What if I told you there was a plant used to treat memory and brain-related disorder for thousands of years — a plant thought to be so beneficial to the mind that it’s been a staple of traditional Ayurvedic medicine in India since seemingly forever? You’d be excited about its possible application, right?
Then you’re in luck, because bacopa checks off both these boxes and then some. Also known as Brahmi, bacopa is used to treat a broad range of mind-related health concerns, including Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, anxiety, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, epilepsy, and as a general tonic to fight stress. Best of all, it has far less severe side effects than the dangerous psychotropic drugs often prescribed today.
Consider these findings from a 2014 ADHD study in Advances in Mind-Body Medicine.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a clinically heterogeneous disorder of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity or difficulty in controlling behavior. Psychostimulant medications remain the mainline treatment for children with ADHD; however, the average response rate to these medications is 70%, and up to 30% of children do not respond to these medications or are unable to tolerate such potential adverse effects as nausea, insomnia, and weight loss.
The study investigated the effectiveness of standardized Bacopa monnieri extract (SBME) in ameliorating the severity of the symptoms of ADHD in children. Thirty-one children were participants in the trial. They were 6-12 y of age, with an age of onset of ADHD before 7 y of age, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) criteria for ADHD. The children received SBME at a dose of 225 mg/d for a period of 6 mo. SBME significantly reduced the subtests scores of ADHD symptoms, except for social problems.
- The symptom scores for restlessness were reduced in 93% of children
- Improvement in self-control was observed in 89% of the children.
- The attention-deficit symptoms were reduced in 85% of children.
- Similarly, symptom scores for learning problems, impulsivity, and psychiatric problems were reduced for 78%, 67%, and 52% of children, respectively.
- It was observed that 74% of the children exhibited up to a 20% reduction
- 26% of children showed between a 21% and a 50% reduction in the total subtests scores.
Standardized extract of B monnieri was found to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of ADHD and was well-tolerated by the children.
Great news, the benefits of consuming Bacopa Monneri don’t end there. Check out these additional, lesser-known benefits.
Adaptogenic Stress Reducer
It’s been shown that up to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints — 90 percent! (3) Crazy, I know, but not hard to believe. Stress — especially chronic stress — does terrible things to our minds and bodies, and general stress reduction should always be a top priority for anyone trying to live a healthy lifestyle.
Bacopa extract has actually been shown to work as a natural stress reliever by helping our bodies better handle or adapt to our daily stressors. An animal study conducted at the Central Drug Research Institute in India showed that a standardized extract ofBacopa monniera successfully guarded against acute and chronic stress. More specifically, it reduced damaging stomach ulcer and adrenal activity. The study concluded that bacopa possesses a potent adaptogenic activity. (4)
Anti-Anxiety & Antidepressant
It’s probably not too surprising that just as it reduces stress, this beneficial plant also canreduce anxiety and depression. Animal research published by the University of Michigan Health System shows the positive brain effects of bacopa, including reduction of both depression and anxiety. These very positive effects on the nervous system have biochemically been attributed to an enhancement of the effects of the neurotransmittersacetylcholine and, possibly, serotonin or GABA. (5)
A small, double-blind, 12-week study conducted at the Neuropsychology Laboratory at the School of Biophysical Science and Electrical Engineering in Australia had volunteers take 300 milligrams of bacopa daily while other volunteers received a placebo. Prior to the study commencing, researchers tested all volunteers on visual information processing, memory and speed of information processing.
The tests were repeated five and 12 weeks after the study began. A significant improvement among the volunteers in the bacopa group was found compared to those in the placebo group, leading researchers to conclude that it “may improve higher order cognitive processes that are critically dependent on the input of information from our environment such as learning and memory.” (6)
Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Treatment
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that progressively causes memory loss, dementiaand early mortality. Natural Alzheimer’s treatment can include supplementation with bacopa. According to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, it might hold promise for preventing the dementia (decline in mental ability severe enough to affect daily life) associated with Alzeimer’s. Studies in rodents and test tubes suggest that it has biological effects that might protect against brain aging and/or dementia, but we don’t yet know if these effects are the same for humans or if the effects are strong enough to be clinically relevant. One encouraging human study showed that in elderly people with memory complaints, bacopa improved scores on tests of attention and verbal memory when used for three months at 450 milligrams per day. (7)
Seizures occur in the body when your brain cells, which communicate through electrical signals, send out the wrong signals. Generally, several seizures are needed before there is a diagnosis of epilepsy. One preliminary trial in India found that an extract of bacopa reduced the frequency of epileptic seizures in a small group of people. However, another similar preliminary trial gave inconclusive results. Controlled research is needed to properly evaluate whether bacopa is helpful for epilepsy, but there is hope that it could benefit those who suffer from seizure disorders like epilepsy. (8)
Chronic Pain Minimizer
Chronic pain is a huge health concern and health cost around the world today. Sadly, 77 percent of people with chronic pain also have some degree of medically treatable depression. Bacopa is well-documented to be a safe and well-tolerated herbal therapy for pain management in multiple clinical trials including various age groups.
A study published in Current Medicinal Chemistry showed that Bacopa monnieri not only has strong antidepressant effects, but it has pain-reducing capabilities comparable to morphine. The study also indicated that this herbal treatment offers protective benefits for organs commonly affected by opiate toxicity like the brain, kidneys and heart. (9)
Blood Pressure Regulator
A recent animal study showed that bacopa might increase the human body’s utilization of nitric oxide and encourage vascular muscle function, two benefits that positively influence normal blood pressure. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology study concludes that some Bacopa monnieri ingredients could be effective at reducing high blood pressure. (10)
So how does Bacopa Monneri stack up again one of the most commonly prescribed medications Adderall? You be the judge…
Bacopa vs. Adderall
Adderall is a form of amphetamine legally used in a limited number of countries, primarily the U.S. and Canada, for the treatment of ADHD, narcolepsy and depression. It’s a common drug pushed to treat ADHD, but it comes with some unhealthy side effects that are much more dangerous and common than those of bacopa.
Bacopa Plant Origin & Nutrition Facts
Bacopa is a genus of 70–100 aquatic plants belonging to the family Plantaginaceae. It’s native to India, where it grows in marshy regions. In the West, it’s a water plant often found in aquariums. Bacopa species are found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world,
particularly the Americas. Most parts of the plant have been used traditionally, but modern
preparations are extracts of the stem and leaves. The type traditionally used in herbal medicines is Bacopa monniera or Bacopa monnieri. It’s also commonly called Brahmi and water hyssop as well.
The leaves contain saponins, including bacosides that are believed to be responsible for the therapeutic properties of the herb. Studies have shown that both purified bacosides and extracts of bacopa standardized for bacosides have been found to enhance several aspects of mental function and learning ability.
Bacopa History & Interesting Facts
Since at least the sixth century A.D., bacopa has been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a diuretic and tonic for the nervous system as well as the heart. (14) In Indian and Ayurvedic medicines, it’s typically known as “Brahmi” after Brahmā, the creator god of the Hindu pantheon. In Ayurveda, pitta energy is considered the regulator of heat, energy, excitement and passion. A pitta imbalance is believed to be reflected in an inflamed, overheated, over-agitated,condition of mind and/or body. Brahmi is known as a soother of pitta imbalances. In India, where bacopa has been revered for centuries, newborn babies are consecrated with it in the hope that it will open up the pathway to the intellect. In 1998, the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was given jointly to Robert F. Furchgott, Louis J. Ignarro and Ferid Murad for their discoveries of nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. It’s been said that the Nobel Prize winners used bacopa in their award-winning experiments.
Final Thoughts on Bacopa
Bacopa has been a star of traditional Ayurvedic healing for centuries. Now modern-day research continues to confirm bacopa’s abilities to improve and positively change not just mental abilities like memory and learning, but also mental health like depression and anxiety. ADHD is on the rise globally and so is the use of conventional treatment like the drug Adderral, but bacopa extract is a natural substance that has the ability to significantly help ADHD without all of the scary side effects of conventional treatment. And don’t forget, in addition to treating ADHD, bacopa is an adaptogenic stress reducer, anti-anxiety and antidepressant agent, memory enhancer, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia treatment, epilepsy treatment, chronic pain minimizer, and blood pressure regulator — making it a safe, healthy alternative to remedy and/or prevent a host of health issues.
Memory loss and other cognitive conditions are issues that a large number of people start to worry about as they age. A lot of us are conditioned by the media to believe that these problems are natural and inevitable consequences of aging, something that happens to us regardless of how well we look after ourselves.
Of course, this is not true. Our brains are capable of creating new brain cells at any given age, and diet plays an essential role in how often, and how effectively, they can do so. Although most natural wholefoods contain properties that can help keep our minds in good shape, studies show that the three herbs listed below are particularly effective in this regard.
Bacopa monnieri, or brahmi, is a thick-leafed herb native to the wetlands of East and Southeast Asia, and is well-known for its brain-boosting properties. It is particularly venerated in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is regularly prescribed for numerous cognitive conditions such as brain fog, poor memory and concentration, and even depression.
A large number of studies confirm that Bacopa is good for our minds. For example, a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2012 found that it could “improve attention, cognitive processing, and working memory partly via the suppression of AChE activity.” (1) Another study, featured in Neuropsychopharmacology, discovered that Bacopa could improve memory and recall abilities. (2)
Like most brain-boosting foods, Bacopa monnieri can take a while to work. Taking 150 milligrams of it three times a day for a two-month period, for instance, will provide better results than taking the same amount of it over a one-month period.
There’s a good reason why Ginkgo biloba supplements are one of the most popular herbal remedies in Europe and the United States: the leaves of this unique tree, which is one of the longest-living species in the world, is a fantastic mental aid. For example, a study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology in 2014 showed that Ginkgo extracts could “improve working memory function in middle-aged individuals.” (3) A study featured in the September 2013 edition of Toxicology and Industrial Health even found that Ginkgo, along with vitamin C, could correct mental deficits caused by chronic exposure to fluoride. (4)
Taking between 240 and 600 milligrams of Ginkgo biloba up to three times a day is optimum for correcting memory-related issues. As with Bacopa, positive effects don’t usually manifest immediately; give it at least a month.
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is a member of the parsley family that grows in the Himalayas. It was (and still is) used to treat countless medical conditions in India and China, including varicose veins, skin lesions, insomnia and blood circulation. However, like Bacopa and Ginkgo, gotu is best-known for its positive impact on our minds.
For example, a study published in Ayu in 2013 found that gotu kola, along with other herbs within the Medhya rasayana group, are “quick in action and bring about improvement in memory faster when compared with Yogic practices.” (5) A review published one year earlier also noted that gotu has neuroprotective properties and was reported to treat deficits associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and oxidative stress. (6)
Taking one or two 500 milligram capsules of gotu kola a day is a great way to boost our memory naturally and without side effects. Alternatively, gotu can be consumed in tea form. Its bitterness can be masked by adding some honey or lemon.
Sources for this article include:
Coffee can help ease chronic pain?
It can if it’s infused with Ayurvedic herb Bacopa Monnieri.
Check out this recent abstract from Current Medical Chemistry:
Chronic pain management costs billions of dollars in medical exchequer to the world population. Additionally, 77% of people with chronic pains also have a degree of medically treatable depression. Bacopa monnieri, a renowned ayurvedic medicine has a strong antidepressant effect and significant anti-nociceptive effect, which is comparable to the effect of morphine via adenosinergic, opioidergic, and adrenergic mechanisms. BM has been also reported to be effective in neuropathic pains. Additionally, it has a strong anti-inflammatory effect mediated via COX-2 inhibitory mechanism.
Apart from its effect of augmenting morphine analgesia, BM also inhibits opioid-withdrawal induced hyperalgesia, and acquisition and expression of morphine tolerance. BM is reported to have a strong protective effect against toxic effects of opiates on major organs like brain, kidneys and heart. BM is well documented to be safe and well tolerated herbal therapy in multiple clinical trials including various age groups. This mini review evaluated the preclinical data that highlights potential of BM as a future candidate for clinical management of chronic pains.
Parents and professionals faced with the challenging task of treating ADD and ADHD in children commonly face an unfortunate situation in which behavior problems at home and/or school have placed yet another pressure to opt for medication as the primary treatment.
There is little doubt that the majority of these ‘medicated’ children will have benefits in their attention span, behavior, and other components of their disorder. And yet, the benefits of medication come with built-in risks from misdiagnosis, side effects, abuse, and unforeseen long-term complications.
Although complementary and alternative therapies have shown promise in treating ADD and ADHD, the task of matching the patient to the most appropriate of these therapies remains elusive to many parents who have explored the options, as well as professionals. Many treating physicians are waiting for better studies, and conventional standards, to help establish appropriate treatment protocols. The use of herbal medicine in the treatment of ADHD is of high interest to many families and professionals looking for alternatives to drug therapy. This interest has no doubt heightened in recent years due to problematic and near epidemic proportion use of stimulants in children.
The following review of an alarming trend to medicate ever-increasing numbers of school- and pre-school age children will help serve to emphasize the need for greater research into natural alternative treatments.
Conventional pharmaceutical treatment for ADD/ADHD commonly includes methylphenidate or amphetamine substances that have the highest abuse potential and dependence profile of all drugs that have medical utility. According to statistical records, the production of methylphenidate by the drug manufacturers in the world has increased by more than 500 percent since 1991. The production of amphetamine has increased by over 2,000 percent in the same nine-year period of time. More than 50 percent of the methylphenidate and amphetamine prescriptions are written by pediatricians. Ayurveda, which means “life sciences” in Sanskrit, is a holistic system of Indian medicine that evolved between 3000 and 5000 years ago. It is becoming more and more popular in the India and abroad and is still used by the majority of people in India to treat a variety of health problems, because not only is it time-tested for its safety and effectiveness, it is accessible and inexpensive.
Bacopa monniera-named Brahmi in the Ayurvedic texts, probably for Lord Brahma, the Hindu creator of the world and originator of Ayurveda-is recognized as a powerful brain enhancer.1 It is still considered to be the greatest herb in Ayurveda for treating age-related mental decline, as well as for improving cognitive processes, including comprehension, memory and recall. It also enhances the crucial coordination of these three aspects of mental functioning, and helps increase one’s ability to solve problems
Although people in India, especially ayurvedic physicians, knew about Brahmi’s benefits thousands of years ago, new research is emerging. The trails have resulted in establishing that this long treasured herb, besides possessing antioxidant properties, also has the amazing ability to facilitate learning and enhance memory and concentration.
Ayurvedic tests describe Brahmi as medhya, a medicine that braces the mind to carry cognitive functions and intellectual pursuits. But ancient authors seem to believe that the healing effects of Brahmi extend far beyond mind and brain. Brahmi is not only a memory-booster and intellect-promoting herb; it is also a muscle relaxant, an anti-convulsant, a blood purifier, and an anti-pyretic, carminative and digestive agent.
Though Brahmi is beneficial for maintaining the tridoshic balance, ayurvedic physicians believe it to be the drug of choice for counteracting the vitiated vata dosha — the factor which governs the nervous system. Brahmi is known for its salutary effect in anxiety, depression, hypertension, sleeplessness, mental retardation, insanity and hysteria.
Acharya Chakradutta has written that Brahmi is beneficial in all types of epilepsy. Ancient texts describe the use of Brahmi in a number of other disorders like biliousness, ulcers, splenomegaly, asthma, skin diseases and in general and senile debility. Brahmi enhances the mind’s ability to learn and concentrate. As it simultaneously calms and invigorates the mind, it is a very good medicine for reducing the effects of stress and nervous anxiety.
It also helps maintain the clarity of thought and has proved effective in treating ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) in hyperactive children, and age-related mental disorders in old persons.
In a double-blind, randomized trial conducted at the Department of Pediatrics, BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur, India, 19 ADHD children, aged 8-10 years old, were given 50 mg. of Bacopa twice daily. 17 ADHD children received a placebo. After 12 weeks of treatment, the children took a battery of specialized tests. The data revealed a significant improvement in the areas of sentence repetition, logical memory, and pair-associative learning (matching things that go together; e.g., “test” and “grade”) in all 19 children who took Bacopa. Evaluation did not occur until four weeks after stopping Bacopa usage, indicating that it had a lasting effect.5
Now, thanks to this study and other numerous studies conducted by the Central Drug Institute (CDRI) in Lucknow, India, it is being introduced to the rest of the world and tested by scientists outside of India, who have found that Bacopa:
According to scientists at the CDRI, a number of compounds have been identified in Bacopa, including bacosides A and B, two chemicals that improve the transmission of impulses between nerve cells in the brain. These bacosides regenerate synapses and repair damaged neurons, making it easier to learn and remember new information. Bacopa also increases serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation.7
Additionally, a recent study at the University of Catania, Italy found that Bacopa’s antioxidants have a protective effect on human DNA fibroblasts (connective tissue cells), suggesting that this Ayurvedic herb may be useful in the treatment of diseases in which free radicals play a key role.8 We all know that an optimal level of nitric oxide (NO) is important. This is because NO is a key mediator in many body functions, most notably cardiovascular health and circulation. However, like most good things, too much nitric oxide can be as dangerous as too little. There is growing evidence that excessive concentrations of nitric oxide (NO), generated within overly activated brain cells, might be involved in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy. A rodent study of brain cells exposed to toxic levels of nitric oxide showed that Bacopa inhibited the DNA damage that occurs in these diseases, suggesting that it may be significant in preventing/or treating them.12
Ayurvedic texts describe three aspects of mental ability: dhi (the power of acquisition or learning), dhriti, (the power of retention), and smriti (the ability to recall). When the three mental functions are not in balance, either individually or in their coordination with one another, then learning problems can crop up. Children who have learning problems often feel like failures in school, which leads to frustration and low self-esteem.
When these three mental functions are coordinated, then the child’s memory is quick and bright. If impurities (ama) are obstructing the channels of communication between these three functions, then not only learning problems but behavioral problems can begin. The high incidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in this country is a prime example of a learning/behavioral problem for millions of children. According to a study in Advanced Pediatrics, the frequency of ADHD among school children has been estimated to be as high as 20 percent.
To understand how Bacopa monniari can help nourish the memory and attention span in children, it’s important to understand the three subdoshas involved in memory. These are Prana Vata, which governs the brain, sensory perception, and the mind; Sadhaka Pitta, which governs the emotions and their effect on the functions of the heart; and Tarpaka Kapha, which governs the spinal fluids, sinus cavities, and sensory organs. In ayurveda, three types of imbalances of the mind are described, and each is associated with a different subdosha. We can correlate diminished learning ability combined with a hyperactive mind, with a breakdown in Prana Vata. A disturbance in Sadhaka Pitta is associated with a learning imbalance that carries over from childhood into adolescence and young adulthood — the Pitta time of life. And imbalances in Tarpaka Kapha correlate with problems with learning that occur without hyperactivity involved.
Two chemicals in bacopa, bacosides A and B, improve the transmission of impulses between nerve cells in your brain. These bacosides regenerate synapses and repair damaged neurons, making it easier for you to learn and remember new things. Bacopa also increases level of serotonin, a brain chemical known to promote relaxation. The herb’s ability to boost brain function while reducing anxiety may explain why it helps treat ADHD.
An unpublished double-blind study conducted in India in 1998 examined bacopa’s effects on 8- to 10-year-old children with ADHD. In it, 19 children took 100 mg of the herb daily while 17 took a placebo. After 12 weeks, those who used the herb performed significantly better on learning tests than the placebo group.
The texts mention that Brahmi is both medhya and hridya, meaning that it supports both the heart and the mind. A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology shows that Brahmi improved acquisition, retention and delayed extinction of newly acquired behavior in rats. Bacopa apparently provides a specialized cleansing and repair system for our nervous system. Its “memory chemicals” are unique saponins known as bacosides. Saponins are natural detergents present in many plants and are commonly used in soaps because of their foaming action. They help flush out damaging chemicals, such as free radicals and excess cholesterol, from the body, protecting molecules such as DNA from damage. The key ones in bacopa, bacoside A and B, are a mixture of saponins that further serve to repair damaged nerve cell connections by aiding protein synthesis, thereby allowing nerves to transmit signals more effectively. The bacosides, combined with many other chemicals in the plant — such as useful alkaloids, sterols and flavonoids — provide a well-stocked cache of brain and nerve foods to boost learning and memory.
The main feature of this ailment is a loss of nerve-cell function in the brain’s hippocampus, and animal studies indicate bacosides have antioxidant activity in the hippocampus as well as the frontal cortex and striatum. This suggests they may help protect the integrity of the brain’s nerve cells in these regions and perhaps deter the onset or development of the disease.
Background: Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative condition mostly affecting the elderly. It significantly affects the patient’s quality of life. So far there is no proven effective therapeutic intervention for such patients. Bacopa monnieri is an indigenous plant which is found throughout India. It has been referred in Ayurveda since centuries as a “Medhya Rasayan” (nootropic).
Studies have shown various effects of Bacopa monnieri among which is its inhibitory effect on the enzyme cholinesterase. This can result in decrease in the breakdown of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter whose decreased levels are seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
This was an open label, prospective, uncontrolled, non-randomized trial. Study population included all newly diagnosed patients of Alzheimer’s disease in the Psychiatry Outdoor Patient Department between 60-65 years of age. Baseline scores on Mini Mental State Examination Scale (MMSES) were recorded for all patients. Subsequently all patients took 300 mg of Bacopa monnieri standardized extract (Bacognize®) orally twice a day for 6 months. MMSES scores were recorded again after the completion of study drug.
Mean age of 39 patients who completed the study was 65.23 years. Study patients showed statistically significant improvements in various components of MMSES including orientation of time, place & person, attention and in their language component in terms of reading, writing & comprehension at the end of trial. The patients involved in this trial also reported improvement in their quality of life, and decrease in the irritability and insomnia.
The results of our clinical trial show that Bacopa monnieri standardized extract (Bacognize® 300 mg twice a day orally) for 6 months results in improvement in some aspects of cognitive functions in geriatric patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. While the above results are encouraging given the improvement in cognitive functions in geriatric Alzheimer’s disease patients, further studies that include a control group are required to validate these results.
Billions of coffee lovers around the world reach for their morning cup to help jumpstart their day, and their brain in the process. Coffee lovers ourselves, we recognize this desirable quality, which is why we’ve infused the herb Bacopa Monnieri to give you more of what you want and expect from your coffee—brain boosting qualities.
Why bacopa Monnieri? It has a long history of use as a popular brain tonic to increased mental clarity, improved mental and brain functions, enhance clear thinking and support learning and memory.
The bacosides (saponins) in Bacopa appear to play a protective role in the synaptic functions of the nerves of the hippocampus, the seat of memory. Nerve impulses are transmitted across the synapses (the gap between the neurons, over which impulses lead to their learning), and their degeneration is believed to contribute to impaired memory and cognition. Use of Bacopa is thus thought to improve learning skills and impaired memory. Additional brain effects of Bacopa demonstrated in lab research include reduction of both anxiety and depression. Biochemically, these nervous system effects have been attributed to an enhancement of the effects of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and, possibly serotonin or GABA.
So what is it about this perennial creeping plant that has neurologist so excited?
Perhaps it’s the purported retention qualities exhibited during a double-blind randomized placebo controlled research study in Australia at the University of Woolongong. Or the decreased rate of forgetting or newly acquired information, verbal learning rate and memory consolidation observed during a similar study reported in Neuropsychopharmachology.
Whatever the study, one thing is certain; a single serving of the nutrient-dense herb isn’t enough. Favorable effects were only observed where daily consumption occurred.