You know the feeling — you have a to-do list a mile long, your boss is harassing you to meet that deadline, and the kids are hungry. When did life get so stressful, and why does it feel like your brain is asleep most days? Supplementing with a plant known as Bacopa Monnieri could help.
Bacopa monnieri — also called Brahmi — has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 3000 years to treat a variety of ailments, most notably to improve memory and lower anxiety. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275200273_Bacopa_for_the_Brain_A_Smart_Addition_to_Western_Medicine
Read on to learn about Bacopa benefits, how Bacopa supplements can improve cognition, and how best to take Bacopa.
What is Bacopa Monnieri?
Commonly known as water hyssop, Bacopa monnieri is a plant that thrives in wet soil and sunny environments around the world, including in Africa, India, Asia, and Europe. It’s also a popular fixture in home aquariums because of its ability to grow and thrive underwater. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3153866/
Bacopa is loaded with antioxidants and studies show this mighty herb can boost brain health, ease depression, and calm the nervous system.
Bacopa is often confused with another herb called gotu kola because they are both referred to as “Brahmi,” a Sanskrit name. Both herbs treat similar conditions and may reduce anxiety and improve memory. But gotu kola belongs to the carrot family, while Bacopa is a member of the snapdragon family of plants. There may be something to the connection, though, because some Ayurvedic practitioners suggest combining the herbs to increase their benefits on the brain and the nervous system.
Bacopa Monnieri Benefits
Bacopa has been found to improve learning and memory retention in rats. Bacopa contains powerful plant chemicals called saponins that scientists think have memory-enhancing effects. In one study, Bacopa helped rats learn new skills more quickly and retain information longer. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21655763/
Bacopa may also help improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by protecting cells from DNA damage in the brain’s memory centers. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5448442/
The neurons (or cells) in your brain grow branches that help them communicate better with other cells, in a process called dendrite branching. A 2011 study found that Bacopa increased the number and length of dendrites, leading to enhanced learning and memory. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3093798/
A three-month study in adults with age-related memory problems found that 125mg given twice a day strengthened their ability to control thoughts and emotions, think logically, and learn new tasks. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20703343/
Bacopa may help reduce the symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), a mental disorder common in children and adults that can increase inattentive and hyperactive behavior. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/symptoms/
Clinical trials in children have found that taking between 125mg and 225 mg of Bacopa daily significantly reduced restlessness, impulsivity, and learning issues while improving cognition and self-control. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24682000/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20228219/
If you’re on a prescription for attention disorders and you’re interested in exploring other options, do not take matters into your own hands. Involve your doctor in your medication decisions. Bacopa may not work as a replacement for prescription medications, and stopping a prescription abruptly can come with some serious side effects.
Stress and anxiety
If you’re under a lot of stress, Bacopa may help. The herb’s traditional use in Ayurveda to treat anxiety is backed up by animal and clinical trials.
In a small study of 35 people, taking 30 ml of Bacopa syrup daily, split into two doses, significantly lowered anxiety and mental fatigue. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3153866/
Have you ever sipped chamomile tea for its soothing effects? Bacopa contains apigenin, the same flavonoid in the chamomile plant that can reduce stress and anxiety. Bacopa also contains another flavonoid called wogonin, the same compound in American Skullcap, which studies show can calm nerves. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29168225/
In a 2011 study on postpartum rats, Bacopa also demonstrated mood-lifting benefits by increasing their levels of serotonin — a brain chemical that regulates mood.https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11064-011-0538-7
Bacopa may also boost the brain’s resilience to stress by increasing stores of certain enzymes that gobble up reactive oxygen species — molecules that in high levels can damage brain cells, leading to neurodegeneration. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15894123/
These trials used small study populations, so more research is necessary to establish a clear link between Bacopa and lower stress levels.
Antioxidants are plant compounds that play an important role in anti-aging, by protecting cells from oxidative stress — cellular damage caused by too many free radicals in the body.
Numerous animal studies have also shown that Bacopa is an effective free radical scavenger in the brain, potentially helping ward off cognitive decline in the elderly. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26413126/
One study found that 250 mg of Bacopa given daily to diabetic rats increased antioxidant enzymes, namely glutathione, superoxide, and catalase, and may help improve the body’s defenses against oxidative stress. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21783922/ It’s hard to say whether humans would experience the same result.
Antioxidants may also help lower inflammation in the body. A 2012 study found that the plant chemicals in Bapoca lowered inflammatory proteins called cytokines in the brain, improving cognitive function. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22198697/
How and When to Take Bacopa
Bacopa Monnieri Dose
Most studies use a dose of 300mg of Bacopa per day. Bacopa can be taken in capsule or powder form, or the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.
When Is the Best Time of the Day to Take Bacopa?
It doesn’t matter whether you take Bacopa in the morning or night, but you do want to make sure you take it alongside a meal. Bacopa is fat-soluble, meaning it relies on fats to carry it through the bloodstream, aiding absorption.
In Ayurveda, Bacopa is mixed with ghee, a clarified butter. You can find commercially available “Brahmi ghee” products online. Suggested use is 1 teaspoon of Brahmi ghee mixed with warm water up to twice daily.
You can also grow your own Bacopa plant and munch on the leaves. The fast-growing plant loves the sun and moist soil, so keep that in mind if you plan to grow it at home. If you live somewhere that regularly reaches temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, then you may want to skip growing Bacopa yourself. Warning – Bacopa tastes bitter, so if that puts you off, you’re better off taking it in capsule form.
Bacopa Monnieri Side Effects
Bacopa may also increase the efficacy of the antidepressant amitriptyline, so it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor or healthcare provider. https://www.scielo.br/j/bjps/a/p6qqWZJ5stfH4MDdb3BQ6xk/?lang=en
As with any dietary supplement, be sure to open a conversation with your doctor or healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.
FAQs about Bacopa Monnieri
What is bacopa vs brahmi vs gotu kola?
Bacopa and gotu kola are herbs traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to improve cognitive function and lower stress. The two are often confused because both go by the name brahmi, a Sanskrit word, but they are entirely different plants with distinct properties.
How long does it take for bacopa monnieri to work?
It can take up to three months for Bacopa monnieri to work. Studies show that a daily dose of 300mg of Bacopa can improve memory in as little as 4-5 weeks, but the most significant improvements were seen after 12 weeks.
How do I eat bacopa monnieri?
Bacopa monnieri leaves can be eaten raw and tossed in a salad, or cooked and added to soups. Cooking reduces the herb’s bitter taste. In India, the leaves are dried and turned into tea. In traditional Ayurveda, Bacopa is stirred through ghee and mixed with warm water.
When during the day should I take bacopa monnieri?
You can take Bacopa monnieri at any time of day, but you do want to make sure you take it with a meal. Bacopa is fat-soluble, meaning it needs fats to help your body absorb it. You can take it in pill or powder form, or eat the leaves.
Is bacopa monnieri safe?
Bacopa monnieri appears to be safe for most people, but it can have negative side effects. These include diarrhea, stomach cramps, and nausea. Bacopa has also been shown to reduce fertility in male mice, but the effects were reversible. Check with your doctor before taking Bacopa.
Can bacopa monnieri be overstimulating?
Bacopa monnieri likely won’t be overstimulating. In fact, the herb is known for having a sedative effect, and Ayurvedic medicine has used it for centuries to treat anxiety. Bacopa also contains apigenin, a bioflavonoid that can reduce stress and anxiety.
Which is better, bacopa monnieri or gingko biloba?
Bacopa and gingko biloba have both been shown to improve memory and learning. Bacopa has the added benefit of boosting mood by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Bacopa is supported by more research and appears to have more benefits than gingko.