The compound huperzine comes from a type of club moss that grows naturally in China. There is reason to believe that huperzine can improve the cognitive functions that deteriate in people with Alzheimer's disease. Some doctors also use huperzine in conjunction with other herbs and compounds to treat ADHD, however more research is needed as to the effectiveness of huperzine by itself in improving the symptoms of ADHD.
According to Dr. Glenn Smith in an article on MayoClinic.com, huperzine inhibits a chemical called cholinesterase in your brain. Inhibition of cholinesterase increases the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain. Huperzine may enhance memory, however Dr. Smith says that doctors often do not recommend using huperzine due to the availability of similar medications that the FDA has already tested for safety and efficacy.
ADHD and Treatment
ADHD is thought to occur due to lower than average levels of neurotransmitters in your brain, particularly dopamine. Your brain uses dopamine to regulate cognitive functions that relate to ADHD, such as concentration and motivation. According to Helpguide.org, doctors commonly prescribe stimulant drugs to treat ADHD such as Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall. Stimulant drugs raise the levels of dopamine in your brain.
Problems with Stimulants
While stimulant medications help to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD, they can have unpleasant side effects. For example, in a July 2010 article in the “Journal of Sleep Research,” Sarah Ironside and colleagues say that stimulant ADHD medication disrupts people’s sleep patterns. Dopamine regulates your movement as well as your concentration and motivation. Ironside and colleagues monitored children taking stimulant medications and found that they do not settle down at the times when their bodies should prepare to sleep.
Effects of Huperzine
Huperzine can improve general cognitive functions. In a September 1995 article for the journal “Acta Pharmacologica Sinica,” S.S. Xu and colleagues wrote that huperzine improved memory and cognitive functions in people participating in a study. Xu and colleagues do not say whether huperzine improved specific cognitive functions that relate to ADHD, such as concentration and motivation.
Huperzine with Other Herbs
Researchers are trying to find ADHD medications that do not have side effects, as stimulant medications do. According to Kenneth Blum and colleagues in an October 2008 article in the "Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment," huperzine is a component of an amino acid and herbal supplement that some doctors give to ADHD patients to increase the levels of dopamine in the brain. Blum and colleagues wrote that some clinicians also prefer herbal supplements because of concerns about the overprescription of stimulant medications.