The answer seems to be, "Yes". The following excerpts are taken from the American Academy of Neurology's website
| "The moss
extract huperzine A is a traditional Chinese medicine that acts as an acetylcholinesterase
inhibitor. It may be as potent as the prescription inhibitors donepezil
(Aricept ?), rivastigmine (Exelon?), and tacrine (Cognex ?). Because of
their strength, huperzine A should not be used in combination with any
of these FDA-approved inhibitors, as it may cause an overdose. Few studies
have been done on the effectiveness of huperzine A in treating Alzheimer’s.
At this time, the product is unregulated and manufactured without uniform
This over-the-counter herbal extraction, available at health food stores, was touted in an Associated press article to be as effective as the currently-approved, first-generation prescription medications for Alzheimer's disease. Of course, all medications have side-effects, whether "natural" or man-made. (Aspirin is found in the bark of the willow tree.) Caution is indicated in the use of any agent that is pharmacologically effective, regardless of how derived. And Chinese herbs, though they've been used for millenia, haven't necessarily been tested for safety.
Consideration of gingko biloba and of ginseng is conspicuously missing from the American Academy of Neurology's discussion above.
off the Presses! This
bulletin just in! Studies of gingko biloba in mice
have shown that a low dose can reduce the area affected by a stroke by
30% in mice. However, a larger dose produced no effect. "This result prompted
the researchers to warn that it is too early to recommend the use of gingko
in humans at risk for stroke."
"In addition to reducing stroke injury, ginkgo may also be useful in improving memory following a stroke," Clark said.
Gingko biloba in the United States varies widely in its constitution. It contains antioxidants and a mild blood thinner, and must be used with caution if other blood thinners are also prescribed.
--Report - "Gingko May Protect Brain Against Stroke Damage", presented during the American Academy of Neurology's 52nd Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA, April 29 -- May 6, 2000. --from ScienceDaily, May 3, 2000.
A discussion of "smart drugs" in a 1998 Scientific American Special Issue on Intelligence observes that the most powerful "smart drug" currently available might be a cup of coffee with sugar in it. Both caffeine and sugar temporarily boost brainpower.
In the meantime, a number of new
agents are in the FDA approval pipeline as treatments for Alzheimer's disease.
Rumors making the rounds at Johns Hopkins have it that within ten years,
smart drugs will be on the market that can increase a child's IQ by as
much as 50 points.
Long-term, the ability to enhance human intelligence genetically or through genetically-produced proteins must be considered to be a watershed in human affairs--a time when humans can redefine their biological selves and can transcend the limits imposed by evolution.