Chinese Clubmoss Summary:

Chinese clubmoss, (otherwise known as Chinese firmoss) is a type of clubmoss found in subtropical parts of Southern China, India, and the United States. The whole herb can be used as a cognitive enhancer, Alzheimers and Parkinson's prevention, and to treat organophosphate posioning. The main form this herb can be found in, however, is its concentrated extract of the alkaloid huperzine-A. 

Huperzine-A is a popular addition to nootropic formulas for its ability to inhibit acetylcholinesterase. Thus improving reaction times, memory retrieval and storage, and preventing or slowing the onset of Alzheimers disease. The potency of this chemical is astounding, as less than a mg of the extract is necessary to reach a therapeutic dose. 

Huperzine-A can be found alone, but is best taken in formualation, or stacked with other nootropic formulas. It's especially beneficial when in combination with racetams like priacetam or aniracetam, or choline donors like alpha-GPC. 

You can find huperzine-A in formulas like Onnit Alpha-Brain, or by itself. 

Botanical Name

Huperzia serrata
Alt: Lycopodium serratum

Substitute species:

Huperzia elmeri
Huperzia carinat
Huperzia aqualupian



Part Used

Whole herb

Herbal Actions:

  • Nootropic
  • Neuroprotective
  • Antioxidant

Specific Actions:

  • Acetylcholinesterase inhibitor
  • NDMA modulator
  • Antiglutamate
huperzia serrata


Concentrated Extract

(Huperzine A)

50-200 mcg/day

Recommended Source


  • Alzheimers or Alzheimers risk
  • To improve memory
  • Help with logical reasoning
  • Organophosphate poisoning


Common Names:

  • Chinese Firmoss
  • Qian Ceng Ta (China)
  • "Thousand layer pagoda"
  • Ground pine
  • Creeping cedar
  • Shi Song (China)


Traditional Uses:

Usage of this herb can be traced all the way back to the Tang dynasty in China. It was mainly used during this time to treat rheumatism, colds and flus, and to relax the muscles and tendons. 

More modern Chinese medicinal uses include bruises, sprains, poor circulation, swelling, organophosphate posoning, myasthenia gravis, schizophrenia, and Alzheimers. 

    Botanical Description:

    All club mossess differ from true mosses by their vascular structure. They do hower reproduce via spores.

    These plants can live a very long time, and only grow up to 10 cm in height. 

    Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:

    Huperzia serrata originates from India, and Southeast China, but are distributed worldwide. They tend to be easily found in subtropical zones in the United States and Southern China. 

    Due to the value of this herb as a cognitive enhancer, it has been over harvested in many places where it can be found. 

    Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:

    Still compiling research. 


    An alkaloid known as huperzine-A is currently regarded as the main active ingredient for the cognitive enhancing effects of Huperzia serrata. This alkaloid is suggested to account for roughly 0.1% of the dried weight of the herb [1]. Analogs of both Huperzine-A and Huperzine-B have both been made. [3-5]. 

    A similar alkaloid is also contained known as fordine. 

    In total, this herb contains flavonoids, alkaloids (lycopodine, lycodines including huperzine-A, fawcettimines, and more), tirterpenes, flavones, and phenolic acids. [2]. 

    Pharmacology and Medical Research:


    Cognitive Enhancement:

    Huperzia serrata contains an alkaloid known as huperzine-A. This alkaloid has been shown to produce anti-acetylcholinesterase activities in the brain [6-]. With fewer enzymes breaking down the acetyolcholline, this neurotransmitter become more abundant and is more reasdily available for presynaptic neurons. 

    Huperzine-A has been found to be more effective at inhibiting acetylcholinesterase due to its ability to pass the blood brain barrier more readily than other medications [9]. 

    Additionally, huperzine-A has been reported to act as a NDMA receptor agonist [SOURCE]. This results in a greater release of nerve growth factor (NGF) in the brain. 


    Alzheimers Disease

    There have been several reviews, including a Cochrane review on this herb for the treatment of Alzheimers disease. All of these studies have noted a possible improvement inAlzheimers treatment following Huperzine-A containing species, however, all noted a lack of large, long-term, clinical trials on the subject. [6-8]. 

    The main mechanism of action is suggested to be through a reduction in acetylcholinesterase, and subsequent amyloid beta pklaquing on the neurons. [6]. 



    Currently, huperzine-A has been shown to have posess anticonvulsant activity in mice [10]. Further studies are currently underway. 


    Parkinsons Disease

    Currently only mice trials have been conducted. Protective effects have been noted in these mice trials however. [11]. 



    This is a very safe herb to use, even in its concentrated extraction form of Huperzine-A. Side effects of the concentrated extract can include gastrointestinul discomfort and upset, restlessness, headaches, high blood pressure, sweating, appetite suppresion. 

    Never use huperzine-A supplements while pregnant or breastfeeding.  



    Not recommended for people with heart disease, seizure disorders, emphysema, or urinary tract blockages.

    Conuslt your doctor if taking other medications and wish to take Huperzia spp. supplements or concentrated extracts. 

    Traditional Chinese Medicine:

    Still compiling research. 


    A common addition to nootropic formulas for itscholinergic actions. It is suggested to be especially beneficial with racetams like piracetam, aniracetam due to similar actions. 



    Justin Cooke

    The Sunlight Experiment

    Updated: May 2017

    Recent Blog Posts:


    1. Yu CM, Tang XC, Liu JS, Han YY, inventors. Huperzines and analogs. US Patent 5,177,082. January 5, 1993.
    2. Ma X, Tan C, Zhu D, Gang DR, Xiao P. Huperzine A from Huperzia species—an ethnopharmacolgical review. J Ethnopharmacol . 2007;113(1):15-34.
    3. Darrouzain F, André C, Ismaili L, Matoga M, Guillaume YC. Huperzine A—human serum albumin association: chromatographic and thermodynamic approach. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci . 2005;820(2):283-288.
    4. Jiang H, Luo X, Bai D. Progress in clinical, pharmacological, chemical and structural biological studies of huperzine A: a drug of traditional Chinese medicine origin for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Curr Med Chem . 2003;10(21):2231-2252.
    5. Dvir H, Jiang HL, Wong DM, et al. X-ray structures of Torpedo californica acetylcholinesterase complexed with (+)-huperzine A and (-)-huperzine B: structural evidence for an active site rearrangement. Biochemistry . 2002;41(35):10810-10818.
    6. Li J, Wu HM, Zhou RL, Liu GJ, Dong BR. Huperzine A for Alzheimer's disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev . 2008;(2):CD005592
    7. Desilets AR, Gickas JJ, Dunican KC. Role of huperzine A in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Ann Pharmacother . 2009;43(3):514-518.
    8. Kelley BJ, Knopman DS. Alternative medicine and Alzheimer disease. Neurologist . 2008;14(5):299-306.
    9. Wang R, Yan H, Tang XC. Progress in studies of huperzine A, a natural cholinesterase inhibitor from Chinese herbal medicine. Acta Pharmacol Sin . 2006;27(1):1-26.
    10. Bialer M, Johannessen SI, Kupferberg HJ, Levy RH, Perucca E, Tomson T. Progress report on new antiepileptic drugs: a summary of the Eigth Eilat Conference (EILAT VIII). Epilepsy Res . 2007;73(1):1-52.
    11. Chen LW, Wang YQ, Wei LC, Shi M, Chan YS. Chinese herbs and herbal extracts for neuroprotection of dopaminergic neurons and potential therapeutic treatment of Parkinson's disease. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets . 2007;6(4):273-281

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