The granddaddy of the so-called smart drugs, hydergine has a long history as a mental de-ager. An extract of ergot, a fungus that grows on rye, hydergine (also known as dihydroergotoxine) was developed in the 1940s as a treatment for hypertension. Since then, hydergine has undergone scores of tests in patients with varying forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Although the results have been equivocal, the Physicians’ Desk Reference lists hydergine as offering “some” relief for age-related declines in mental acuity.

In old rats, hydergine has been shown to increase metabolism and uptake of glucose in the brain. It also helps rejuvenate connections between brain cells, protect the brain against damage due to oxygen starvation and improve learning capabilities.

Although a 1990 study at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia concluded that hydergine was ineffective as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, Longevity reported in 1991 that exhaustive testing in a number of laboratories in the US of more than 1,000 patients with various kinds of senile disorders indicates that those treated with hydergine had consistently higher scores in such cognitive functions as mental alertness, clarity and mood.

Hydergine is nontoxic and relatively safe. Its potential side effects include mild nausea and gastric disturbance. It should not be taken by people with psychosis, or those with low blood pressure or abnormally slow heartbeat.

One of the most exciting things about hydergine is its availability. It has FDA approval as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, but some doctors may prescribe it to combat brain aging in healthy people.

Excerpt from BRAIN BOOSTERS: Foods & Drugs That Make You Smarter

Hydergine is considered by some to be an all-purpose brain booster . It increases mental abilities, prevents brain cells from being damaged by free radicals or by too little oxygen (hypoxia), and reverses brain-dell damage. Hydergine increases learning, memory, and recall in several ways. It speeds up the level of metabolism in the brain cells and increases the amount of blood and oxygen getting to the brain. Hydergine reduces brain damage when oxygen is insufficient, as during a stroke. Hydergine slows down lipofuscin deposits associated with brain-cell aging, and acts as a prophylactic against damage from free radicals.

The only FDA-approved uses of hydergine are senility and cerehrovascular insufficiency, which is caused by poor blood circulation to the brain. Hydergine’s effectiveness in reducing symptoms of senility have been well-established. Hydergine increases the oxygen supply in the brain, which keeps production of free radicals in check. When oxygen is in short supply because of smoking, cerebral insufficiency, strokes, or heart attacks, free radicals are rapidly produced, resulting in brain-cell damage.

In Europe, hydergine is regularly given in hospital emergency rooms to victims of strokes, heart attacks, hemorrhage, drug overdoses, drowning, and electrocution. Because brain damage can occur from emergencies during surgery where oxygen and blood can be cut off, European hospitals routinely administer hydergine pre-surgery as an extra measure of caution. In spite of the volumes of research demonstrating the effectiveness of hydergine in these cases, use with accident victims or as a preventive measure is not approved in the United States by the FDA.

Hydergine has been studied extensively, with more than 3,000 research papers published on it to date, making it one of the most widely studied and prescribed drugs. Hydergine was originally produced and distributed by Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, and later by Dorsey Pharmaceuticals, a division of Sandoz. Because the original patent has expired, numerous generic versions are now available in various strengths through prescription. According to FDA guidelines, prescription is permitted for anti-senility only. However, in practice it is often used for improving intelligence and combating aging, and is prescribed for higher doses than those usually approved in the U.S.

Hydergine is available in the U.S. by prescription only. Hydergine may have even better effects when used in conjunction with piracetam; researchers suggest taking smaller doses of both to get the best effect.

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