more effectively and delay or even stop the deterioration of muscle function. When people hear of muscle paralysis they frequently forget that breathing requires muscle function, as indeed does your heartbeat. This is currently surmise, and studies are being carried out to determine whether or not this usage of Huperzine A is viable.
Another promising application of Chinese club moss extract is in preventing organophosphate poisoning. These pesticides permanently suppress acetylcholine. This results in seizures due to a lack of interruption of the signals from nerves to muscles. The seizures can result in rapid death from uncontrollable seizures, or from permanent contraction of the diaphragm muscle that allows breathing. Although no human studies have yet been carried out, animals given Huperzine A prior to organophosphate exposure have survived without seizures.
There are no doubts that Chinese club moss and the Huperzine A extracted from it are effective in preventing the suppression of acetylcholine, and in permitting the proper activity of this important neurotransmitter. It is finding an increasing number of potential uses beneficial to the human body, not the least of which would be a partial remedy for some of the effects of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Guarana Seed Extract
November 17, 2008 11:24 AM
Guarana comes from the Amazon basin, and has been used by the natives of the Amazon rain forest to treat conditions such as diarrhea, arthritis, fatigue and even to reduce hunger. It is, in fact, a climbing plant of the Sapondacaea family, although it is the fruit for which it best known. Each contains a single seed that contains around five times the amount of caffeine of a similarly sized coffee bean.
An interesting piece of trivia is that the reason why such seeds are rich in caffeine is that the substance is poisonous to certain pathogens that would otherwise attack the berry. The same is - true of all seeds that contain caffeine: it is a means of self-defense. Obviously it is an effective defense since the berries appear to relatively immune to such common plant diseases.
Guarana is named after the Guarani tribe of South America, and the language is spoken by many in the area around Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, and also parts of Argentina. In fact over 67% of Paraguayans speak the language. There is a myth that when child of the Guarana village was killed by an evil god, a more benevolent deity planted the child's left eye in the forest and the right eye in the village. The left eye gave rise to the wild form of the plant, and the right eye the cultivated form.
This likely came about because of the appearance of the fruit when it is split open: it has the appearance of eyeballs. However, what is true is that Guaranis made tea from the seeds, and also a bread known as guarana bread by mashing the powder into a dough and shaping it into a cylindrical bread. It is dry roasted and milled to a fine powder, also known as Brazilian cocoa, but it has never quite managed to compete commercially against the coffee! However, it has its local adherents to whom it is a staple drink.
However, back to the health benefits of the seed. They were recognized as early as the 17th century when Father Felip Betendorf introduced it into Western civilization, but over the centuries since then it has been found that even in spite of the caffeine content it has been demonstrated to have brain-boosting properties and able to increase tasks requiring mental attention. It is certainly known to be an energizer, and able to give a boost to your brain when you really need it. So why should this be, and how does it do this?
The flavor is a bit like chocolate, hence its nickname of Brazilian cocoa, and has been approved by the FDA as a food additive. Extracts from the berry have been shown to possess strong antioxidant properties, and also act as bactericides and fungicide, few of which can be put down the caffeine content. In fact the seed has been proposed for use in the food industry as a natural antioxidant and preservative and as stated below, that is more acceptable to people than synthetic chemicals.
This is probably in response to the fact that synthetic antioxidants are in decline whereas the natural antioxidants such as vitamins, C and E and the various tocopherols and carotenoids are increasing in prominence due to them being more readily accepted by the consumer than the synthetics such as butylhydroxytoluene(BHT). These antioxidants are commonly used as food preservatives, in that they slow down the oxidation of foodstuffs, and people are increasingly feeling that natural products are preferable for this application than synthetic.
Guarana seeds have been found to be exceptionally high in proanthocyanadins with powerful antioxidant properties. They are fatal to free radicals and help to prevent cardiac disease and to improve cellular activity. They also display antimicrobial and antifungal activity. Chemically, they consist of up to 60% starch, pectins, saponins, proteins, and the aforementioned caffeine (3% - 5%). The guarana paste can contain up to 7% caffeine that can be dangerous to those with cardiac problems.
Guarana also contains tannins at levels of up to 12%, including catechin and some proanthocyanadins. The astringency of these tannins represents a problem to their use in the beverage and food industry, although the substance is regarded as safe by the FDA. They have little if any nutritional value and can react with alkaloid and proteins to form unwanted complexes. Were it not for tannins guarana would be more acceptable to the food industry.
However, it is for their energy-boosting properties that the guarana berries and seeds are most prized by many. The fact they it has been traditionally used as a stimulant and aphrodisiac indicates that there is something behind these claims. Studies on mice, hamsters and other animals have supported these effects. It has been found to posses the two desirable properties (to some) of stimulating the nervous system and curbing the appetite.
Consequently, it is used in diet and weight loss pills, and also to maintain high energy levels. In fact weight loss pills are used by many people to maintain their energy levels while not eating. This is a definite bonus to those that want to lose weight, but dislike the lethargy that a strict diet can cause.
There is a downside to that of course, and that is insomnia and an increased heartbeat, and also nervousness and feeling 'on edge'. Once people stop using guarana they suffer withdrawal symptoms such as nervousness, irritability and headaches.
The UpShot is that it is basically the high caffeine content of guarana that allows its use as a stimulant that can boost not only energy, but also reduce appetite and act as an effective weight loss supplement. However, used excessively it can lead to nervousness and while it is included as an ingredient in many foods and drinks, you should be careful when using it as an energizing supplement if you have any heart problems at all.
Otherwise, guarana is used to energize the body naturally, and is not only very commonly used for this purpose in South America, but also increasingly so in the USA and elsewhere with some very good results.