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Huperzine A is a compound extracted from the herbs of the Huperziceae family. It is known as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, which means that it stops an enzyme from breaking down acetylcholine which results in increases in acetylcholine. Huperzine A is used for Alzheimer’s disease, memory and learning enhancement, and age-related memory impairment. Huperzine A is also used for the treatment of bruises, strains, swelling, rheumatism, and colds, to relax muscles and tendons, and to improve blood circulation. It is also used for treating a muscle disease called myasthenia gravis, for increasing alertness and energy, and for protecting against agents that damage the nerves such as nerve gases. More recently, this herb (called Qian Ceng Ta) has been used to treat schizophrenia, organophosphate poisoning (from some insecticides and herbicides), and myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease marked by muscle weakness and fatigue that worsens during activity and improves with rest.

More and larger studies are needed to weigh the potential benefits and the long term risks of taking Huperzine A for memory improvement. A number of Huperzine A studies are now planned and are recruiting volunteers. Some trials will investigate the effects of combining Huperzine A with other drugs for AD treatment. The hope is that these combinations may prove more effective than the pharmaceutical treatments that are currently available.

Huperzine A appears to be a relatively safe compound from animal studies of toxicity and studies in humans showing no side-effects at doses routinely supplemented with. Clinical research has shown that Huperzine A is superior to other cholinesterase inhibitors such as tacrine and donepezil. Huperzine A is rapidly absorbed when taken orally, and possesses a very slow rate of dissociation from the enzyme and a longer duration of action. Supplementation of Huperzine-A tends to be in the range of 50-200mcg daily, and while this can be divided into multiple doses throughout the day it tends to be taken at a single dose. Supplementation of Huperzine A does not require food to be congested with it and can be taken in a fasted state.