Common name: Bacopa
Other names: Brahmi
Latin name: Bacopa monniera
Affinity: Nervous system
Actions: Medyha rasayana, nervine tonic, adaptogen, nootropic, anticonvulsant, antispasmodic
Specific indications: Cognitive problems, seizures, sharp shooting pains, recent brain trauma, anxiety
Diseases: Anxiety(1), depression(1), neuralgia(3), epilepsy(3), Alzheimer’s(3), dementia(3), ADHD(2), ADD(2)
Parts used: Stem and leaves
Energetics: Cooling, drying
Characteristics: Bacopa is a member of the Scrophulariaceae family and is a creeping medicinal herb found in damp, marshy areas throughout the Indian subcontinent (Russo et al., 2005). It grows purple flowers and numerous branches with small oblong, fleshly leaves. It is known by locals as Brahmi, the word derived from “Brahma”, the mythical creator God from the Trimurti of Hinduism.
History: Bacopa has a traditional use in Ayruveda that dates back nearly 3000 years (Russo et al., 2005). It is classified as a medhya rasayana, a rejuvenative medicine for improving memory and intellect. The oldest mention of bacopa in Ayruveda is in the ancient Ayurvedic text, the Caraka Samhita in the 6th century A.D. In this text, it is recommended in treating a range of mental problems that include poor cognition, anxiety, and lack of concentration power.
Current applications: Bacopa is used to promote cognitive power, relieve anxiety, and to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s (Winston, 2007). Bacopa can help reduce seizure activity, it is used alongside other herbs such as ashwagandha and gotu kola in the treatment of epilepsy (Moharana et al., 1994). David Winston frequently uses bacopa in patients recovering from head trauma injury alongside St. John’s wort, ginkgo, and holy basil (Winston, 2007). Maria Groves recommends bacopa in the treatment of nerve pain alongside other calm energy adaptogens, such as gotu kola, ashwagandha, and holy basil (Groves, 2016).
Science: Bacopa has been shown in vivo models to have both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (Bhattacharya et al., 2000; Channa et al., 2006). More specifically, the anti-oxidant activity was observed in the brain (Bhattacharya et al., 2000) has been hypothesised to be responsible for cognition enhancing effects in human trials (Roodenrys et al., 2002). This herb has strong support for cognitive enhancing effects in healthy individuals with several good quality well conducted studies, one being published in Nature (Stough et al., 2001; Roodenrys et al., 2002; Calabrese et al., 2008; Stough et al., 2008). These studies imply it would be useful in mitigating the effects of degenerative cognitive disorders such as alzheimer’s and dementia. Larger clinical studies are needed of individuals suffering from these diseases.
Safety: Bacopa is safe, but avoid during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to lack of information.
Dosage: 150mg two times daily of powdered bacopa extract has been studied to be effective (Stough et al., 2001). For the tincture, 30-50 drops 3-4 times per day (Winston, 2007).
Research on models
Anti-oxidant effects: Bacopa has been demonstrated to exhibit anti-oxidant effects in the frontal cortex, striatum, and hippocampus (brain) using an ex vivo model (Bhattacharya et al., 2000).
Anti-inflammatory effects: Bacopa has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects using an ex vivo model (Channa et al., 2006). The extract specifically inhibited prostaglandin E2-induced inflammation.
Research on humans
Cognitive enhancement: One study (n = 46, double blind placebo controlled) investigating bacopa’s effect on healthy individuals found an enhancement of various cognitive parameters such as learning rate and memory (Stough et al., 2001). Maximum effects were observed after 12 weeks. Bacopa extracts were standardised to no less than 55% of combined bacosides. Each capsule contained 150mg B. monniera extract, equivalent to 3g dried herb. A capsule was taken twice per day.
Cognitive enhancement(II): Another study published by Nature (n = 76, double blind placebo controlled) found significant enhancement of retention of information in healthy subjects after 3 months (Roodenrys et al., 2002). They postulated that this effect may be meditated by anti-oxidant effect of bacopa within the hippocampus/ brain.
Cognitive enhancement(III): One study (n = 62, double blind placebo controlled) also found a significant increase in ‘working memory’ after 90 days’ treatment with Bacopa (Stough et al., 2008). Dose was 150mg twice per day of a standardised and patented bacopa extract.
Anxiety/ depression/ cognitive enhancement: A study (n = 54, double blind placebo controlled) found significant enhancement of word memory scores compared with the placebo after 12 weeks (Calabrese et al., 2008). Anxiety and depression scores also improved. Dose was 300mg per day of standardised bacopa extract. Dose was well tolerated and comparable with the placebo in adverse effects.
Bhattacharya, S. K., et al. “Antioxidant activity of Bacopa monniera in rat frontal cortex, striatum and hippocampus.” Phytotherapy Research 14.3 (2000): 174-179.
Calabrese, Carlo, et al. “Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 14.6 (2008): 707-713.
Channa, Shabana, et al. “Anti-inflammatory activity of Bacopa monniera in rodents.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 104.1 (2006): 286-289.
Groves, Maria. Body into Balance. Storey Publishing, 2016.
Moharana, Dhirendranath, and Sandhya Moharana. “A clinical trial of Mentat in patients with various types of epilepsy.” Probe 33.2 (1994): 160-162.
Roodenrys, Steven, et al. “Chronic effects of Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) on human memory.” Neuropsychopharmacology 27.2 (2002): 279-281.
Russo, A., and F. Borrelli. “Bacopa monniera, a reputed nootropic plant: an overview.” Phytomedicine 12.4 (2005): 305-317.
Stough, Con, et al. “Examining the nootropic effects of a special extract of Bacopa monniera on human cognitive functioning: 90 day double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial.” Phytother Res 22.12 (2008): 1629-34.
Stough, Con, et al. “The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects.” Psychopharmacology 156.4 (2001): 481-484.
Winston, David, and Steven Maimes. Adaptogens: herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co, 2007.