Huperzine A Supplements: Evidence Based Benefits

Best Huperzine A

Overview Of Huperzine A

Huperzine-A – sometimes also known as selagine – is a naturally-occurring compound commonly found in the Chinese club moss Huperzia serrata. Historically, tea brewed from Chinese club moss has been used for centuries as an herbal medicine in China and India, and contains a large variety of active ingredients that can have a wide range of beneficial effects on the human body.

Research conducted throughout the 80’s and 90’s later identified and isolated Huperzine-A as the plant’s primary bioactive compound, which can today be purchased in both natural and synthetic forms as nutritional supplements.

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Presently, one of the best-known benefits of Huperzine-A is its potential effectiveness in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease, which is believed to reflect its more general ability to improve processes related to learning and memory even in otherwise healthy subjects.

Additionally, research also suggests that nutritional supplementation with Huperzine-A may also have a variety of neuroprotectant effects, including acting as an anti-oxidant as well as potentially increasing the growth and development of new neurons in the brain.

In light of this research, Huperzine-A has in recent years been widely adopted for use among healthy individuals as a nootropic supplement, where it is believed to augment a variety of mental processes related to memory and learning.


Pharmacological Mechanisms of Action (i.e. “How Huperzine A Works”)

When taken as a dietary supplement, Huperzine-A acts to increase the bioavailability of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine throughout the nervous system.

Acetylcholine is a vital neurotransmitter that plays a central role in enabling neurons to communicate effectively both with other neurons and with muscle tissue.

When a neuron fires an action potential, acetylcholine is released into the small gap between neurons (the synapse) and induces an electrical impulse in the neighboring neuron or muscle tissue, thereby allowing neighboring cells to communicate by passing electrical signals to each other.

Shortly afterwards, the acetylcholine is “cleared out” of the synapse by an enzyme called acetylcholine esterase, which deactivates the neurotransmitter by breaking it down into its metabolic components.

The relative balance between the amount of acetylcholine and acetylcholine-esterase can therefore have a significant impact on how efficiently information can be passed around and encoded within the nervous system. For example, if acetylcholine levels are low – or if acetylcholine-esterase levels are too high – neural signals will have a difficult time establishing strong links between brain networks when new information is being learned or stored into long-term memory.

It is therefore possible to improve the efficiency of memory and learning by taking Huperzine-A to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain.

Experimental Data with Huperzine A Supplementation

Huperzine-A improves learning and memory by increasing the levels of acetylcholine in the nervous system, which it achieves by inhibiting the activity of the “clean-up” molecule acetylcholine-esterase.

This allows it to act as a sort of “signal booster,” helping the brain to take in and store any new information being encoded in neural activity.

Evidence for these memory-improvement effects comes from a variety of clinical and fundamental research studies:

  • A clinical trial from 2011 showed that Alzheimer’s patients suffering from a variety of memory-related and cognitive deficits showed substantial improvement after treatment with Huperzine-A supplements for several weeks. These improvements in the subjects’ mental performance were measured with a wide variety of diagnostic tests including the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Memory Quotient (MQ) test, therefore providing evidence that these improvements in memory were broad in nature, and not restricted only to specific types of memory testing.
  • Even more recently, a large-scale meta-analysis from 2013 compiled research findings from multiple Huperzine-A studies, and found further evidence for generalized improvements in memory, cognition, and overall quality-of-life in both Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
  • Relatedly, Huperzine has also been found to improve cognitive symptoms in patients with depression. Interestingly, the supplements had no effect on the depressive symptoms themselves, but rather had a selective effect only on the patients’ performance on a variety of cognitive- and memory-related tasks. This study further supports the claim that Huperzine supplementation can improve cognition and memory in a general manner – and that its benefits are therefore not strictly limited only to clinical populations.
  • Perhaps most interestingly, a placebo-controlled, double-blind Chinese study on a sample of healthy, adolescent junior high school students found that Huperzine supplementation markedly improved memory recall compared to a similar group who were given an inactive placebo. This study builds on the suggestive evidence provided by clinical research, and demonstrates that Huperzine-A can indeed have beneficial effects on memory and cognitive function even among normal, healthy users.

In sum, a considerable amount of contemporary experimental evidence supports the potential for Huperzine-A supplements to improve processes of learning and memory in both clinical and healthy subjects alike.

Other Mechanisms & Actions

Over and beyond its role in enhancing cognition and memory, several lines of research suggest that Huperzine-A may also have a variety of additional biological functions, effectively allowing it to act as a neuroprotective agent.

For example, some evidence exists that Huperzine-A may help protect neurons from damage from over-stimulation by high levels of Glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter found throughout the cortex.

Additionally, Huperzine-A may also act as an anti-oxidant, which may help protect neurons from being damaged by free-floating oxidizing compounds (more commonly known as free radicals).

Finally, there is also some evidence suggesting that Huperzine-A may help stimulate the growth and development of new neurons in brain regions such as the hippocampus – a process known as neurogenesis. Importantly, this effect has so far only been directly observed in mice, and it therefore remains uncertain whether this effect is also obtained in humans. If true, however, this mechanism may be an important additional factor in accounting for Huperzine’s well-documented ability to improve memory.

Pharmacokinetics & Half-life

One of the reasons Huperzine-A appears to be so effective is that it is able to easily and rapidly cross the blood-brain barrier.

When taken orally, Huperzine-A can be detected in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid within about 15 minutes or less, and its concentration levels peak at around 70 minutes after ingestion. Huperzine will therefore begin affecting memory-related processes very shortly after consumption.

Not only do Huperzine’s effects take hold quickly, but it also has a half-life of approximately 12 hours, meaning that it remains active in the body for many hours. A single dose of Huperzine A can therefore continue to have noticeable effects anywhere from 6 to 12+ hours, depending both on the size of the dose as well as an individuals’ metabolic rate.

Huperzine A Side-Effects & Safety Data

While toxicology data for Huperzine in humans remains somewhat scarce, numerous animal studies have found no evidence of adverse effects – even at doses that are as much as 50 times larger than the standard therapeutic dose in humans.

Similarly, none of the many clinical studies of Huperzine in humans to date (see above) have uncovered any evidence of cellular toxicity.

The currently available evidence, taken together, suggests that Huperzine has a very wide margin of safety when taken at typical doses.

Nonetheless, given the involvement of acetylcholine in many aspects of nervous system function, the possibility for unwanted side-effects remain. The most common of these typically involve mild digestive complications, loss of appetite, muscular twitching or cramping, and restlessness; some users may also experience elevated blood pressure or slowed heart rate.

Fortunately, however, such side-effects appear to be fairly rare – especially at common supplemental dose sizes. Furthermore, they are also generally short-lived, and are easily reversible by simply abstaining from further consumption, making Huperzine A-a relatively safe compound for healthy users.


Usage Guidelines for Huperzine A

Recommended Doses:

When used as a nootropic in normal (healthy) humans, a typical dose typically falls within the range of 50 to 200 micrograms. While this total dose can be split into multiple smaller doses distributed over the course of a day, it is most commonly taken in a single dose at the beginning of the day.

(It is important to note, however, that when starting any new supplementation regime it is wise to begin with a small dose, and to progressively increase this dose carefully as needed. This not only helps to find the optimal dose for you as an individual, but also minimizes the potential for any unwanted side-effects.)

How it is taken:

Huperzine-A can be absorbed by the body either with- or without food, and therefore does not necessarily need to be taken with a meal.

Contraindications:

Given its role in “signal boosting” brain activity, some users find that Huperzine-A’s psychological effects can feel similar to taking a mild stimulant. Because it also has a long half-life in the body, Huperzine-A has the potential to lead to sleep disturbances if taken too close to bedtime. It is therefore recommended that users try to take their supplements well in advance of bedtime to minimize the possibility for sleep disturbances.

Because of the potential for cardiac-related side-effects (e.g. changes in blood pressure or heart rate), Huperzine should not be taken by anyone with known cardiac troubles.

Finally, like many nootropic supplements, Huperzine-A’s safety during pregnancy remains unknown due to lack of relevant experimental and clinical data. It is therefore not advised to take Huperzine as a nootropic supplement during pregnancy or lactation, as it may have unknown effects on fetal and/or early childhood development.

Cycling

Because the body has natural regulatory mechanisms, taking any nootropic supplement for prolonged periods has the possibility to induce tolerance as the body’s physiological mechanisms naturally adjust to counteract the effects of the supplemented compound.

In the specific case of Huperzine, tolerance is especially likely due to its long half-life. However, given the speed with which orally-ingested Huperzine begins to have noticeable effects on cognitive processes, it can be effectively and safely used on a selective basis according to need (e.g. during intense study or work periods), thereby avoiding potential tolerance issues from sustained long-term use.

The optimal regimen for Huperzine supplementation therefore involves “cycling” on- and off as needed. The optimal cycling period will inevitably vary between individual users – however, a reasonable starting point is 1-2 weeks, which can be further adjusted as you become increasingly familiar with Huperzine-A’s unique effects.

Huperzine A Scientific Evidence Conclusion

A long history of clinical research has securely established Huperzine-A as a safe compound, with little-to-no potential for toxicity as well as only minor risk of psychological side-effects.

Additionally, a relatively younger – but quite exciting – body of research indicates that Huperzine may have remarkable clinical and nootropic potential. It has been extensively studied for its role in ameliorating the various cognitive- and memory-related symptoms of progressive neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and age-related dementia, and has also been discovered to be useful in augmenting mental function in healthy users.


Best Huperzine A Supplements

Editor’s Note: Huperzine A is a fantastic stand-alone nootropic supplement for boosting brain power and mental clarity. However, if you would like to view full spectrum approaches – read our best nootropic smart drug supplements. This page is the soul of Supplement HQ.

#1 Source Naturals Huperzine A Supplement

Best Hupezine A SupplementSource Natural’s Huperzine A supplement comes in 200 mcg serving sizes per each pill. This is the upper threshold of typical dosing recommendations. Though, most Huperzine supplements are 200 mcg per pill.

If you would like to trigger a slower release, consider taking your Huperzine A with food to slow down its uptake.

Source Natural’s Huperzine A will last you 120 days (120 pills), and is reasonable price for this supplement. For the time being, this is our favorite Huperzine A supplement. This may change down the road as we continue experimenting with different brands.

#2 Life Extension Huperzine A

Huperzine A SupplementLife Extension makes high quality Huperzine A supplements just like Source Naturals. However, Life Extension only provides 60 200 mcg capsules per bottle.

Therefore, Source naturals is the best deal for huperzine A, even when considering quality.
It’s important to note that Life Extension does make quite a few high quality supplements. However, with price in the equation – Source Natural’s pulls away as the clear cut victor.

Unless you would like to purchase in massive bulk quantities that is…

#3 Bulk Supplements Huperzine A (1% Powder) Bulk Powdered Supplement

Huperzine A PowderIf you are all about bulk deals, then Bulk Supplements may have the deal for you with bulk Huperzine A. For about $44, you can get 667 servings of 150 mcg Huperzine A in powdered form.

This Huperzine A supplement is at an extract ratio of 50:1, and the powder volume may vary with humidity changes.

However, this is a pure Huperzine extract powder, containing no filler ingredients except from Huperzine A’s parent source.

If you live in a humid climate, this may not be a feasible option for you – as the product may absorb too much moisture and expire before you get your money’s worth. However, if you are good at managing powders – then this is the long-game money saver of Huperzine A supplements!

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