What is Huperzine-A?
Huperzine-A is a purified alkaloid substance extracted from the Chinese club moss plant called huperzia serrata. The club moss is a first, vascular plant found in the subtropical regions of southern China. The scientific name forHuperzine-A is known as a Lycopodium Serratum Thumb. Club Moss, Qian Ceng Ta, Shi Song, Chien Tseng Ta, Jin Bu Buan, and Selagine are alternative common names used to defineHuperzine-A.
Huperzine-A is a naturally extracted compound accredited with having a wide variety of cognitive nootropic health benefits. Huperzine-A is a safe and effective supplement that helps to boost concentration, the ability to calculate and process information and enhance mental clarity.
China has approved the use of Huperzine-A as a drug treatment for age-related memory ailments and Alzheimer’s disease. While there have been some clinical trials and studies in the United States, Huperzine-A has not been classified as a drug requiring a prescription for use. Huperzine-A is available as an over-the-counter dietary supplement for memory improvement in America. Rather than using caffeine, many young students use Huperzine-A to help improve their learning capabilities and lesson retention.
History of Huperzine-A (Aerial Plant)
Huperzine-A is a component found in the Chinese club moss plant. It has been used in various combinations with other natural elements as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine as far back as the Tang Dynasty, 618 to 907 AD. The medical practice at that time was referred to as Shi Song. It was and still is, used to treat colds, rheumatism, improve blood circulation, and to relax tendons and muscles.
The club moss plant components used in Chinese folk medicine are referred to as Qian Ceng Ta. It was and still is, used to treat strains, swelling, and bruises. During the past century, it has also been used to treat myasthenia gravis, schizophrenia, and organophosphate poisoning.
Huperzine-A, as a pure alkaloid, was isolated by Chinese scientists in 1948. Early clinical tests involvingHuperzine-A were conducted only on animals. The positive results from those tests led to the involvement of humans in later clinical trials that began in the 1980s.
Huperzine-A Medical Uses
As a purified extract, Huperzine-A is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat various ailments including bruises, strains, poor blood circulation, decreased brain function, schizophrenia, and myasthenia gravis.
Improved Short-Term and Long-Term Memory
As a dietary supplement, Huperzine-A is used as an aid to help with problems such as learning deficiencies and age-related memory loss. It is used to promote new neural stem cell production in a part of the brain called the hippocampi, which consists of two parts: one on each side of the brain. The function of the hippocampi is to consolidate long and short term memories and recollection skills.
Supports Normal Acetylcholine Levels
Supplemental Huperzine-A functions as a Cholinesterase inhibitor to prevent senile dementia, cognitive decline, and other mental disorders. Choline is an essential nutrient that reduces the risk of fatty liver disease, neural tube defects, memory loss and other disorders. Acetylcholine levels decline as part of the aging process. The use of a Huperzine-A is an avenue through which to reverse this decline by boosting acetylcholine levels in the brain.
Supports Healthy Brain Activity
Huperzine-A is used to enhance memory and to improve cognitive neuroplasticity. It is used to enhance the formation of new neuron connections, which in turn make it easier to learn and retain detailed information. With long term use, Huperzine-A has the potential to maintain and support healthy brain activity.
Proven Huperzine-A Benefits
1. Increased ACh Levels
Huperzine-A has the ability to increase the acetylcholine–ACh–levels in the body by slowing down the effects of another substance referred to as acetylcholinesterase–AChE.
The first substance, ACh is an essential chemical that the body’s nerves need in order to effectively communicate. The responsibility of the second substance, which is AchE, is to break down ACh after the latter has completed its function.
This balance between ACh and AchE is very important. Abnormally high levels of the AChE enzyme can lead to muscle spasms, paralysis, and mental disorders. Because Huperzine-A increases the number of neurotransmitters in the brain, it can boost ACh regeneration, leading to enhanced brain function.
2. Enhanced Neuroplasticity
According to MediLexicon International Ltd., normal neuroplasticity is essential to the body’s ability to protect itself from brain neuron injuries and central nervous system degeneration from various disorders.
Fortunately, Huperzine-A enhances neuroplasticity, the latter of which is the brain’s ability to create new neural connections on a consistent basis throughout one’s life.
Huperzine-A supports the effects of natural antioxidants, which ultimately protects the brain’s neurons.
3. Improved Cerebral Function
Clinical studies have shown that Huperzine-A can improve cerebral functions and increase memory capability. As a supplement, Huperzine-A enables the body to release more proteins which are essential for nerve cell health and growth. Two significant benefits observed in clinical studies show that Huperzine-A forms more neurons/brain cells and the existing brain cells are nourished and protected from further deterioration. According to the Mayo Clinic, improved cerebral function was indeed seen in a trial involving participants suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In another clinical trial conducted in China, similar benefits were seen among participants who were given a daily dose of Huperzine-A, which included the following:
• Increased brain clarity
• Improvement of dementia symptoms
• Protection from brain cell damage
• Improved concentration
• Prevention of future cognitive decline
4. Protection From Cell Toxicity
Several recent clinical lab tests found Huperzine-A was able to provide a level of protection against free radical induced cell toxicity. The lab tests also showed a dramatic decrease in abnormally elevated free radical activity in the blood of Alzheimer’s patients and the brain of older animals.
5. Protection From Nerve Agent Warfare Poisoning
Walter Reed’s Army Institute of Research is studying Huperzine-A’s potential as a method of pretreatment for protection against chemical nerve agent warfare poisoning. One study found Huperzine-A twice as effective in protecting the study’s mice from the lethal damage of Soman–a deadly nerve agent–when compared to Physostigmine, another protective treatment. Huperzine-A’s protective effects remained at a 33% level after more than 6 hours from the injection time while the Physostigmine protective effects only lasted for 90 minutes.
6. Enhanced Memory and Reversal of Cognitive Impairment
One interesting clinical study performed in China involved young and old monkeys that were given amnesia-inducing drugs and then given Huperzine-A. Huperzine-A reversed the cognitive impairments generated by the amnesia drugs. This study further suggests that Huperzine-A is beneficial for the treatment of memory disorders. Huperzine-A appears to be a safe memory supplement. Clinical research has shown that supplemental Huperzine-A is superior to other cholinesterase inhibitors such as the prescription medications Tacrine and Donepezil. Huperzine-A is rapidly absorbed when taken orally and possesses a very slow rate of dissociation from the enzyme and a longer duration of action. Studies in rodents show that AChE remains inhibited by 33 percent after 6 hours.
Meaningful beneficial effects have been noted in life quality and ability to retrieve memories in patients with mental disorders. Huperzine-A is seemingly helpful in protecting patients with signs of Alzheimer’s disease and senile memory deficits, and also provides supplemental support for healthy aging humans who wish to enhance memory retention.
Nutrition Facts and Calories of Huperzine-A
Huperzine-A is a purified alkaloid extract from the Chinese club moss plant with the nutritional capabilities to function as a potent, reversible AChE inhibitor. It essentially establishes a barrier that will prevent the harmful AChE from destroying the body’s organic chemical ACh. ACh acts as a neurotransmitter that sends signals between cells. In the brain, ACh functions as a neuromodulator that alters how various brain structures process information.
Huperzine-A is non-toxic and presents very few side effects. Medical studies have shown this natural compound to be a safe alternative to the two prescription drugs currently available in the United States for treating Alzheimer’s disease. The studies found that the prescription drugs were expensive, and could have debilitating side effects that include nausea, diarrhea, and liver toxicity. Additionally, the prescription drugs only had a sufficient time span of 45 minutes to 1 hour before being attacked by the body’s AChE enzymes. Huperzine-A had an adequate time span of 6 hours.
Recommended Huperzine-A Dosage
For Alzheimer’s disease: Clinical studies have seen positive results in participants who were given oral dosages of 0.3 to 0.4 mg/day.
For Memory Disorders: Clinical studies used doses of Huperzine-A that ranged from 50 to 400 mg/day.
For Myasthenia Gravis: Medical providers can inject a daily shot of Huperzine-A for muscle weakness.
For Multi-infarct Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease: Huperzine-A supplemental doses of 50 to 200 mcg, can be taken twice a day, with a maximum daily dosage of 400 mcg.
For Healthy Adolescents: A daily dose of 100 mcg supplemental Huperzine-A taken twice a day for mental clarity and memory enhancement.
For Senile or Pre-senile Dementia: A daily dose of 30 mcg supplemental Huperzine-A taken twice a day for improved focus and cognitive performance.
Possible Huperzine-A Side Effects
Several adverse reactions have been observed in clinical trials of Huperzine-A that include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, water retention, insomnia, anxiety, hyperactivity, dizziness, nasal obstruction, and thirst. One study trial noted abnormalities in several electrocardiogram patterns. Huperzine-A may decrease the heart rate if it is taken with beta-blockers.
Because there is a minor chance that Huperzine-A may affect the chemical makeup of the brain, individuals with epilepsy should not use this supplement.
Any person with a heart-related disease is advised to consult with their cardiologist before trying Huperzine-A as there is a possible side effect of either increasing or slowing a person’s heart rate.
Individuals diagnosed with a seizure disorder, asthma, vertigo, kidney or liver disease, emphysema, urinary tract blockage, or GI obstruction is advised to consult with their personal physician before using Huperzine-A or any other supplement that may have an adverse reaction to prescription medications or treatments.
Individuals are already taking prescription drugs for Alzheimer’s disease, such as Aricept, Razadyne, or Exelon, should not take supplemental Huperzine-A without a physician’s approval.
While the majority of medical studies on Huperzine-A have been conducted in China, the following are links to important clinical research conclusions published in the United States:
1. Progress in clinical, pharmacological, chemical, and structural biological studies of Huperzine A: a drug of Traditional Chinese Medicine origin for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nihgov/pubmedd/14529340?dopt=Abstract
2. The psychopharmacology of Huperzine A: an alkaloid with cognitive enhancing and neuroprotective properties of interest in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12895686?dopt=Abstract
3. Non-cholinergic effects of Huperzine A: beyond inhibition of acetylcholinesterase; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17657601
4. Huperzine A as potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: an assessment of chemistry, pharmacology, and clinical studies; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21766442
5. Pharmacokinetics of tablet Huperzine A in six volunteers; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8701751
6. Huperzine A; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14725492
7. Studies on analogues of Huperzine-A for the treatment of senile dementia. VI. Asymmetric total synthesis of 14-nor-Huperzine A and its inhibitory activity of acetylcholinesterase; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12958837
8. Role of Huperzine A in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19240260
9. Hepatotoxic effects of tacrine administration in patients with Alzheimer’s disease;
10. Structure of acetylcholinesterase complexed with the nootropic alkaloid, (-)-huperzine A; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8989325
11. Identification of amino acid residues involved in the binding of Huperzine A to cholinesterases; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7849595
12. Huperzine A protects rat pheochromocytoma cells against hydrogen peroxide-induced injury; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1056802?dopt=Abstract
13. Improving effects of Huperzine A on abnormal lipid peroxidation and superoxide dismutase in aged rats; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11245091?dopt=Abstract
14. Huperzine-A in capsules and tablets for treating patients with Alzheimer disease; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10678137?dopt=Abstract
15. Improving effects of Huperzine A on spatial working memory in aged monkeys and young adult monkeys with experimental cognitive impairment; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9918593?dopt=Abstract
Additional references of note: