Simple Palate: Huperzine-A Labeled the Mental Edge

By: Cielestia Calbay

Some have called it the “wonder drug.”

Agility and athleticism may have taken the form of a supplement with Huperzine-A, a powerful over-the-counter supplement rumored to enhance mental focus.

Researchers likely had students, athletes and the eldery in mind when they discovered the effects of the overachieving pill, as the drug is noted to improve cognitive efficiencies most affected in studying, sports and memory loss. Since it emerged on the market, Huperzine-A has been touted for its ability to treat and prevent brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

As it gained popularity, the Chinese-derived herb established a presence at college campuses and became an alternative to similar drugs like Adderall to help sharpen memory. And then among athletes as it improved performance by balancing key neurotransmitters: norepinephrine, dopamine and acteylcholine. Neurologists stress the importance of balancing these neurotransmitters, especially among athletes, as too much or not enough of one neurotransmitters can become problematic. Too much norepinephrine can make you jittery; too much dopamine and you can’t focus; not enough acetylcholine can slow down your memory drive.

Huperzine-A works by increasing the production of acetylcholine so that our nerves can better communicate with our brain, muscles and other areas. Though most sources have praised the supplement, others have noted its side effects, which includes breathing problems, tightness in the throat, chest pains, rashes, diarrhea, vomiting and insomnia.


Cielestia Calbay is the associate editor of Competitor Magazine. If she’s not at the office, you’ll probably find her outdoors or scouring the area for the nearest juice bar. She can be reached at or @ccalbay

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