This natural nootropic can give you a near photographic memory


Imagine having complete confidence in recalling names, faces, movies…


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This natural nootropic can give you a near photographic memory

No list of nootropics is complete without mentioning Huperzia serrata.

(Nootropics are substances that may improve cognitive function.)

Huperzia serrata is a fast-acting Chinese plant (toothed clubmoss or firmoss) that can increase brain acetylcholine levels.

(Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter. The nervous system uses it to activate muscles.)

Huperzia serrata can do this because it contains huperzine A, a potent phytodrug that spares acetylcholine by inhibiting the enzyme that destroys it: acetylcholinesterase.

Huperzine A is the most potent cholinesterase inhibitor in the entire plant kingdom and in all classifications everywhere.

In fact, huperzine A is more potent than the synthetic drugs tacrine, physostigmine, and donepezil.

Thus, the effective dose of huperzine A is so small that it is measured in the microgram (μg) range.

Moreover, this herb has no side effects other than those stemming from high acetylcholine.

This gives it a greater safety profile than all other drugs in its class.

In addition, the greater potency and selectivity of huperzine A means a lower dose is needed (~400 μg) than with those other drugs.

Tacrine, for instance, is FDA-approved for treating Alzheimer’s disease and has been shown to work.

However, tacrine is quite expensive. It also induces dose-dependent liver damage.

So huperzine A is much better in every way imaginable.

According to scientific studies, huperzine A:

(1) Has better selectivity

(2) Inhibits butyrylcholinesterase

(3) Is the safest drug of its class

(4) Has a greater brain uptake

So even if tacrine were sold cheaply over the counter like Huperzia serrata, you wouldn’t want it anyway – because it confers no advantage.

Studies also show that this herb translates into greater blood flow in the frontal cortex, better memory, and enhanced cognition.

So anyone who wants to increase those parameters should certainly add Huperzia serrata to their arsenal.

And, quite unlike the slower-acting Panax ginseng and Bacopa monnieri (herbs that contain glucocorticoids that take weeks to build up), Huperzia serrata works reliably within minutes.

Studies also indicate that tolerance does not occur.

(Tolerance leads to dependence.)

There are literally dozens of studies demonstrating these effects. Here are some of the better studies below:

Effects of huperzine A on acetylcholinesterase

This study compared potencies of five cholinesterase inhibitors on two separate enzyme types: the tetrameric (G4) and the monomeric (G1) isoforms.

The tetrameric isoform (G4) is the one that really matters because it greatly outnumbers monomeric (G1) in the brain.

Moreover, the monomeric form exists inside the cell and that means it would be less likely to be inhibited anyway.

This study determined that huperzine A and donepezil are the most potent tested in enzymes originating from the cortex (G4 isoform).

And the cortex is the most important brain region for memory and cognition.

Inhibition constant of five acetylcholinestrase inhibitors on acetylcholinestrase

The inhibitor constant (Ki) of huperzine A was exceedingly low, a 7 nM (nanomolar) concentration.

This corresponds favorably with another study (McKinney) where the value was 8 nM, which demonstrates consistency across countries.

“In the cortex, the most potent inhibitors, by a factor of 10, were huperzine A and donepezil; in the hippocampus and striatum, they were physostigmine, and huperzine A.”

It was also been more potent than the overpriced and hepatotoxic (damaging to the liver) tacrine in all three brain regions (G4 form).

Now, donepezil had slightly higher potency on the enzymes extracted from the cortex.

And physostigmine is more potent on the ones originating from other regions.

But there is a reason to suppose the huperzine A would be the most potent in vivo.

And that’s because huperzine A is more bioavailable when taken orally.

This drug is also more selective towards the G4 acetylcholinesterase isoform.

It also has a greater brain uptake than the others:

acetylcholinestrase effect of huperzine A

These scientists dosed different rats intragastrically with one of three cholinesterase inhibitors:

  • Huperzine A
  • Tacrine
  • E2020 (donepezil)

Three cholinesterase inhibitors

Then the researchers killed the rats and assessed the acetylcholinesterase activity in their brains.

They found that, of the three cholinesterase inhibitors, huperzine was inarguably the most potent when given intragastrically.

They also confirmed the superior bioavailability of huperzine.

And, remember, it’s the drug with the least amount of side effects.

“Hup A exerted significant AchE [acetylcholinesterase] inhibition in three brain regions… The relative inhibition potency of oral huperzine A was found to be 11 and 80 times as potent as [donepezil] and tacrine based on the dosage of molecular weight.”

Since huperzine A is the best cholinesterase inhibitor of the three, the side effects must come down to peripheral activity.

Or maybe (and/or) butyrylcholinesterase inhibition.

Or something not stemming from enhanced acetylcholine levels.

Huperzine has lower activity on butyrylcholinesterase.

This is generally seen as a good thing, as that is a more generalized enzyme responsible for degrading other things besides acetylcholine.

Tacrine inhibits butyrycholinesterase

So, again, huperzine A wins on all counts.

This is simply a better drug than donepezil and tacrine.

And since the latter also causes liver damage, you’d have to wonder why it’s being used at all.

Maybe this has something to do with patents and profits – because huperzine is certainly better in every way.

This drug is more natural, more potent, more selective, and has the least amount of side effects.

“Side effects were most severe for tacrine and less severe for huperzine A.”

This is why huperzine A is the drug of choice for treating organophosphate poisoning in China (Ma, 2007)…

It has also been nominated for that function in America.

Even though some B vitamins (e.g. thiamine, folate, vitamin B12), can increase acetylcholine if you are deficient in those vitamins…

Huperzia serrata is by far the quickest and most reliable way to do it.

Cholinesterase inhibitors work in everybody, unlike the B vitamins that will do nothing if you normally get enough of them from food.

Brain acetylcholine predictably increases following inhibition of acetylcholinesterase activity.

As thorough as this study was, they didn’t determine the brain acetylcholine levels.

However, other researchers have, and they do show the increase you’d expect.

In fact, increased brain acetylcholine is the entire point of taking these drugs…

And it is the very reason why huperzine A has been used to treat Alzheimer’s and myasthenia gravis (a long-term neuromuscular disease).

Acetylcholine acts to increase cerebral blood flow. And this effect naturally leads to greater oxygen and glucose delivery.

Although magnesium and glutamate also increase cerebral blood flow, acetylcholine specifically targets memory-based brain regions.

Those include the frontal cortex, where acetylcholine’s receptors are highly expressed.

And since no tolerance apparently follows from it you don’t have to worry about becoming dependent…

And dependence is usually a real possibility with drugs that work on the cholinergic system (such as nicotine).

“The subacute treatment (intragastric once daily for 8 days) with huperzine, donepezil, and tacrine showed no significant difference as compared to that of acute treatment. These results indicated that no tolerance to drugs occurred.”

Since huperzine works better than all four FDA-approved Alzheimer’s drugs – tacrine, donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine – you’d expect serious results from its use.

And, in fact, studies bear that out.

Huperzia serrata improves cognition across all species tested: Mice, rats, gerbils, monkeys, and humans all derive benefit through its use.

Huperzine has been shown to improve test scores in young students (Sun, 1999), but most human trials on this have been concerned with treating Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, enough trials on huperzine and Alzheimer’s have been done over the years to warrant a meta-analysis on them:

Huperzine and Alzheimer's have been done over the years to warrant a meta-analysis on them

These statisticians searched through all the huperzine Alzheimer’s trials to find the most reliable ones…

They filtered out those that weren’t double-blind studies or used non-standardized tests.

All of the well-conducted studies showed benefit on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)…

That is the very test that doctors use in America to diagnose dementia.

Fig: Forest Plot with weighted difference

And these studies used only 300 to 500 μg (micrograms) of Huperzia per day. That is a somewhat mild dose for adults.

This makes a person wonder what the more substantial 600 to 800 μg would do…

Upon each new trial demonstrating its safety and efficacy, Huperzia serrata seems more and more like a viable candidate for FDA approval in America.

Of course, if Huperzia serrata should become widely used, this would tank pharmaceutical profits…

And perhaps that is why some researchers did this study:

A phase II trial ogf huperzine A

In this study, they used an insignificant 200 μg dose.

And the researchers may have deliberately chosen that low dosage for its potential inadequacy, considering who the authors were (more on that below).

Despite showing a benefit at the more consequential 400 μg (microgram) dose, as do the other studies, they chose to emphasize the inefficacy of the 200 μg dose.

Although a twice-daily 200 μg dose may work in China, Americans are generally taller and heavier than Asians and would require slightly more.

And the abstract’s conclusion makes no mention of the 400 μg dose, the one shown in other studies to be effective.

Conclusion: The primary efficacy analysis did not show cognitive benefit with huperzine A 200 μg [twice a day]….”

This may seem odd when compared to all the other studies.

But the conflict of interest statement in the published work makes it less strange…

Most of the authors of this study have deep ties to pharmaceutical companies.

The lead author, for example, is a speaker for Novartis…

This drug company sells a competing FDA-approved acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (rivastigmine a.k.a. Exelon®).

“Dr. Rafii serves on the advisory board of Medical Care Corporation, Vivity Labs, Inc., and serves on the speakers’ bureau for Novartis.” –Disclosure

Dr. Paul Aisen works for Novartis as well. He even owns a patent on a DHA-based therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.

This is a massive conflict of interest for Dr. Aisen…

And, besides, using a long-chain fatty acid for Alzheimer’s probably isn’t the most effective approach (it’s better to simply avoid omega-6 fatty acids).

Aisen also serves as a consultant to more pharmaceutical companies than I even knew about:

“…consultant to Elan Corporation, Wyeth, Eisai Inc., Schering-Plough Corp., Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Company, NeuroPhage, Merck & Co., Roche, Amgen, Genentech, Inc., Abbott, Pfizer Inc, Novartis, Bayer Schering Pharma, Astellas Pharma Inc., Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma, BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc., Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., Daiichi Sankyo, AstraZeneca, Janssen, and Medivation, Inc.; receives research support from Pfizer Inc, Baxter International Inc., and the NIH/ NIA; and has received stock options from Medivation, Inc. and NeuroPhage.” –Disclosure


So even discounting the possibility that the data was somehow modified, or even contrived wholesale, the 400 μg dose did work – and they actually admitted that…

Though they did not trumpet that fact in the abstract.

Although their precise wording may detract from Huperzia serrata in the eyes of abstract surfers who come across it, they certainly can’t fool people who read the actual text.

And they most certainly cannot fool anybody who has read other articles detailing huperzine’s potent in vitro enzyme effects, studies that demonstrate its significant in vivo efficacy across all species, or the many Alzheimer trials conducted by less biased researchers.

Huperzine is such a better remedy on all fronts that, if enough people knew about it, all the competing medications would quickly become obsolete.

Huperzine is available without a prescription.

It is more selective, more affordable, safer, and even more potent than the other drugs…

Hence, it invariably works at doses at 200 μg twice a day.

So Huperzia serrata should certainly help anybody avoid the cognitive decline that often comes with aging, and could even serve to enhance cognition at any age.

And we can use Huperzia serrata alongside such things as methylfolate, thiamine, and vitamin B12 to increase brain acetylcholine and blood flow.

Ask your doctor about it if you are taking any medications or have any health issues.

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A young brain makes you seem sharp and youthful to other people no matter how old you really are.

You will be cracking jokes, answering questions quicker than anyone else, and remembering even the smallest details.

Like where your date said she went to high school, or what your boss wanted done this month at the office.

Not bad for the “old” guy, right?

People will think you’re decades younger than you really are because you’re so sharp and quick-witted.

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Matt Cook is editor-in-chief of Daily Medical Discoveries. Matt has been a full time health researcher for 26 years. ABC News interviewed Matt on sexual health issues not long ago. Matt is widely quoted on over 1,000,000 websites. He has over 300,000 daily newsletter readers. Daily Medical Discoveries finds hidden, buried or ignored medical studies through the lens of 100 years of proven science. Matt heads up the editorial team of scientists and health researchers. Each discovery is based upon primary studies from peer reviewed science sources following the Daily Medical Discoveries 7 Step Process to ensure accuracy.
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