Vasopressin- The Anti-aging, Cognitive Enhancing Neuropeptide

Written by DEAN, M.D., Ward

Vasopressin is a pituitary hormone that is best known for controlling water balance in the body. Its common name is anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), because of its property of conserving water in the body, and inhibiting urine production. Because of this property, many parents of children with bed-wetting problems find it useful, as do many men with prostate problems (BPH). Vasopressin doesn’t effect the prostate, but it does reduce urine production, resulting in less sleep interruptions.

Vasopressin as a Smart Drug

However, vasopressin also acts as a neuropeptide in the hypothalamus, and is necessary for imprinting new information in our memories. Not surprisingly, vasopressin content in the brain declines with age. Consequently, Vasopressin has been used to treat memory deficits due to aging, senile dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Korsakoff’s Syndrome and amnesia. Vasopressin improves attention, retention and recall (both short-term and long-term) and it is well known to enhance short-term memory in normal young adults, as well as in those with age-associated memory impairment (AAMI). In addition, it has been shown to improve both mood and memory in the elderly and those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Vasopressin is very useful when learning large amounts of new information. It can increase the ability to memorize and recall, and is especially helpful when cramming for exams, trying to memorize a speech, or learning a script.

A recent study demonstrated an additional, previously undocumented benefit of Vasopressin-enhancement of slow wave sleep (Perras, et al, 1999). Subjects in this study used a dose of 40 IU/day, administered as a nasal spray (two sprays at bedtime). Over a period of three months, the researchers found the time spent in slow wave sleep (SWS) more than doubled. SWS is the most restful kind of sleep- and it is during SWS that growth hormone is released.

Perras and colleagues hypothesized that in addition to its direct effects as a neuropeptide, Vasopressin could act by other mechanisms as well, including acting as a corticosteroid receptor agonist (sensitizer).

Potential Anti-Aging Effects of Vasopressin

Drs. Sydney and Constance Friedman at the University of British Columbia studied the effects of posterior pituitary powder on the life spans of already-old rats (2 yrs). The scientists proposed that the alterations in water and electrolytes (principally, sodium and potassium) with age, resemble those of diabetes insipidus (a disease characterized by excessive urination caused by a lack of ADH). They further proposed that many other signs and symptoms of aging are similar to many features of diabetes insipidus (Findley, 1949). They had previously found that Vasopressin(ADH) restored a youthful pattern of fluid distribution in rats (Friedman, et al, 1960, 1963 [b]), and improved renal function in aging men (Ruol, et al, 1963).

The authors stated that “It is a truism that in age almost all functions that can be measured will show some decline [Ed.- For proof, see Dr. Dean’s book, Biological Aging Measurement – Clinical Applications]. Since salt and water homeostasis is certainly central to life itself, [effective therapy] might well produce a measurable effect on life span.”

To test their theory, the authors administered posterior pituitary powder, (as a source of vasopressin) to two year-old rats. The study was terminated after 180 days. Only 8 of the original 18 controls were still alive. In contrast, 22 of 36 treated rats survived (Fig. 1). The authors also reported better fur condition, increased muscular tone, absence of age-related pituitary and adrenal enlargement, and fewer skin lesions in the treated rats. The scientists concluded that “therapy directed at the neurohypophyseal-adrenal cortical integration can exert profound effects…in the aging organism.” [Ed.- That was a pretty profound statement in 1964].

DesmopressinTM is synthetic vasopressin. It is indicated for diabetes insipidus, as well as nocturnal eneuresis (bed-wetting), but can be taken safely by most people. Those with hypertension, glaucoma or prostatic hypertrophy should use Desmopressin with caution and only under the care of their physician. Vasopressin occasionally produces the following side effects: nasal congestion, runny nose, itch or irritation of the nasal passages, abdominal cramps, headache and increased bowel movements. Vasopressin has not been proven to be safe for use during pregnancy.

Vasopressin comes in three forms: lysine-vasopressin(Diapid, LVP, Lypressin, Postacton, Syntopressin): l-desamino-8-D-arginine (Adiuretin SD, DAV, Ritter, DDAVP, Desmopressin, Desmospray, Minirin, Minurin) and arginine-vasopressin(Argipressin, AVP, rinder-vasopressin). All forms have very similar or identical effects. The availability of Vasopressinvaries due to intermittent unexplained withdrawals and reintroductions into the marketplace by the pharmaceutical companies. It is available in the USA by prescription, although most physicians will probably not be familiar with the uses discussed here. It can be purchased over the counter in Mexico or by mail from overseas pharmacies. It is available as a nasal spray by prescription, or from an overseas pharmacy like IAS.

Because of Vasopressin’s multiplicity of benefits, I believe it is a potentially valuable anti-aging, life extending agent. Even in those for whom it is relatively contraindicated (i.e., those with hypertension or glaucoma), I think long-term, low-dose use may ultimately be beneficial.


1. de Wied, D, van Wimersma Greidanus, TB, Bohus, B, Urban, I, Gispen, WH. “Vasopressinand memory consolidation.” Perspectives in Brain Research. New York: Elsevier Scientific Publishing, 1975.
2. Friedman, S.M., and Friedman, C.L. Prolonged treatment with posterior pituitary poweder in aged rats. Exp Gerontol, 1964, I: 37-48.
3. Gold, PW, Weingartner, H, Ballenger, JC, Goodwin, FK. “Effects of l-Desamo-8-Arginine Vasopressinon Behavior and Cognition in Primary Affective Disorders.” The Lancet, November 10, 1979, pp 992-94.
4. Laczi, F, Valkusz, Z, Laszlo, FA, Wagner, A Jardanhazy, T, Szasz, A, Szilard, J, Telegdy G. “Effects of Lysine-Vasopressinand l-Deamino-8-Arginine Vasopressinon Memory on Healthy Individuals and Diabetes Insipidus Patients.” Psychoneuroendocrinology, 1982, Vol. 7, No 2, p 185-92.
5. Legros, JJ, Gilot, P, Seron, X, Claesens, J, Adam, A, Moeglen, JM, Audibert, A, Berchier, P. “Influence of Vasopressinon Learning and Memory.” The Lancet, January 7, 1978, p41-42.
6. Oliveros, JC, Jandali, MK, Timsit-Berthier, M, Remy, R, Benghezal, A, Audibert, A, Moeglen, JM. “Vasopressinin Amnesia.” The Lancet, January 7, 1978 p43.
7. Pearson, D., Shaw, S.Life Extension, A Practical Approach. New York, Warner Books, 1982.
8. Pelton, R., Pelton, TC. Mind Food and Smart Pills. New York, Doubleday, 1989.
9. Perras, B., Pannenborg, H., Marshall, L., et al. Beneficial treatment of age-related sleep disturbances with prolonged intranasal vasopressin. J Clin Pshychopharmacology, 1999, 19: 1, 28-36.
10. Ruol, A., Menozzi, L, and Furlanello, F. J Geront Suppl 31, 1963.