Huperzine A extract comes from an herb used in Chinese traditional medicine for centuries to treat everything from fever to circulation. New research explores the health benefits of huperzine A through the lens of science—with surprising results! The extract shows promise in improving memory. Keep reading to learn more about huperzine A benefits and how it can improve your health.
What Is Huperzine A?
Huperzine A is an extract of Huperzia serrata, a plant commonly known as Chinese club moss. For thousands of years, traditional Chinese medicine used Huperzia moss tea (Qian Ceng Ta 千层塔) as an herbal remedy to treat a range of conditions, like promoting circulation or treating fever.
Huperzine A Benefits
Like many other traditional healing herbs, Huperzia moss inspired researchers to take a closer look at its benefits through the lens of science. Studies have confirmed many of the traditional health benefits of the herb, and more specifically its extract Huperzine A. It keeps your brain functioning optimally.
1. It keeps your brain functioning optimally.
Huperzine A helps your brain cells send messages.
The brain is filled with billions of nerve cells, known as neurons. These neurons communicate by sending information to each other through electrical signals. When you think, the neurons release brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, which generate those electrical signals to other neurons.
One type of neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, plays a big role in those signals sent between brain cells. Think of acetylcholine as a messenger, carrying information from one nerve cell to another. Lower levels of acetylcholine, the “learning neurotransmitter”, may lead to poor cognition and memory.
With this in mind, neurologists have started to explore whether increasing levels of acetylcholine would help improve cognition. That’s where huperzine A comes into play. Huperzine A is a cholinesterase inhibitor. It stops a specific enzyme, cholinesterase, from breaking down acetylcholine. It helps keep acetylcholine at healthy levels, so the neurons in the brain can communicate.
Huperzine A has been shown to significantly improve cognition and memory compared to a placebo. Another study found that huperzine A greatly improved cognitive function and daily living for 1823 participants over periods of 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks thanks to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and acetylcholinesterase inhibitory properties. An ethnopharmacological review also found medicinal benefits of huperzine A.
Neurologist Dr. Dale Bredesen specializes in the prevention and potential treatment of Alzheimer’s. In his book, The First Survivors of Alzheimer’s: How Patients Recovered Life and Hope In Their Own Words, he has observed similar health benefits of huperzine A and recommends those supplements to his patients.
2. It enhances memory and thinking.
Huperzine A helps healthy brains, too.
Huperzine A doesn’t just stop the breakdown of acetylcholine. It promotes a surplus of it, which enhances focus and memory in healthy brains.
A study of adolescent students experienced greater memory and learning performance after taking two capsules of huperzine A for four weeks. Early research may indicate that taking huperzine A supplements for 12 weeks might improve memory in adults with cognitive changes.
Another study observed fifty patients with cognitive challenges. The patients took 0.2 mg of huperzine A twice daily, and after eight weeks, showed significant improvements in reaction time, task switching, and functions of daily activities.
3. It supports movement.
Huperzine A doesn’t just help your brain. It plays a role in other parts of the body.
Huperzine A promotes healthy levels of acetylcholine, which gets released when your nerve cells signal your muscles to contract or relax for movement.
Taking huperzine improves the direct signaling of muscular contractions. You can take it to support muscle movement during a workout, like weight lifting or cardio. Plus, you’ll get those healthy brain benefits for better coordination and agility.
Doctors recommend huperzine A to help with myasthenia gravis, a rare autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakness due to a defect in the action of acetylcholine between nerves.
Typically, patients with myasthenia gravis take pyridostigmine bromide as a treatment. But, this medicine also comes with unpleasant side effects like bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. Huperzine A offers an alternative natural treatment option with potentially fewer side effects.
4. It helps protect nerve cells.
Huperzine A is neuroprotective. It defends the cells in your body.
A study found that huperzine A has widespread neuroprotective effects against neurotoxicity. It protects cells against agents poisonous to nerves, like hydrogen peroxide, beta-amyloid protein (or peptide), glutamate, ischemia and staurosporine-induced cytotoxicity, and apoptosis.
Huperzine A helps protect neurons against beta-amyloid protein, a peptide that damages and destroys neurons. Huperzine A may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s patients, who tend to have elevated levels of this toxic peptide.
Huperzine A helps protect against free radicals. The cells in your body use oxygen as energy to do their job. Sometimes, when cells process oxygen they release waste particles called free radicals. These unstable molecules cause oxidative stress which can damage cells if not removed.
Huperzine A has antioxidant properties, meaning it can help remove those damaging free radicals from your system, keeping your cells healthier in the long run.
5. It boosts brain energy.
Huperzine A supports brain energy.
In order to understand how that works, we’ll need to look on a cellular level. Brain cell mitochondria play a critical role in cognitive health. Think of mitochondria as a cell’s powerhouse, the primary energy source that fuels brain cells and brain function. All neurons depend on the energy production of mitochondria to do their job. Huperzine A supports healthy energy production in the mitochondria, keeping you more alert and sharp.
Healthy mitochondria need a strong structure to function. A study found that huperzine A protects the structure of mitochondria from damaging free radicals and toxic beta-amyloid protein. Just like a well-built house needs “good bones” to stay standing, so too do cells need sturdy mitochondria to maintain long-lasting brain health.
How Much Huperzine A Do I Need to Take?
The benefits of huperzine A are clear. But, the dosing depends on a variety of factors. Are you looking to increase focus and memory or to treat a neurodegenerative condition?
Doses of 200 mcg per day, twice a day, helps support cognition, memory, and concentration. Take them before any cognitive task or before a workout. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to enter the bloodstream.
In treatments of neurodegenerative conditions, huperzine A has most often been used by adults in doses of 200-500 mcg by mouth daily for up to six months. When in doubt, make sure to speak to your doctor about how much huperzine A you should take.
Science has given us the tools to understand the benefits of traditional medicines. Although people have known of the benefits of huperzine A for centuries, we are finally understanding the incredible value of this plant for the brain and body.
Want to learn about more brain-healthy herbs? Discover the health benefits of turmeric, a yellow root used in cooking and traditional medicine.