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Huperzine A is a naturally occurring alkaloid that is found in the Chinese club moss plant, Huperzia serrata. This nootropic compound provides a range of cognitive enhancements most notably benefiting memory performance, although improvements can also be seen in concentration and data processing skills. This supplement also has therapeutic applications, and is used in the treatment of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, as well as age related memory impairment.
Effects and Uses of Huperzine A
Huperzine A functions primarily as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. This means that it is able to inhibit the action of enzymes that are usually responsible for breaking down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. As you may be aware, acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter used extensively in the body’s various nerve systems, from activating muscles in the peripheral nervous system, to neuromodulation, plasticity, arousal and reward in the central nervous system. By increasing the concentration of acetylcholine in our bodies, we can gain a wide variety of beneficial effects. In terms of cognitive enhancement, the most pronounced effects we see concerns an increase in the ability to pay attention, as well as increased memory consolidation, retention and recall. Synaptic plasticity also appears to improve, allowing the user to learn, adapt and store new information more effectively. This mechanism of action is not dissimilar from other drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s and it has been suggested that Huperzine A may exhibit neuroprotective effects against cognitive decline, senile dementia, and other neurodegenerative conditions.
Huperzine A may provide additional protection as an NMDA receptor antagonist. In layman’s terms, this means that it is able to reduce or inhibit the action of NMDA receptors. This mechanism has been implicated as a possible treatment for conditions involving excitotoxicity, where neurons become damaged due to excessive levels of neurotransmitter and subsequent activity. Such conditions include neurodegenerative disorders like Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as strokes and physical brain trauma. Although more thorough research is required, preliminary tests into Huperzine A’s effect on Alzheimer’s patients demonstrate a significant improvement in cognitive skills and memory function after 4 to 8 weeks of use, whereas similar results are seen in multi-infarct dementia after just 2 to 4 weeks.
Other research into Huperzine A shows that it can offer protection against organophosphate poisoning that affects the nervous system. The study utilised Soman (O- Pinacolyl methylphosphonofluoridate) a type of nerve gas considered to be a chemical weapon that works by irreversibly inhibiting acetylcholinesterase. If Huperzine A is administered prior to exposure, it appears to temporarily sequester the binding sites of these enzymes, preventing damage from soman.
Huperzine A is used to treat a muscle weakening condition known as myasthenia gravis. Myasthenia gravis is characterised by a muscles that tire and weaken, even after a short period of exertion. This condition is caused by the body’s autoimmune response mistaking acetylcholine receptors for foreign bodies, causing them to be destroyed. It appears that using Huperzine A to increase the concentration of acetylcholine in affected areas compensates for the lack of receptor sites, and results in a lessening of muscular fatigue symptoms.
Dosage and methods of administering Huperzine A differ according to the purpose for which it is taken. Those suffering from myasthenia gravis can receive daily injections from a qualified healthcare provider. For treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and multi-infarct dementia, patients will benefit more from oral administrations ranging between 50 to 200mcg twice daily. A lower dosage of 30mcg is suggested for a sufferer of senile dementia while around 100mcg is suitable for adolescent users.
Although users taking Huperzine A for cognitive enhancing benefits may notice the effects of this supplement when used alone, it is likely to be far more effective as part of a smart drug stack. Users have found this supplement to be ideal for combination with various racetams such as Piracetam and Aniracetam, though it also works equally well with Noopept. As always, it is advised that you consult a qualified healthcare professional to determine which supplements are safe to incorporate into your own personal cognitive enhancing regimen.
Potential Side Effects
Huperzine A is considered to be generally quite safe and does not carry a serious risk of negative side effects. However, as with any supplement, there have been some observed side effects that should be noted. Although some users may not experience any side effects, and symptoms are usually mild, Huperzine A has been known to cause vomiting, diarrhoea, sweating, blurred vision, muscle twitches, restlessness, loss of appetite, slurred speech and increased salivation. There are also certain circumstances under which Huperzine A should not be taken. For example, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take Huperzine due to a lack of research and understanding of effects within this group. Additionally, those with cardiovascular diseases should use Huperzine A with caution as it is known to decrease heart rate. Those with brachycardia should be particularly cautious and should consult their doctor before using this supplement. Similarly, sufferers of epilepsy should avoid Huperzine A due to the possibility that it may worsen this condition.