What’s All the Hoopla Regarding Huperzine A?

What’s All the Hoopla Regarding Huperzine A?

As of late you can't throw a stone without hitting a pre-workout supplement that contains Huperzine A. So, what is all the hype regarding huperzine A? First a little history … huperzine A is a naturally occurring chemical found in Club Moss. If you read my blog about caffeine you'll see that huperzine A is in a similar class of medications called alkaloids. One of the main reasons why huperzine A may be in your workout is because it has the ability to inhibit an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. By inhibiting the release of this enzyme your body will not break down a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.

What's so important about acetylcholine?  Without going into an entire Neuroscience course, acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter. Acetylcholine has many functions within the body depending upon where it binds. It helps contract our skeletal muscle, which are the muscles that you use when you're in the gym, it helps to release adrenaline and norepinephrine, possibly providing energy. In the brain, acetylcholine is involved with motivation, arousal, attention, and possibly learning. Who doesn’t want to get smarter! 

The idea that having more acetylcholine available to your muscles does not translate scientifically into an increase in muscle contraction. In fact, research is having a hard time determining if huperzine A has any exercise-induced benefits. Currently, huperzine A is being clinically researched to help Alzheimer's patients due to the idea that by boosting acetylcholine in the brain we could increase learning, memory, and attention. Okay, enough of the science class, does huperzine A scientifically help boost your cognition (focus) and muscle recruitment (strength) when in the gym?

In a study by Wessinger et al. (2021), they hypothesized that acute consumption of huperzine A would improve cognitive function during exercise, which may be beneficial for exercise performance. After looking at the results the conclusion was that huperzine A does not enhance cognitive function during exercise despite it being marketed as a cognitive enhancer. Overall, this is an inconclusive consideration because more research needs to be performed. Kumbhar et al. (2020), explained that huperzine A significantly improved memories in the aged and Alzheimer Disease patients. So it’s possible that  there is a cognitive/focusing ability of huperzine A but further research needs to determine this in the workout population.

Unfortunately, all the research that is presented for huperzine A is in the realm of neuroprotective mechanisms, huperzine A may help increase memory and learning but does not enhance exercise performance. More research is needed on huperzine A in regards to increasing exercise performance and cognitive function (focus). 


Kumbhar, S. A., Hangargekar, C. B., & Joshi, A. A. (2020). Huperzine A from Huperzia Serrata - a Systematic Review. Journal of Advanced Scientific Research, 11(3), 22–29

Wessinger, C. M., Inman, C. L., Weinstock, J., & Weiss, E. P. (2021). Effect of Huperzine A on Cognitive Function and Perception of Effort during Exercise: A Randomized Double-Blind Crossover Trial. International Journal of Exercise Science, 14(2), 727–741.


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