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What Are the Benefits of Bacopa Monnieri?

The Bacopa monnieri plant is an herb that has been used as part of Ayurvedic medicine (an ancient Indian medical system that utilizes natural, often herbal, remedies) for thousands of years. 

Ayurvedic medicine practitioners have used various forms of Bacopa extract to enhance memory and learning, as a remedy for epilepsy, and as a sedative, among other purposes. In fact, Ayurveda classifies Bacopa as “Medhya rasayana,” which is a group of medicinal plants that support memory and intellect.

More recently, research has begun to reveal a scientific basis for many of Bacopa monnieri’s health benefits, which may be attributable to a group of potent, bioactive phyochemical compounds known as “bacosides.”

Bacopa Monnieri Benefits

The likely benefits of Bacopa monnieri are extensive, and include the following positive effects:

Packed With Antioxidants

Bacopa monnieri is thought to be full of antioxidants, a group of substances that neutralize and reduce the damage caused by free radicals, which may contribute to debilitating and even deadly chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 

More specifically, the antioxidant bacosides in Bacopa seem to prevent a process called lipid peroxidation from taking place. Lipid peroxidation occurs when free radicals and fat molecules react with one another. This process has been associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. 

However, a systematic review of randomized controlled trials showed that Bacopa does not have particular benefits for Alzheimer’s disease, but has also acknowledged that larger studies in humans are needed to better understand the herb’s effects on these kinds of neurological diseases.

May Reduce Inflammation

Although inflammation is a necessary part of the body’s mechanisms for healing, chronic inflammation is associated with chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and more. Thus, the fact that test-tube and animal studies found that Bacopa monnieri seems to inhibit the cytokine molecules and enzymes that lead to pain, and inflammation is promising. In fact, animal studies found that Bacopa’s anti-inflammatory benefits were similar to indomethacin, which is a prescription drug that treats inflammation. However, more studies of Bacopa are needed to confirm that these anti-inflammatory effects carry over to humans.

May Enhance Brain Function

There is quite a bit of evidence to support Bacopa monnieri’s beneficial effect on brain function. For instance, a study of the herb’s effect on rats demonstrated that it increased the rat’s ability to hold onto and recall information as well as their spatial learning. These benefits were further confirmed when the study found that Bacopa increased the length and branching of dendrites, which are nerve cells in the brain that are essential for learning/memory functions.

Studies in humans also show that Bacopa monnieri may be beneficial for brain function. A 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of healthy adults found that taking Bacopa monnieri on a daily basis increased memory, rate of learning, and speed of processing visual information. Likewise, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of elderly adults showed that daily use of Bacopa extract improved their memory and information processing.

May Alleviate ADHD Symptoms

Taking Bacopa monnieri may also alleviate symptoms of ADHD, although more studies are needed to confirm this effect. Early research is promising however, with a six-month study finding that 85 percent of children who took Bacopa monnieri daily had fewer ADHD symptoms (e.g., impulsivity, lack of self-control, hyperactivity, etc.). 

May Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Bacopa monnieri is known as an adaptogen, which means that it reduces stress and increases one’s ability to cope with stressful situations. It may have this effect by lowering levels of cortisol, an important stress hormone. 

Although a study of Bacopa’s anti-anxiety properties in rodents found that it was comparable in efficacy to lorazepam, a powerful anti-anxiety drug, the results of human studies of these effects are inconsistent. One human study found that taking Bacopa twice a day for four weeks lowered rates of anxiety and stress levels, but another found no anti-anxiety effect. Further studies in humans are needed to clear up this discrepancy.

May Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease, so the fact that Bacopa monnieri may help to lower blood pressure means that it may also help to prevent the development of heart conditions. 

An animal study found that Bacopa reduced blood pressure by releasing nitric oxide, dilating blood vessels and thereby lowering blood pressure. Although a recent study confirmed this effect in humans, an older study found no effect from Bacopa on blood pressure levels. Therefore, more human studies are needed to determine whether Bacopa monnieri is a useful treatment for high blood pressure.

May Have Anticancer Properties

Although research on Bacopa monnieri’s anticancer properties has been limited to in vitro (test-tube) and animal studies, their results have thus far been promising. These studies have found that Bacopa’s antioxidant bacosides can inhibit the growth of or even kill cancer cells.   Further studies of Bacopa monnieri’s effect on cancer in humans are needed to understand the nature of its benefits.

What Are Some Other Names for Bacopa Monnieri?

Bacopa monnieri is also known by a number of other names: brahmi, water hyssop, thyme-leaved gratiola, herb of grace, and Indian pennywort. 

Note that some of these names, such as “water hyssop,” may also refer to related plants, such as Bacopa caroliniana. 

Who Should Not Take Bacopa Monnieri?

Bacopa monnieri is generally believed to be safe for most people, but some people might experience side effects of Bacopa monnieri and should be especially careful. Bacopa monnieri side effects may include dry mouth as well as digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping. 

Use of Bacopa monnieri has not been studied in pregnant or lactating women, so those groups should avoid supplementing with it. Similarly, Bacopa monnieri can interact with some medications, so it’s important to speak with a doctor before beginning to take it if you are on any prescription medications. For example, it may interact with amitriptyline and alter the drug’s effects.

Bacopa Monnieri Supplements

Bacopa monnieri supplements may be consumed in a number of different forms, such as powders and capsules. The average Bacopa monnieri dosage ranges from about 300 to 450 mg daily but may be higher or lower depending on the condition being treated. 

One of the best supplements containing Bacopa is Body Kitchen Total Brain, in which this potent herb is combined with several other natural extracts with cognition-supporting benefits.

Total Brain

Body Kitchen Total Brain contains a combination of three potent ingredients in each two-capsule daily dose:

  • 320 mg of Synapsa®: A form of Bacopa monnieri extract, Synapsa® benefits are supported by six clinical studies. The 320 mg of Bacopa extract in each dose has been shown to improve working memory by four times as compared to placebo.

  • 100 mg of CognatiQ®: This dose of whole-fruit coffee berry extract provides plenty of neuroprotective polyphenols and is thought to stimulate brain activity associated with learning by 143 percent.

  • 65 mg of Brainberry®: This form of Aronia berry extract is high in anthocyanins that support brain function and eye health. It may even improve hand-eye coordination after six weeks of supplementation.

The benefits of this combination of ingredients may include improving memory and cognition, supporting concentration, boosting creativity/productivity, and promoting eye and brain health.