Huperzine A: Review of Nootropic Benefits, Uses, Dosage, & Side Effects

Updated on March 12, 2024
 by — reviewed by Jason Williams, PhD (Contributor: George Collins / Editor: Yoko Hill)
Article on Huperzine A's role in enhancing cognitive functions and memory, along with its usage and effects.

Dive into the world of Huperzine A, an intriguing compound derived from the Chinese club moss, Huperzia serrata.

This natural plant extract has been a cornerstone in traditional Chinese herbal medicine, and its global journey has brought it to the forefront of modern nootropic research. 

Known for its impact on acetylcholine levels, a vital neurotransmitter for brain health, Huperzine A has shown promise in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and various cognitive disorders.

In this comprehensive review, we’ll explore the multifaceted benefits and uses of Huperzine A, delve into the appropriate dosages, and uncover the potential side effects of this novel acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.

Read on to join us as we learn more about Huperzine A as a remarkable alkaloid and its role in cognitive enhancement and neuroprotection!

What is Huperzine A?

Huperzine A (also known as HupA, Chien Tseng Ta, Jin Bu Buan, Qian Ceng Ta, She Zu Cao, Shi Song) is a naturally occurring compound known for its cognitive-enhancing properties in the world of drugs and clinical remedies.

It is an alkaloid derived from the Chinese club moss, Huperzia serrata, and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat conditions like swelling, fever, and blood disorders.

Huperzine A works primarily as a cholinesterase inhibitor. This means it inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, which normally breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the cholinergic system.

By inhibiting the enzyme acetylcholinesterase and preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, Huperzine A helps increase acetylcholine, enhancing memory function and cognitive function.

Scientific studies and clinical trials have begun to illuminate the beneficial effects of Huperzine A, offering hope and new possibilities for patients with dementia, mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, and other memory-related conditions.

Overall, Huperzine A attenuates cognitive deficits and might decrease the effects of the related symptoms, such as memory problems.

There is evidence available that supports the notion that Huperzine A also has neuroprotective effects. This means that you can use Huperzine A to protect brain cells from damage due to oxidative stress and other factors.

Huperzine A is available as a dietary supplement in various forms, including tablets and capsules. However, its availability and regulation may vary by country.

The pharmacokinetics of Huperzine A, including its dosage and potential side effects, is important information for people looking to integrate this natural product into their regimen.(1)


  • Improves cognition, learning capacity, mental alertness, and focus
  • Supports overall brain function to manage memory loss and cognitive decline
  • Protects neurons from oxidative stress and damage


  • Not approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
  • Lacking clinical studies that confirm its long-term safety profile and efficacy

Mechanism of Action

The mechanism of action of Huperzine A (HupA) is primarily centered around its effects on the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. 

Here’s a detailed look at how Huperzine A works in the body:

  • Acetylcholinesterase Inhibition: With the inhibitory effect of Huperzine A, there is an increase in its availability in the synaptic cleft (the space between neurons where neurotransmitter signaling occurs). This increase in acetylcholine enhances communication between neurons, which is critical for memory, learning, and muscle function.
  • Neuroprotection: Research suggests that Huperzine A may also provide neuroprotective benefits.(2) It is thought to protect nerve cells from oxidative stress and the toxicity of excess glutamate (another neurotransmitter that, in high levels, can cause neuronal damage).
  • Impact on Cognitive Function: The increased availability of acetylcholine in the brain brought about by Huperzine A is believed to improve cognitive functions like memory retention, focus, and problem-solving skills. This is particularly beneficial in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, where acetylcholine levels are typically low.
  • Chirality of Huperzine A: Huperzine A is a chiral compound, meaning it exists in two enantiomeric forms (commonly referred to as “left-handed” and “right-handed” versions). These enantiomers are known as (+)-Huperzine A and (-)-Huperzine A.
  • Biological Activity and Stereoselectivity: The stereoselectivities of enantiomers of Huperzine A and its biological activity differ due to their stereoselectivity. In most cases, one enantiomer is more biologically active than the other, particularly in their interaction with biological targets like enzymes or receptors.

Nootropic Benefits of Huperzine A

Huperzine A is celebrated in the realm of nootropics for its impressive cognitive-enhancing properties.

Here is a list of ways this nootropic agent is able to benefit your brain function.

1. Enhanced Memory and Learning

Huperzine A is renowned for its ability to improve memory retention and learning capacity. This is due to its action which boosts acetylcholine levels, a neurotransmitter vital for learning and memory.(3)

2. Neuroprotection

Huperzine A exhibits neuroprotective properties, potentially safeguarding neurons against damage from oxidative stress and neurotoxins. This protective effect is beneficial for long-term brain health.(3)

3. Increased Neurotransmitter Levels

By inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, Huperzine A increases the concentration of this crucial neurotransmitter in the brain, enhancing neural communication and cognitive function.

4. Support in Neurodegenerative Diseases

Huperzine A shows promise in supporting treatment for neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, primarily through its memory-enhancing and neuroprotective effects. This behavior in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia was explored by the Chinese Journal of New Drugs, with a clinical trial including 733 people.(4)

5. Improved Concentration and Focus

Users often report improved concentration and focus, likely due to the elevated levels of acetylcholine, which is essential for attention and processing information.

6. Potential Benefit of Myasthenia Gravis

Its ability to increase acetylcholine levels may offer therapeutic benefits in conditions like myasthenia gravis, which is characterized by muscle weakness.

7. Mood Regulation

Some evidence suggests that Huperzine A can have a positive impact on mood, although this is an area that requires more research for conclusive evidence.

Uses of Huperzine A

Huperzine A has several uses, primarily centered around its cognitive enhancing and neuroprotective properties.

Here are some of the key ways to use Huperzine A:

  1. Cognitive Enhancement: Huperzine A is widely used as a nootropic to improve memory, focus, and overall cognitive function. Its ability to increase acetylcholine levels makes it popular among students and professionals seeking a mental edge.
  2. Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia: Due to its acetylcholinesterase-inhibiting properties, Huperzine A is studied and used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It may help alleviate symptoms such as memory loss and cognitive decline. This is one of its possible uses because Huperzine A attenuates cognitive deficits and brain injury through amyloid precursor protein processing.
  3. Neuroprotection: Huperzine A exhibits neuroprotective effects, potentially protecting neurons from oxidative stress and toxicity. This makes it a candidate for preventing or slowing down neurodegenerative processes.(5)
  4. Aid in Learning and Memory Disorders: Its impact on memory and learning capabilities makes it a useful supplement for those with learning disabilities or memory disorders.
  5. Potential Myasthenia Gravis Treatment: In myasthenia gravis, a condition characterized by weak muscles, Huperzine A may improve muscle strength and endurance by increasing acetylcholine levels at neuromuscular junctions (the points where nerve cells connect with the muscles they control).
  6. Mood and Mental Health Support: While more research is needed, some studies suggest that Huperzine A may have a positive impact on mood and could be beneficial in managing conditions like depression or anxiety.
  7. Support for Traumatic Brain Injuries: There is emerging research that indicates Huperzine A might be helpful in the management of brain injuries, thanks to its neuroprotective properties.
  8. Potential Antioxidant Effects: Huperzine A might also possess antioxidant properties, which could contribute to its overall neuroprotective role.
  9. Pretreatment of Organophosphate Poisoning: Huperzine A is itself an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, but it differs from organophosphates in its binding characteristics and reversibility. Research suggests that Huperzine A binds more temporarily and less destructively to acetylcholinesterase than organophosphates do.

Where to Buy Huperzine A

We have conducted in-depth testing to find the best online retailer for Huperzine A. 

Our top pick is SuperSmart.Com.

This trustworthy online retailer provides third-party tested nootropics, a loyalty program, plenty of helpful information, a caring customer service team, and worldwide shipping. 

What more could you ask for? This is the best place to purchase your Huperzine A.

Huperzine A Dosage

Huperzine A is typically administered orally. This can be in the form of tablets or capsules.

When taking Huperzine A by mouth, it’s important to adhere to the dosage prescribed or recommended on the supplement label, unless advised differently by a healthcare provider.

The standard daily dosage of Huperzine A often falls within a range, typically from 50 to 200 micrograms (mcg) per day. This amount can be adjusted depending on the individual’s response and tolerance.

For patients with Alzheimer’s disease, clinical studies have suggested varying dosages. Dosages in the lower end of the spectrum, such as 50 mcg twice daily, are common.

The Cochrane Database, along with other clinical studies, can be a resource for understanding the researched dosages and their efficacy in various treatments, including cognitive disorders.(6)

Huperzine A Side Effects & Safety

While Huperzine A is generally considered safe when used appropriately, like any supplement or medication, it can have potential adverse effects. Understanding these is crucial for its safe and effective use.

Some common side effects include:

  • Digestive upset
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Muscle cramps and twitching
  • Sleep disturbances

Safety considerations include:

  • Heart palpitations: At higher doses, intoxication with Huperzine A can increase heart rate or palpitations can occur. In other cases, the impacts of Huperzine A might decrease heart rate. This is a problem for people who already have a slow heart rate or other heart conditions. Additionally, it might make epilepsy and GI blockage worse. It also could make a blockage of the urinary tract.
  • Allergic Reactions: As with any substance, allergic reactions are possible, although they are relatively rare. Huperzine A in the treatment of cognitive dysfunctions could cause a rash, itching, or breathing difficulties for a small number of individuals, as it is rare.


In conclusion, Huperzine A, a natural extract from the Chinese club moss Huperzia serrata, stands out as a compelling substance in the world of nootropics and neuroprotective agents.

Its primary mechanism of action as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor leads to increased acetylcholine levels, offering significant benefits in enhancing cognitive function, memory, and learning capabilities. 

Moreover, its potential role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, along with its neuroprotective properties, positions it as a promising candidate in the realm of neurological therapeutics.

However, the journey of Huperzine A from a traditional remedy to a modern-day supplement and potential therapeutic agent is marked by the need for ongoing research and clinical validation.

For individuals considering Huperzine A as a cognitive enhancer or for its therapeutic properties, consulting with a healthcare provider is essential.


How long does Huperzine A take to work?

After oral administration, Huperzine A typically reaches its peak plasma concentration within about an hour.

What is the elimination half-life of Huperzine A?

The elimination half-life of Huperzine A, which is the time it takes for half of the substance to be metabolized and eliminated from the body, is approximately 10 to 14 hours.

Should you cycle Huperzine A?

Yes, given that Huperzine A can have side effects, particularly at higher doses or with prolonged use, cycling allows the body a respite, potentially reducing the risk or severity of these side effects. A typical cycling pattern for Huperzine A might involve taking it for a few weeks or months, followed by a break for a couple of weeks.

Can I stack Huperzine A with other nootropics?

Yes. Huperzine A is often stacked with racetams (like Piracetam, Aniracetam, or Oxiracetam), which are also known to enhance cognitive function. This combination is believed to work synergistically, as racetams also influence acetylcholine but through a different mechanism.

Sources, Studies, and Scientific Research
  1. Tun, Maung Kyaw Moe, and Seth B Herzon. “The pharmacology and therapeutic potential of (-)-huperzine A.” Journal of experimental pharmacology vol. 4 113-23. 5 Sep. 2012, doi:10.2147/JEP.S27084 ↩
  2. Wang, Rui, and Xi Can Tang. “Neuroprotective effects of huperzine A. A natural cholinesterase inhibitor for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.” Neuro-Signals vol. 14,1-2 (2005): 71-82. doi:10.1159/000085387 ↩
  3. Friedli, María Jesús, and Nibaldo C Inestrosa. “Huperzine A and Its Neuroprotective Molecular Signaling in Alzheimer’s Disease.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 26,21 6531. 29 Oct. 2021, doi:10.3390/molecules26216531 ↩ ↩
  4. Xing, Shu-Huai et al. “Huperzine a in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia: a meta-analysis.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2014 (2014): 363985. doi:10.1155/2014/363985 ↩
  5. Xiao, X Q et al. “Huperzine A protects rat pheochromocytoma cells against hydrogen peroxide-induced injury.” Neuroscience letters vol. 275,2 (1999): 73-6. doi:10.1016/s0304-3940(99)00695-3 ↩
  6. Yang, Guoyan et al. “Huperzine A for Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials.” PloS one vol. 8,9 e74916. 23 Sep. 2013, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074916 ↩