The risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases increases with age.
Perhaps this is possibly due to alteration in the levels of neurotransmitters, such as Acetylcholine, etc.
Neurological disorders affect your overall memory, cognition, learning capabilities, etc.
For example, Alzheimer’s, one of the most prevalent neurological disorders affecting as high as 24 million people worldwide (1), is a leading cause of dementia (memory loss).
Although there is no cure for a lot of nervous disorders such as Alzheimer’s, some medication in the form of supplementation may improve the condition to a certain extent.
One such naturally occurring herbal supplement that we are talking about today is Huperzine A.
This dietary supplement is usually recommended as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s and is known to improve memory, and cognition as well.
Let’s discuss Huperzine A and see if research backs up the claim made in favor of Huperzine A.
What is Huperzine A?
Huperzine-A (HupA), also known as L-Huperzine A, Selagine, and Cerebra, is a natural alkaloid compound developed in traditional Chinese medicine that has gained popularity as a nootropic supplement.
This dietary supplement can be extracted from several species of firmoss plants. Most commonly, it is isolated from Huperzia Serrata, a clubmoss that is also categorized as a Chinese herb (2).
The Chinese Academy of Sciences identified the medicinal use of Huperzine A in 1980s and since then, it is prescribed in China to treat a variety of medical conditions.
Not every supplement extracted from the plant will contain Huperzine A – synthetic alternatives exist that are less expensive and appear to work equally well. In fact, even the HupA that is extracted from the plant is highly purified and thus does not contain other plant compounds.
How Does Huperzine A Work
Research suggests that Huperzine A may primarily work via altering the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and body (3).
It is believed to exhibit its neuroprotective benefits largely through acting as reversible acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor. It increases the levels of acetylcholine (ACh) in the brain by blocking cholinesterase, an enzyme responsible for the breakdown of ACh.
ACh is a neurotransmitter important for learning, memory, and focus. AChE inhibitors are the main drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
One study even found that supplementation with this herb increased norepinephrine and dopamine levels in the rat brain.
It has also been shown to block the NMDA receptor ion channel, resulting in decreased glutamate toxicity.
By increasing ACh, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels in the brain and suppressing excitatory glutamate, memory formation and retrieval are improved while protecting the brain from excitatory feedback.
Once taken, this herb is rapidly absorbed and easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. Owing to its ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, it possesses a lot of nootropic properties.
Benefits & Uses
I am sure that after reading the mechanism of action of Huperzine A, you must have got an idea of the possible benefits that Huperzine A would be offering, which are primarily improving the Alzheimers condition as well as memory and cognitive enhancement.
Let’s try to dig into more details and see what exactly Huperzine A offers.
Many studies support the use of this supplement for improving learning and memory in both animals and humans with learning and memory difficulties.
Clinical trials have found improvements in the memory of elderly subjects, and those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), vascular dementia, and benign senescent forgetfulness.
One study examined the effects of HupA on memory function in junior middle school students following four weeks of supplementation with the supplement or a placebo. (4) This study found that those in the treatment group experienced benefits in learning performance and memory when compared to the placebo group.
While currently there is no treatment for Alzheimers, Chinese scientists claim that Huperzine A may act as a breakthrough treatment (5).
As Huperzine A makes sure that levels of Acetylcholine remain high, it results in the strengthening of neuronal connections, and subsequently helps in treating Alzheimers.
Several systematic reviews and meta-analyses found the claims of Chinese scientists true. Huperzine A was found to be more effective in slowing down the cognitive decline and improving cognitive functioning compared to the placebo administered to the subjects.
Improves Myasthenia Gravis
Because Huperzine A acts as an Acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, the latter means it ensures that the levels of Acetylcholine are kept high unlike in Myasthenia gravis where Acetylcholine is not able to bind to its pentameric nicotinic receptors (6).
While clinical studies have not been performed in assessing the role of Huperzine A in treating myasthenia gravis, anecdotal evidence from users suggests a massive improvement in the symptoms.
Limited scientific evidence suggests that Huperzine A may be helpful for those suffering from depression.
There have not been any high-quality human studies comparing monotherapy of this supplement with antidepressant drugs, however, the little research that has been done demonstrated that adjunctive treatment led to the resolution of some of the cognitive symptoms associated with major depressive disorder (7).
AChE inhibitors have been shown to help those with depression, so as an AChE inhibitor, it follows that this nootropic may be of benefit to those with depression.
Increases overall Energy
Because Huperzine A increases dopamine levels, anecdotal evidence and hypothesis suggest that it may increase overall energy and improve motivation as well as behavior towards different things.
Might help in improving ADHD
While studies are lacking on the effects of this specific drug on ADHD, insufficient ACh levels are one of the many pathologies of ADHD. Low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine have also been tied to the pathogenesis of ADHD.
The boost in ACh, dopamine, and norepinephrine caused by Huperzine A may lead to improvements in ADHD and overall focus and attention.
Is Huperzine A legal?
Because Huperzine A was first developed in China, it is prescribed in China openly for a variety of medical conditions, such as Alzheimers, Myasthenia gravis, bruises, stains, etc.
In the US, it falls into the category of Nutraceutical and is not regulated by FDA.
Although it is not openly marketed in the US, it is pretty much available and you can easily buy it and start consuming Huperzine A.
Huperzine A Dosage
Although there are no general guidelines, the typical dosage of this dietary supplement is 50 to 200 mcg taken either once daily or split into two doses.
Note that the dosage of Alzheimers will also depend on your purpose of intake, as someone would use it to treat Alzheimers while others may use it to enhance memory and cognition.
It is best if you start slow and then increase the dosage, considering what is going to be optimal for you.
Huperzine A Cycle
In order to avoid tolerance or habituation, many will cycle this nootropic. Cycling HupA will help to avoid side effects and improve efficacy.
There is not much scientific backing regarding the best cycling schedule, however many will take this herb for 2-4 weeks followed by a break of around one week.
Some case studies suggest that using Huperzine A for straight 6 months to treat Alzheimers was worth it.
Best Time to Take Huperzine A
While this nootropic is not a stimulant, most users will take one or two doses early in the day rather than before bed. This is to benefit cognition and learning when you really need it, rather than just before sleep.
Possible Side Effects
Clinical trials involving Huperzine A lasted for only 6 months, thus it may be difficult to interpret the long-term safety and efficacy of Huperzine A.
However, this supplement is generally considered safe with a low toxicity profile when used within recommended dosages.
The majority of the side effects found in clinical trials are similar to those of other cholinergic compounds, including:
- Digestive upset
- Low heart rate (Bradycardia)
- Muscle cramps
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
Other users have reported abnormal dreams as well, which may be a side effect of the boost in memory function as these areas of your brain may be working overtime, even during sleeping hours.
Safety and Interactions
Huperzine A is considered safe when taken at recommended dosages for 3 months at a time. If you want to take this drug for longer, it is recommended to cycle it on and off.
If you have certain conditions, taking this supplement may not be safe. These include:
- Slow heart rate
- GI tract blockage
- Asthma or other lung conditions
- Peptic ulcers
There is not sufficient evidence for the safety of this supplement in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Huperzine A does interact with certain drugs, including anticholinergic drugs, cholinergic drugs, and AChE inhibitors. These drugs are commonly prescribed for those with Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, and depression.
It is best to know about other people’s experiences with drugs and medications as it gives more of an insight into what to possibly expect.
Suzi Q had her Myasthenia gravis symptoms relieved, and she said,
“Could not tolerate Mestaton after one-day side effects were intolerable. This Huperzine A gave me a slight headache the first 2-3 Days, but I’m amazed I take one 200 mg with breakfast and ALL My Myasthenia Gravis symptoms are now in control. Still on a smaller dose of Prednisone but I’m feeling “normal ” for the first time in 5 months. I will not increase the dose, may keep 5/7 days to stay balanced….wonderful .”
An anonymous reviewer said,
“Agree with other reviews it helps and works with no side effects. Take it 2 or3 times a day..or as needed less….great natural”
“Huperzine A. boosted my acetylcholine levels, making me brilliant. Pairs well with Vinpocetine.”
Diedro, a reddit user said,
“It gave me a pretty unpleasant gastrointestinal upset – nausea, stomach cramps, rumbling stomach.”
Another anonymous reviewer said,
“It did improve my working memory and my focus but I felt kind of weird and had to cycle it. I can’t really explain how I felt but I just didn’t feel right. IMO, there are better and more than effective alternatives.”
Huperzine A Stacks
Huperzine A stacks well with other cholinergic nootropics, including members of the racetam family, and high-bioavailable choline supplements, including Alpha GPC, and Citicoline (CDP-Choline).
Alpha GPC and Huperzine A
L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine, or Alpha GPC is a cholinergic compound, thus providing choline for the synthesis of Acetycholine, an essential neurotransmitter found in the brain.
Like Huperzine A, it can also cross the blood-brain barrier easily and both can optimally increase the levels of Acetylcholine within no time.
As Huperzine also has the end goal of increasing Acetylcholine, synergistic use of both the compounds means that you would experience increased memory, cognition, learning abilities, and focus.
CDP Choline and Huperzine A
CDP choline, more popularly known as Citicoline, is a naturally occurring chemical found inside the body. Citicoline increases the levels of Phosphatidylcholine inside the body.
Again, as the name suggests, it ensures that the Acetylcholine levels are kept optimal by providing the ingredient, which is choline.
This supplement seems to act as a memory enhancer, improves cognition, and helps in better focus and attention.
Stacking CDP Choline with Huperzine A means that benefits are going to add up and you will feel an overall change in terms of your memory and retaining power and focusing better.
Where to Buy?
While you may find this nootropic at local pharmacies, it is not widely available in stores.
It is best to purchase through online supplement vendors because the customer reviews may give you an idea about the product and the services provided by the brand, thus helping you make your decision.
Huperzine A by Pure Nootropics
Pure Nootropics offer Huperzine A capsules at a price of $14.99.
The bottle contains 90 capsules constituting 200mcg which is usually the recommended dosage of Huperzine A, thus one bottle can last for around 3 months.
Pure Nootropics provide a certificate of analysis as well, therefore establishing the credibility and originality of the product.
With multiple payment options, such as Bitcoin, Visa card, and Mastercard, I think Pure Nootropics seem to be a feasible option to make your purchase.
Huperzine A by Nootropics Depot
Nootropics Depot offers Huperzine A capsules at a price of $14.99. Each serving constitutes 200mcg which is enough for a day.
The two versions available at Nootropics depot are either 30ct or 120ct. Depending on how long you are planning to take Huperzine A, you can buy either the 30 servings bottle or the 120 one!
Not only this, Nootropics Depot also offers the powder form of the supplement. Huperzine A 1% powder is also available in multiple forms, including 1 gram, 5 grams, and 10 grams. Note that the price range of Huperzine A powder is $13.99 to $39.99.
With same-day shipping and free shipping on orders above $200, Nootropic depot becomes one of the top choices to make your purchase from.
Also, the customer reviews of the product, as well as the brand, speak volumes of what Nootropic Depot offers.
Visit the store and add Huperzine A into the bucket immediately and see the change yourself!
Read full Nootropics Depot Review
Is Huperzine A Legit?
The preclinical studies, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses as well as anecdotal evidence suggest that Huperzine A does seem to be effective for treating neurological disorders, such as Alzheimers, and Myasthenia gravis, etc.
If you are planning to take it purely for nootropic effects, such as memory-booster or cognitive enhancement, maybe you should try other better options available in the market.
Not to forget, you should be cautious about the dosage of Huperzine A as overdose might result in experiencing adverse effects as reported by users as well.
What is Huperzine used for?
Huperzine A is sparking some interest as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Huperzine A acts as a cholinesterase inhibitor — a type of medication that works by improving the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.
What is the half-life of Huperzine A?
The half-life of Huperzine A is reported to be 10 to 14 hours.
Does Huperzine-A Help With dementia?
Small early studies suggest that Huperzine A might improve memory and protect nerve cells, which could slow the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s.
Does Huperzine-A cross the blood-brain barrier?
HupA can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB).
What is the role of huperzine A in pre-workout?
Studies have also suggested that Huperzine-A can boost your mental energy. Taken as a part of your pre-workout supplement, you may have more mental energy and a better ability to learn and remember new exercises.