In this ultimate guide, we're going to be looking at Huperzine-A. This naturally occurring compound is found in a Chinese firmoss called Huperzia serrata and is claimed to have memory and learning benefits.
Human studies of Huperzine-A are limited, but have shown significantly positive results on memory.
Like the Choline supplements Alpha GPC and CDP Choline, Huperzine-A is seen to benefit memory by increasing levels of the learning neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. For a deep dive explanation of Choline's memory benefits, watch my video here.
However, unlike typical Choline supplements, Huperzine-A does not cause production of Acetylcholine to increase. Instead, it works by inhibiting (severely limiting) the enzyme which degrades Acetylcholine after it has been produced.
The best way to take Huperzine-A is to cycle it on and off on top of either Alpha GPC or CDP Choline, since these are 100% proven Choline supplements.
A quick overview of Huperzine-A
- Benefits: A great Choline "addon" supplement to stack on top of either Alpha GPC and CDP Choline.
- Actions: Huperzine-A increases Acetylcholine levels by inhibiting the enzymes that break it down
- Natural sources: Its an alkoloid compound found in a firmoss called Huperzia serrata
- Who is it good for? Everybody can benefit from Pterostilbene's role in neuroprotection - especially those not already taking an antioxidant supplement.
- Quality of studies: Limited but promising studies. Previous studies from China have been criticized as having a high risk of bias
- Recommended dose: 225mcg per day
Studies on memory and learning
1. A systematic review and meta-analysis of 20 randomized clinical trials concluded that "Huperzine A appears to have beneficial effects on improvement of cognitive function."
The review found that these 20 trials, which included 1,823 human volunteers, suggested that "Compared with placebo, Huperzine A showed a significant beneficial effect on the improvement of cognitive function as measured by Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) at 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks."
It is worth noting that the review also warned that "the findings should be interpreted with caution due to the poor methodological quality of the included trials" which "had a high risk of bias."
While we wait for more reliable human studies of Huperzine-A to be published, it's worth noting that its mechanics as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor are proven, and that increased levels of Acetylcholine are associated with better memory function.
2. A placebo-controlled study of 68 students concluded that Huperzine-A improved memory and learning performance. (Xiaoshan Mental Hospital - link to study)
3. A review of 20 randomized clinical trials with 1,823 human participants concluded that "Compared with placebo, Huperzine A showed a significant beneficial effect on the improvement of cognitive function as measured by Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) at 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks." It does however warn that "the findings should be interpreted with caution due to the poor methodological quality of the included trials." (Beijing University of Chinese Medicine - link to study)
How to take Huperzine-A
1. Dosage when taking Huperzine-A on its own - We recommend taking 225mcg of Huperzine-A per day.
2. Dosage when stacking with Choline - Since Huperzine-A works to increase Acetylcholine levels, you also want to halve your Choline supplement dose on days when you take Huperzine-A. e.g. Instead of taking 500mg Alpha GPC, take 250mg Alpha GPC + 225mcg of Huperzine-A.
3. Cycle it on and off for better results - For every month of Huperzine-A use, take 1 week off.