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Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 00:56 GMT 01:56 UK
Herb can improve memory
Elderly man
Alzheimers affects 700,000 people in the UK
A Chinese herb could help to improve the memory of people with Alzheimer's disease, according to a study.

Scientists have found that a part of the Chinese medicinal herb "Qian Ceng Ta" is effective in reversing some of the damage to people's memory.

The part or compound of the herb responsible for the improvements is Huperzine A.

However, a lack of natural resources has meant that it is not available in the West.

But scientists at the Mayo Clinic in the US, Virginia Tech and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology are working on plans to develop a synthetic form of the compound which could be made available to patients in the West.


It will be a treatment for memory loss in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease

Paul Carlier, Virginia Tech

They believe that a compound could be easily manufactured from cheap, commercially available chemicals.

Paul Carlier, associate professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech said work to date has only examined the effects of the compound in animals.

Presenting his findings to a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, he said that even if the drug proves successful in humans it will only be able to treat the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

He said: "No work has been done in humans and even if the compounds prove effective in human, it will be as a treatment of the memory loss in the early stages of the disease.

"This approach could never cure Alzheimer's and after the disease progress to a certain point, these drugs could not restore mental function."

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See also:

19 Jul 00 | Health
Sleep 'vital to update memory'
10 Apr 00 | Health
'Memory pill' for elderly
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