Huperzine A and Cognition
Compound From a Chinese Herb Shows Promise for Cognitive Concerns
Gul A, Bakht J, and Mehmood F. “Huperzine-A Response to Cognitive Impairment and Task Switching Deficits in Patients With Alzheimer’s Disease.” J Chin Med Assoc (2018).
Huperzine A is a natural alkaloid compound extracted from a Chinese herb called Huperzia serrata (club moss).
Huperzine A readily crosses the blood-brain barrier, where it acts as a reversible inhibitor of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. This enzyme inhibition leads to augmentation of brain acetylcholine levels.
Other mechanisms of action for huperzine A include reducing oxidative stress, protecting mitochondria, interrupting metabolism of amyloid precursor protein, and regulating expression of nerve growth factor.
Huperzine A has been found to support learning and memory in both animal and human studies. In patients with cognitive challenges, it’s been shown to support cognition, behavior, daily living activities, and mood.*
This study explores the effect of huperzine A supplementation on cognition, along with a specific cognitive function called task switching, in patients with cognitive challenges.
It’s the first study to evaluate huperzine A’s effect on task switching, which is an executive function that declines in people with cognitive challenges. Reduced ability to readily switch between tasks can profoundly affect daily function and quality of life.
Double-blind clinical trial
Fifty patients with cognitive challenges and 50 healthy control patients participated in the study.
All participants took the Trail Making Test (TMT) and Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination (ACE-III) at baseline. Not surprisingly, the patients with cognitive challenges performed worse on the TMT and ACE-III tests than the healthy controls.
The 50 patients with cognitive challenges then took 0.2 mg of huperzine A twice daily for eight weeks.
Between baseline and eight weeks, these patients achieved significant improvements in reaction time, task switching, and functions of daily activities. Also, huperzine A was equally effective for patients with either mild or moderate cognitive challenges.
Cognitive challenges can be life-changing. Transformations in cognition are often associated with changes in behavior, emotions, and a declining ability to function in life. Many patients and their loved ones feel devastated by cognitive impairments and struggle to find answers.
Dietary supplements are not a substitute for medical care and shouldn’t be considered a treatment for cognitive impairments. However, nutrition and supplementation can support the healthy structure and function of body organs, including the brain.*
This clinical trial suggests that huperzine A may support specific areas of cognition, as well as the ability to function in daily life.* Given the limited options available to patients with cognitive challenges, huperzine A may be considered a complementary part of overall patient care. n