Huperzine A is an extract found in many herbs known for memory and learning enhancing properties. The compound is primarily useful because it is inhibits an enzyme in the brain that breaks down a brain chemical called acetylcholine. Thus, preventing the breakdown of the neurotransmitter, there is more of this brain chemical in the brain.
Acetylcholine is considered the main brain chemical associated with memory formation and learning ability, which has downstream effects for treating Alzheimer’s disease . While long-term research is missing, the evidence thus far is compellingly in favor of using huperzine A as a cholinergic compound.
This extract is so popular, it is used in the Onnit flagship nootropic called Alpha Brain. It is impossible to tell the efficacy of huperzine A in this product alone because of all the co-founding factors, but it is interesting to see the extract hitting the mainstream nootropic marketplace.
Also Known As
(1R, 9S, 13E)-1-amino-13-ethylidene-11-methyl-6-azatricyclo- 22.214.171.124 2, 7 trideca-2(7), 3, 10-trien-5-on, Qian Ceng Ta (Huperzia Serrata)
Editors’ Thoughts on Huperzine A
I have never had huperzine A by itself, but I have had it as part of Alpha Brain. There are too many variables to attribute anything with huperzine A, but I’d suggest this ingredient is the main cholinergic compound in that mainstream nootropic stack.
If you are looking for a memory enhancer beyond choline (or in addition to choline), this might be a good fit. Whereas something like citicoline or alpha GPC might offer more raw choline, the huperzine A can act to maintain the levels in your brain so it isn’t degraded so quickly.
Working on brain acetylcholine levels with this dual approach (adding more + avoiding loss) will work nicely together, but that is based on my theory not on experience. If I were you, I’d keep reading until the bottom where there are some links for selected community experiences.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
Benefits of Huperzine A
Huperzine A is a very powerful and potent nootropic drug requiring only micrograms per dose. The extract specifically blocks an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase , which has many benefits and downstream effects.
One of the main downstream effects is as a neuroprotective agent. Studies suggest huperzine A can be neuroprotective against many chemicals and toxicity within the brain . This is particularly useful for people with brain trauma or even experiences with alcohol and drugs that could have caused trauma at one point.
Beyond protecting the brain against neurological decline, huperzine A can help to enhance neurogenesis as well. One study suggested huperzine A could improve growth of hippocampal neural stem cells , which may be the main mechanism for improving memory formation and learning.
Due to the positive benefits of huperzine A on the cholinergic system (which is faltering in many elderly individuals), this extract is thought to greatly improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and even stall the disease .
Finally, there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest one benefit of huperzine A is the positive response compared to other cholinergics (such as citicoline or alpha GPC).
Side Effects of Huperzine A
Huperzine A is a potent extract, which comes with some side effects and dangers. For one thing, if you are taking a anticholinergic medication or any kind of prescription that interacts with cholinergics, it is important to know the interaction before you take huperzine A.
One common side effect of huperzine A is similar to other cholinergic compounds. With too much of this brain chemical, some people report headaches, tension, and pressure in their head and jaw. Beyond this, there are problems regarding nausea, diarrhea, and even abnormal dreams.
The memory centers of your brain will be working during sleep cycles, which can cause some unintended side effects for your dreams.
While there are no toxicity studies for humans, there is for rats. The evidence suggests that the no observable adverse effects dosage is 1 mg / kg bodyweight (females) and 3 mg / kg bodyweight (males).
Huperzine A Dosage
For a healthy adult, the normal huperzine A dosage is 50 – 200 mcg daily. The dosage of huperzine A can be divided into many doses or just a single one because it does not need food for absorption.
Unlike other cholinergics, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest huperzine A should be taken cyclically in order to prevent tolerance issues. No studies exist on the exact timeframe, but many take the nootropic for 2 – 4 weeks and then rest for a period.
How and Where to Buy Huperzine A
Huperzine A is a relatively safe nootropic, but a rare one. You may not find huperzine A for sale at your local health food store and it is best to search online for the supplement. Many of the nootropic vendors like Nootropics Depot and Pure Nootropics do not sell huperzine A, which means you must look elsewhere.
One common source people use to buy huperzine A is Powder City, but their product is only standardized for 1% of the active ingredient and their practices aren’t as stellar as we would like in order to recommend them.
Instead, we recommend a relatively large brand on Amazon called Source Naturals Huperzine A. The dosage is 200 mcg, which puts it at the higher end of the range and you must take it all at once, but the quality of the product is high and the standard of this brand is also reputable.
Selected Community Experiences
“At 200mcg it gives me a headache, under 100mcg I feel ok. The one study does say 50mcg, I wonder if smaller doses are safe to take everyday. Most supplement blends only have around 10-20mcg. I only take 200mcg before bed occasionally since it supposed to help with remembering dreams.”  – mkith
“Actually I like Huperzine A very much. It works very much like Galantimine and I find I start taking it more and more. I had discovered it as the key part of focus xp that made it work for me. After much experimentation that was driven of necessarily and careful research, you don’t want to take too much, and it does have it’s drawbacks. It happens to have become an essential part of my toolkit. I find it sharpens focus, though it can wear you out. You want to use it carefully at first, especially until you start to understand it better over years. It’s not something you want to take every day, but it can be great in combination occasionally. I recommend reading up on it a lot before you try it regularly.”  – rightfuture
- References (Click to Expand)