Huperzine A

background

Huperzine A is a chemical compound known as an alkaloid. It is derived from the club moss Huperzia serrata, which is a member of the Lycopodium genus. It was first isolated in the 1940s.
In China, huperzine A is popular for its role in maintaining and enhancing memory. In traditional health practices, it has been brewed into teas and used for the treatment of fevers, inflammation, swelling, and various mental disorders, such as schizophrenia.
Currently, huperzine A is available in China as a prescription drug for Alzheimer's disease. In the West, huperzine A has not been widely developed as a drug due to its declining natural sources and legal property protection by Chinese scientists. In the United States and Europe, huperzine A is marketed as a nonprescription diet supplement to aid memory.
Early research in humans has shown promising results for the use of huperzine A for Alzheimer's disease. In China, human research is currently being conducted in this area. Further research in humans is being funded by the National Institute of Health in the United States.
Limited research also suggests that huperzine A may play a role in protecting neurons against vascular injury and organophosphate nerve gas. However, further research is needed in these areas.

Related Terms

8-Deoxyserratinine, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, Cerebra®, Chien Tseng At, Chinese club moss, club moss, dimethylhuperzine A (DMHA), hup, Hup, HupA, huperzia, huperzine, (--)-huperzine A, (+-)-huperzine A, huperzine A, huperzine B, huperzine J, huperzine K, huperzine L, huperzine P, huperzine S, huperzine T, huperzine U, huprine X, huprine Y, lycodine, lycopodium alkaloids, Lycopodium selago, Lycopodium serrata, Memorall®, N-methylhuperzine B, phlegmariurine B, qian ceng ta, qian chen ta, selago, serratane-type triterpenoids, shezushishan, shuangyiping, thump, toothed club moss.
Select combination products: Huprine X (huperzine A plus tacrine; not commercially available).

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
 
Alzheimer's disease (Grade: B)
Early research suggests that huperzine A may be effective in the treatment of dementia (gradually declining mental ability) and dementia-related conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease. However, further research is needed to compare its usefulness to that of other current treatments.
Cognitive disorders (Grade: C)
Initial research suggests that huperzine A may be effective in improving memory in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Further research is needed in this area.
Dementia (Grade: C)
Huperzine A has been promoted as a potential treatment for dementia (gradually declining mental ability) in the United States and Europe. However, results in this area are conflicting, and firm conclusions cannot be made at present. This is likely due in part to the vague clinical definition and presentation of dementia itself. More robust research in this area is needed.
Memory (Grade: C)
Huperzine A is theoretically believed to have positive effects on memory and learning. However, scientific evidence in this area is limited. Well-designed research in humans is needed before any firm conclusions may be made.
Myasthenia gravis (Grade: C)
Huperzine A has been proposed as a possible alternative treatment for myasthenia gravis (autoimmune muscle weakness). Myasthenia gravis is a condition in which the body's immune system attacks acetylcholine (ACh) receptors. As a result, muscles do not adequately receive signals from ACh to contract, and muscle weakness ensues. Theoretically, huperzine A may help increase available ACh. Compared to standard treatments, huperzine A may be an attractive alternative due to its minimal side effects. Further high-caliber research in this area is needed.
Neuroprotective (Grade: C)
According to traditional practices and theoretical models, huperzine A may exert nerve-protecting effects. Although huperzine A has not been well studied in humans, early research suggests that huperzine A may prevent or reverse neuronal cell loss and memory deficits. It has therefore been proposed as a possible therapy for blood- and oxygen-deficient brain injuries. However, research in this area is currently very limited. Research in humans is needed before any firm conclusions may be made.
Organophosphate poisoning (pretreatment) (Grade: C)
Huperzine A has been proposed as a potential nerve gas pretreatment agent due to its biological and chemical properties. Theoretically, it may be useful during times of war or terrorist attacks. Human research in this area is currently lacking.
Recovering from anesthesia (Grade: C)
Limited research suggests that huperzine A may increase levels of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) in elderly patients after surgery. AChE is an enzyme that breaks ACh and makes it more available to the body. Theoretically, increased ACh may aid anesthesia recovery. Though current research is promising, more research is needed in this area.
Schizophrenia (Grade: C)
Early research has been done to examine the effects of huperzine A in people with schizophrenia. Current findings remain unclear. Further high-caliber research in this area is needed.
Thyroid conditions (Grade: C)
Limited research suggests a possible relationship between Alzheimer's disease and thyroid function. By increasing ACh, huperzine A is thought to also stimulate the thyroid and increase thyroid hormone levels. More high-quality research in this area is needed before any conclusions may be drawn.