The human brain is an amazing organ capable of breathtaking feats. But as impressive as the brain is, experts still believe that we’re yet to maximize the full potential of our brains.
But, how do we take the functionality of our brain to the next level, such that we can think more creatively and remember things more easily. Well, as it turns out, nootropic supplements can help. And one of such nootropics is Huperzine A.
So, what is Huperzine A, how does it work and why should you care? These and many more will be addressed in this article. So, sit back and relax as I take you through everything you need to know about this brain-unlocking nootropic supplement.
What is Huperzine A?
Huperzine A is a purified plant extract that is obtained from Chinese Club Moss, scientifically known as Huperzia serrata. The Chinese Club Moss is predominantly found in Southeast Asia (aren’t they all!), and its use is very prominent in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Interestingly, the Chinese have used the Huperzia serrata plant to treat mental conditions such as schizophrenia. But it has also been used to treat muscle problems, skin conditions, fever, and inflammation.
Huperzine A is a water-soluble alkaloid, that is extracted from the Huperzia serrata plant. And no, the two are not the same thing (more on that later). For one thing, Huperzine A is purer and more specific in its action.
Speaking of action, what exactly does Huperzine A do the Brain? Let’s take a look.
How Does Huperzine A Work?
Okay, so there are a couple of ways Huperzine A works its magic in the brain. Let’s get into it:
- It prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine:
Alright… listen up — there’s this neurotransmitter called acetylcholine (which is like the brain’s errand boy) and the brain needs it to pass information from one point to the other.
But there’s this bad guy called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) — an enzyme that normally breaks down acetylcholine. And whenever acetylcholine is broken down, it somewhat affects brain functions such as memory and learning… which is obviously bad.
But how do we remedy the situation? This is where Huperzine A comes to the rescue. Huperzine A is an inhibitor for AChE (the bad guy). So, whenever you take it, it hinders the enzyme from doing its unsolicited work.
This means AChE is unable to breakdown our precious neurotransmitter (acetylcholine), thereby making it more available in the brain. This, in return, leads to a significant improvement in memory and learning… more on that in a moment.
- Huperzine A acts a neuroprotector:
Okay, so the brain is made up of billions of neurons, which are basically the functional units, through which the brain performs its activities. Huperzine A boosts the brain function by protecting the neurons against glutamate-induced toxicity.
Say what? Alright, let’s break this down. So, there’s this amino acid called glutamate and it sometimes causes the death of neurons (so… yeah, in this context, it’s a bad guy). Of course, when this happens, the functioning of the brain gets significantly affected.
So, how does our magic pill help? Well, it simply casts a “shield” around the neurons, to protect them from the toxic effect of glutamate. It also protects the hippocampus — the part of the brain responsible for emotion and memory.
But that’s not all — Huperzine A also promotes the growth of new dendrites. If you don’t know what that is, dendrites are like the limbs with which the neurons perform their activity.
So, by protecting the neurons and inhibiting acetylcholinesterase (AChE), Huperzine A is able to boost brain functioning significantly. Let’s take a look at just how cool this is.
What is Huperzine A used for?
Okay… so Huperzine A is a nootropic… which means it’s a supplement designed to boost the functionality of the brain. If you’re having trouble concentrating, remembering stuff or learning in general, then Huperzine A might be right for you.
Specifically, here are a few things Huperzine A is used for:
- To improve memory and make learning easier.
- To improve brain function.
- To protect the brain
While still on the topic, let’s take a look at a few benefits of Huperzine A.
Amazing Benefits of Huperzine A
Huperzine A comes with a plethora of benefits ranging from neuroprotection to memory enhancement. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Huperzine A may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease
Okay, this may sound like a bogus claim, but hear me out.
Remember acetylcholine and its nemesis acetylcholinesterase (AChE)? Great! Whenever AChE succeeds in breaking down acetylcholine, it causes memory loss — and that is the basis for Alzheimer’s disease.
Interestingly, almost all FDA-approved drugs for treating Alzheimer’s disease work by inhibiting AChE. Know what else does this? Yeah… you guessed it — Huperzine A. The ability of Huperzine A to inhibit AChE and boost acetylcholine production makes it a great potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Interestingly, for some years now, various research studies have been investigating the potential therapeutic effects of Huperzine A on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
And based on existing evidence, not only may Huperzine A slow down Alzheimer,s disease, it may also be able to prevent it. Don’t take my word for it, though… let’s check out what science has to say.
In a 2013 study where some researchers examined the efficacy of Huperzine A as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, they discovered something interesting. After dividing the 1,823 Alzheimer’s patients into 20 random clinical trials, they noticed that patients who received Huperzine A enjoyed a significantly improved cognitive function.
Huperzine A protects your brain
Okay — so, another amazing benefit of this nootropic is that it protects your brain from so many bad processes. But how does it do this? Well, one way is by protecting the neurons from glutamate toxicity and we’ve talked about that already.
But that’s not all.
Huperzine A is also a powerful antioxidant, which means it protects the brain from oxidative damage. It achieves this by activating the mTOR and BDNF-dependent pathways. Yeah… yeah, that all sounds like gibberish. But the point is — Huperzine A protects your brain.
Huperzine A can make you smarter
Alright, to be clear, this isn’t a magic pill that will turn you into an overnight genius like Eddie Morra in the 2011 sci-fi movie, Limitless. That said, it can improve your memory, focus, and overall brain functioning. That’s why it’s such a popular study supplement.
According to a study that examined the effect of Huperzine A in 34 pairs of adolescent school students, who had memory and learning problems, it was reported that a daily oral intake of Huperzine A significantly improved memory and learning abilities in students who took it.
But this isn’t limited to students, several research studies have also reported the memory-enhancing benefits of Huperzine A… especially in aging populations. So, if you need help remembering things, Huperzine A might just be your best bet.
Huperzine A helps to fight depression
Okay… so, depression is a really big topic these days… and we certainly need all the help we can get. As it turns out, Huperzine A can help. How… you may ask? Well, it has something to do with its ability to inhibit Acetylcholinesterase (AChE).
AChE is one of the culprits responsible for the cognitive impairments associated with major depressive disorders. So, by inhibiting AChE, Huperzine A helps to boost cognitive functioning, which consequently helps to reduce the symptoms of depression.
Pretty cool… right?
Huperzine A aids the growth of neural cells
We’ve already established that Huperzine A helps to protect the neurons against glutamate-induced toxicity. But that’s not all Huperzine-A has to offer. Studies have shown that it also stimulates the growth of neuronal cells… especially in the hippocampus.
So, by promoting the growth of neurons and protecting them from damage, Huperzine A may help to ward off neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, autism and ALS.
It can improve your energy
If you’re looking for a caffeine-free way to increase your energy level on the job, Huperzine A might be all you need. If there’s one thing nootropics such as Huperzine A are notoriously popular for, it is their ability to help the brain function maximally… with little effort. And this can greatly help to reduce stress and fatigue.
Here’s how that helps — reduced fatigue often means an increase in energy. It also results in better physical and mental endurance. This is probably why most people who take Huperzine A report a general increase in focus and energy. So if you easily doze off or lose focus on the job, Huperzine A might be a lifesaver.
Is Huperzine A the Same as Huperzia Serrata?
Short answer — no! Huperzia serrata is another name for the Chinese Club Moss (i.e., the entire plant). On the other hand, Huperzine A is a standardized extract obtained from the Huperzia serrata plant.
So, what’s the difference? Well, you see… Huperzia serrata contains a whole lot of things (both useful and useless) and Huperzine A is just one of them. The implication is that when you take Huperzia serrata, you can’t really keep track of how much Huperzine A you’re getting and that can reduce its positive effects.
In essence, you’re better off taking Huperzine A as an extract, because it is pure and standardized. This means you know exactly how much of it you’re getting and you can more easily control your dosage. So, read the labels carefully and make sure it specifically contains Huperzine A before spending a dime on the supplement.
Got it? Great! Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s take a look at how much Huperzine A you should actually take.
Huperzine A Dosage: How Much Do You Need?
Okay… listen up — when it comes to nootropics, it’s always best to start with the lowest possible dose. Trust me — less is definitely more. Taking high doses too quickly can sometimes result in undesired side effects, so you should definitely go slow.
Huperzine A tablets (or capsules) can come in 50, 100 or 200 micrograms (mcg), depending on the manufacturer. So, you need to pay keen attention to the specifications on the product label before swallowing your first pill.
Typically recommended doses can range between 50 – 200 (mcg) per day. So, you can start off by taking 50 mcg per day and see if it produces the desired effects. If it doesn’t, you can slowly crank it up until you hit the perfect dose.
That said, before you try a new supplement, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor… especially if you’re already on other medications. Better safe than sorry.
Is Huperzine A Dangerous?
No! Under normal circumstances, Huperzine A is considered very safe. That said, too much of everything (even the good stuff) can be bad, so you need to proceed with caution.
Some minor side effects of Huperzine A include:
- Blurred vision
- Appetite loss
- Upset stomach and
- Increased blood pressure.
Okay, that all sounds scary. But before you run away, you should probably know that these side effects are very rare and usually manifest when you take too much Huperzine A.
That said, if you’re a pregnant or breastfeeding woman, you should probably stay away from Huperzine A unless you get the OK from your doctor.
Can I Take Other Supplements with Huperzine A?
Yes, you can… you just need to be careful. Nootropics like Huperzine A usually work fine on their own, but when you pair them with other great nootropics, the benefits can go through the roof.
For instance, ginkgo biloba has been shown to work synergistically with Huperzine A to prevent the degeneration of neurons. Similar studies have also shown that green tea can help to increase the availability of acetylcholine when taken together with Huperzine A.
So, yeah… you can totally experiment with different combinations. Just be mindful of maintaining a low dosage in order to avoid unwanted side effects. Also, avoid taking Huperzine A separately, if you’re already taking a nootropic stack that lists Huperzine A as one of its ingredients.
How Long Does Huperzine A Last?
Huperzine A can last for 14-24 hours in the body. It quickly passes through the blood-brain barrier within a few minutes of taking it and instantly increases the availability of acetylcholine.
Although its effect usually peaks within 1-2 hours of ingestion, it can stay active in the body for almost a whole day. So, it might be a good idea to take it every two days (or even twice a week), if you don’t want it to be in your system constantly.
Do I Need to Take Huperzine A with Food?
I mean… you can, but you don’t have to. Unlike some other nootropics, Huperzine A is hydrophilic (water-soluble). That means you can take it alone (without adding food) and it would still enter the gut, get dissolved and absorbed.
After taking it, Huperzine A quickly passes through the wall of the gut and is absorbed into the bloodstream. The blood then carries it to the brain, where it does its magic.
On a Final Note
If you’re looking for a nootropic that will improve your memory, supercharge your brain functioning and offer neuroprotective capabilities, then look no further than Huperzine A. Its unique capabilities makes it a great choice for students who need a study aid, as well as working professionals seeking to make the most of each day.
But as cool as all that is, don’t forget to go easy on the supplement. Start off on a lower dose. If it isn’t working, crank up the dosage gradually until you discover your perfect dose. That said, it is always best to talk to your doctor before taking Huperzine A… especially if you’re currently taking other strong medications.
Similarly, if you’re a pregnant or lactating (breastfeeding) woman, Huperzine A is probably not for you. Its effects on pregnancy and lactation are still unclear, so unless it is prescribed by your doctor, you’re probably better off staying away from it.
Generally speaking, though, Huperzine A is a powerful and safe nootropic supplement that is worth every cent you spend on it. So, why not give it a shot? It might just be the lifesaver you desperately need.
Richard is a freelance writer with a unique passion for health and fitness. His work has appeared on Lifehack, Livestrong, ThriveGlobal and other popular publications. When he’s not helping clients grow their businesses, he works out, plays the violin and has fun by all means necessary. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.