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Huperzine A

  • Increased mental focus & energy
  • Support for cognitive function
  • May help support memory


Huperzine A (also known as Selagine, Qian Ceng Ta, or Huperzia Serrata), is a potent compound that can be used to promote healthy memory, learning, and cognitive functions. It produces an increase in acetylcholine ­– the neurotransmitter that allows for signal transduction through the nervous system. Acetylcholine is often referred to as the ‘learning transmitter’ for its role in cognitive functions.


The recommended serving size for a Huperzine A 1% extract supplement is around 10 – 20 mg, once daily. Side effects of large servings of Huperzia Serrata extract may include headaches, nausea, sweating, and muscle twitching, among others. It is not recommended to exceed the serving instructions for this supplement. 


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Huperzine A reviews




  • Huperzine A is an extremely potent chemical extracted from the Chinese herb Huperzia serrata
  • Huperzine A prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine, which allows more signal transduction through the central nervous system and increases energy, cognitive functions, and memory
  • The recommended dosage of a 1% extract is around 10-20mg daily
  • Side effects from large serving sizes of Huperzine A use may include nausea, sweating, slurred speech, restlessness, blurred vision, twitching, and contraction of muscle fibers




Huperzine A ((1R, 9S, 13E)-1-amino-13-ethylidene-11-methyl-6-azatricyclo- 2, 7 trideca-2(7), 3, 10-trien-5-on, Qian Ceng Ta (Huperzia Serrata)) is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor extracted from the Chinese herb Huperzia serrata. It is also found in other plant genus’s like Huperziaceae, Lycopodiaceae, and Selaginella. Through inhibition of the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, Qian Ceng Ta allows for a relative increase in concentration of acetylcholine in the brain – the ‘learning transmitter’.[1]


Extracts of the Huperzia herb have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries. In Chinese remedies, Huperzia serrata extracts are generally used for headaches and fever. However, the extracted compound actually works to increase memory and cognitive function through its effects on the acetylcholinesterase enzyme.[2]

Neurons firing, synapse with acetylcholine transmitter 

Huperzine A Effects & Benefits

1.     What is an Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitor?


In order to understand the benefits of Huperzine A, it is useful to first understand the role of acetylcholine in the brain. This remarkable chemical is one of the primary neurotransmitters, used for learning, cognition, and memory. When an electrochemical signal is passed between two neurons, the synapse (the tiny space between the neurons) first fills up with acetylcholine, which literally carries the signal across and allows it to propagate to the next neuron. In this way, acetylcholine is vital to the proper functioning of the brain and body. In fact, scientists often refer to acetylcholine as the ‘learning transmitter’ because of how important it is for effective cognition.


There are hundreds of trillions of neurons in the brain and in the central nervous system (CNS), and signals must pass between these neurons continuously at a speed and magnitude which we cannot comprehend. The transmission of electrochemical signals through the nervous system relies on the presence of acetylcholine. As a result, our cognitive functions, memories, personality, our reflexes, and smooth muscle contractions are all dependent on precisely controlled levels of acetylcholine.[3]


Huperzia Serrata has been shown to be a highly effective inhibitor of the acetylcholinesterase (AChE) enzyme – an enzyme whose function is to ‘break’ acetylcholine into two parts: choline and acetic acid. The result of the acetylcholinesterase enzyme is to cause electrochemical signal transmission through the CNS to cease. Importantly, Huperzia Serrata extracts temporarily prevent this from happening. [4]


As a result, Qian Ceng Ta is an effective supplement that can be used to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain, as well as to promote improved cognitive function and a healthy memory.[5]


Furthermore, the acetylcholinesterase enzyme serves an important physiological function in the recycling of used acetylcholine molecules. If acetylcholine levels in the brain build up too high, toxic effects may occur. Actually, a variety of toxins found in the natural world (like some snake venoms) increase acetylcholine levels too far, resulting in dangerous adverse effects. Some insecticides and certain forms of nerve gas use high concentrations of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors to produce deadly effects.However, when used responsibly and is proper dosages, safer acetylcholinesterase inhibitors like Huperzine A are effective in improving human cognition.


Key point: The method through which Qian Ceng Ta produces its effects is by acting as a substrate for the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, preventing it from ‘breaking’ acetylcholine transmitters and thereby allowing an increase in signal transduction through the nervous system.


2.     Research into Huperzine A for Memory


Since researchers found the important links between acetylcholine and memory, teams have been searching for appropriate compounds to promote and improve human memory and learning abilities. This type of research is especially important for combatting age-related memory problems, which affect millions of people around the world. For some time, Huperzine A has been on the watch-list for potential compounds to use for human memory. There have been a number of clinical studies conducted, in which researchers looked into the effects of this supplement on memory, with a particular focus on people who are affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. 


The reason for this is that there is a major link between the development of memory loss and a lack of cholinergic neurotransmitters.[6] Compounds that inhibit acetylcholinesterase activity – like Huperzia extracts – are of interest to researchers in this field. Examples of clinical trials relating to these effects include:


In one important study, 108 participants who suffered from memory loss, were given either Huperzia extract or placebo for 8 weeks, in a double-blind method. 58% of those participants who were give the supplement were shown to have improved in memory, thinking and behavioural functions, compared to 36% in the placebo group – a significant difference, showing promising results.[7]


Huperzia serrata has been shown to increase memory in children, in a study in Japan. Over a 4 week double-blind trial, 34 pairs of children were administered either the supplement or placebo and their MQ (a similar test to IQ – memory quotient), as well as marks in school subjects, were monitored. The test group had significant increases in their MQ as well as English and Chinese marks by the end of the trial.[8] Importantly, there is ongoing research into this subject – as can be seen by the clinical studies that are currently recruiting participants for research into Huperzine A and memory. [9]


One further point relating to memory-loss and aging is that, as we grow older, our ‘cleaning-up’ enzymes (like acetylcholinesterase) become less specific in their targets and may break-down healthy neurotransmitters instead of old ones that needed to be recycled.[10] As a result, it may be beneficial to use supplements or compounds that prevent the action of acetylcholinesterase, as we get older. There are many compounds on the market that target the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, but many have a large number of unwanted side effects. Qian Ceng Ta is of natural origins and does not result in the formation of toxic metabolites.[11] 


Importantly, a few studies have found no beneficial effects on persons who suffer from memory loss, while others have shown promising results.

human brain, on huperzine A supplement for memory 

3.     Huperzine A for Cognition


Qian Ceng Ta can be used, not only for promoting improved memory but also for increasing cognitive performance and learning capacity. As we’ve mentioned, Huperzia’s most well-known benefit is its ability to inhibit the activity of acetylcholinesterase, promoting increased acetylcholine levels, which is vital for learning and cognitive function. Other acetylcholinesterase inhibitors include chemical compounds like Tacrine or Rivastigmine. Huperzia serrata also has a very high affinity for the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, making it highly potent. This is why most people use a Huperzine A 1% extract. Importantly, this supplement is reported to have fewer side-effects than most other cholinergic compounds, potentially making it a healthier alternative.[12]


Huperzia extracts also have a much longer half-life than most other acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (up to 24 hours), meaning that the compound remains available in the body for long periods of time[13]. Although the initial spike of effects is fairly short, the compound remains in the body at a reduced level, potentially allowing for prolonged increases in cognitive performance.


In one study, researchers indicated that Qian Ceng Ta may have the potential to increase the proliferation of hippocampal neural stem cells, meaning that it could have strong neuroprotective effects. This observation was confirmed in vivo in animal models. [14]


Huperzine A Recommended Usage


This is an extremely potent plant-extracted compound and the recommended dosage is around 100-200mcg (micrograms), taken once daily. In a 1% extract, where 100 mg extract contains 1 mg pure Huperzine A, this would equate to a dose of 10-20mg 1% Huperzia serrata extract, daily. It is not recommended to exceed the recommended daily serving size.


Huperzine A Side Effects/Warnings


Possible side effects from larger serving sizes use may include nausea, headaches, sweating, slurred speech, restlessness, blurred vision, twitching, and contraction of muscle fibers. Levels required for toxic effects are extremely high in terms of how small the required serving size is. Given this, Huperzine A overdose is very unlikely. However, we do not recommend exceeding the recommended serving size. is a good source of science-based information about the side effects of many supplements. WebMD lists this supplement as POSSIBLY SAFE for use for short periods (less than 3 months). There are some concerns for people who have slow heart rates, epilepsy, GI tract blockages, peptic ulcers, or lung conditions. There is not yet enough information relating to the safety of this supplement for pregnant and breastfeeding women.[15]


If you have any medical conditions or are using any medication, it is important to talk to your doctor before using Huperzia supplements.


Huperzine A Reviews


Huperzine A reviews can be found all over the web, where people have taken the time to write about their experiences using this noteworthy supplement. Especially for supplements like this, where there is still room for more research into its effects on cognition and memory, reviews can help to provide an overview of what to expect before trying it.


The best places to find reviews of Huperzia extracts would be on Reddit or on Both Reddit and Erowid provide an open space for honest, clear, and descriptive reviews of people’s experiences using a variety of substances. You can also find some Huperzine A reviews on Amazon, although these tend to be more focused on people’s experiences with a particular brand. We’d recommend using the Reddit or Erowid search functions to find out more about reviews.




In summary, Huperzine A is a potent compound extracted from the Huperzia Serrata herb, which is endemic to China. Huperzia Serrata herbal extracts have a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The primary effect of this supplement is to inhibit the activity of the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, allowing for the accumulation of larger concentrations of acetylcholine in the brain. As a result, it is said to be a cholinergic compound. Benefits may include increased memory, cognitive function, and learning capacity. This supplement may also provide some neuroprotective effects.


Unlike many similar cholinergic compounds, side effects of Huperzine 1% are rare at the recommended serving size. This supplement does not form toxic metabolites and has a fairly long half-life. It is not recommended to exceed the serving instructions this supplement.

brain artwork synapses firing acetylcholine



[1] Howes MJ, Perry NS, Houghton PJ. “Plants with traditional uses and activities, relevant to the management of Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive disorders.” Phytother Res. 2003 Jan;17(1):1-18

[2] “Huperzine A” NYU Langone Medical Centre Online pages, retrieved 22-12-2014

[3] “Neuroscience, 2nd Edition: Acetylcholine” Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors.

Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2001.


[4] Cheng DH, Ren H, Tang XC. “Huperzine A, a novel promising acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.” Neuroreport. 1996 Dec 20;8(1):97-101.

[5] Wang R, Yan H, Tang XC . “Progress in studies of huperzine A, a natural cholinesterase inhibitor from Chinese herbal medicine”, Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2006 Jan;27(1):1-26

[6] Francis PT, Palmer AM, Snape M, et al. “The cholinergic hypothesis of Alzheimer’s disease: a review of progress.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 1999;66:137-147.

[7] Xu SS, et al. “Efficacy of tablet huperzine-A on memory, cognition, and behavior in Alzheimer's disease.” Zhongguo Yao Li Xue Bao. 1995 Sep;16(5):391-5.

[8] “Huperzine-A capsules enhance memory and learning performance in 34 pairs of matched adolescent students” Sun QQ, Xu SS, Pan JL, Guo HM, Cao WQ, Zhongguo Yao Li Xue Bao. 1999 Jul;20(7):601-3

[9]Huperzine A” CID 1253. PubChem, Open Chemistry Database, US National Library of Medicine, available online at

[10] “Huperzine A” NYU Langone Medical Centre Online pages, retrieved 22-12-2014


[11]  “Huperzine A Influences and Improves Personality” Will Block, Life-Enhancement June 2000 magazine, retrieved 22-12-2014

[12] Boudinot E, Taysse L, Daulon S, Chatonnet A, Champagnat J, Foutz AS. “Effects of acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase inhibition on breathing in mice adapted or not to reduced acetylcholinesterase.” Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2005 Jan;80(1):53-61. Epub 2004 Nov 21.

[13] Li YX, Zhang RQ, Li CR, Jiang XH. “Pharmacokinetics of Huperzine A following oral administration to human volunteers”, Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 2007 Oct-Dec;32(4):183-7

[14] Ma T, Gong K, Yan Y, Zhang L, Tang P, Zhang X, Gong Y. “Huperzine A promotes hippocampal neurogenesis in vitro and in vivo.” Brain Res. 2013 Apr 19;1506:35-43.

[15] “Huperzine A” WebMD, available online from [Accessed 16 February 2018]