The brahmi (bacopa monnieri) plant has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions, but it has been only relatively recently looked at by people in the west. What some studies are beginning to show is that bacopa might contain significant healing properties that may help to address many of the most common mind-related disorders. Not only that, but reasonably light side effects make it even more promising to hopefully one day help people deal with severe issues.
While the plant itself looks fairly unassuming, even decorative, this small flower has powerful properties which we'll discuss in more detail below.
Stress is a significant factor that is plaguing people around the world. Chronic stress especially has a magnifying impact on other ailments and can make a bad situation worse. Fortunately, studies like one done by the Central Drug Research Institute in India are showing a lot of promise. An animal study involving a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract demonstrated a measurable reduction in acute and chronic stress, lowering occurrences of stomach ulcers and excessive adrenal activity. This particular study suggests that bacopa has adaptogenic properties, meaning that it promotes the stabilization of physiological processes, bringing the body closer to homeostasis. At the same time there is research into bacopa's benefits in promoting antioxidant activity. But what is becoming clear from these studies is that adaptogen supplements may provide massive benefits for users.
Reducing stress can play a role in lowering anxiety and depression. The University of Michigan Health System looked into that connection and found through one animal study that bacopa seems to decrease the intensity and occurrence of both, potentially through an enhancement to the effects of acetylcholine, not to mention serotonin and GABA.
Further, there’s evidence to suggest that bacopa increased the body’s use of nitric oxide and encouraging better vascular muscle function by helping to regulate blood pressure. A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology concluded that some elements of Bacopa monnieri may effectively reduce high blood pressure.
Another study published in Current Medicinal Chemistry demonstrated that bacopa-based treatments seem to have significant pain reduction properties akin to morphine. Moreover, it appears to do so while offering benefits for organs that might be damaged by opiate toxicity including the brain, kidneys, and heart. Although more research is certainly needed, chronic pain management with bacopa might one day be considered a safe, herbal medicine for a wide range of patients in various age groups.
There are a number of ways that this nootropic herb can help to address and enhance the way that your brain functions.
For example, at least one double-blind, 12-week study suggests that it may contribute to improved memory. Researchers at the Neuropsychology Laboratory at the School of Biophysical Science and Electrical Engineering in Australia conducted a test where volunteers would either be given 300 milligrams of a bacopa supplement daily or a placebo. They were given memory tests in advance of the test to provide a baseline.
Those same tests were given to them again at five and 12 weeks. Each time, the bacopa group showed significant improvement in their ability to access memories, something that the researchers have speculated might be related to an improvement in higher order cognitive functioning which contribute to how we input information into our brains.
While more research (and clinical trials) is definitely needed it's exciting that bacopa may be a cognitive enhancer that provides brain boosting and brain health properties, which promotes learning and memory.
Bacopa may also be beneficial for other health issues and many studies have been done on its potential positive effects. In one specific 12-week, double-blind study children who had ADHD were given 50 milligrams of bacopa twice daily and showed notable improvements in tests related to mental control, memory, and paired associated learning.
What was particularly interesting was that tests weren’t done until four weeks after bacopa usage had been stopped, suggesting that if there was a causal connection, that it might lead to long term treatments for mental health.
Effects of Bacopa
While the science is still very much up in the air as to the specific effects of the bacopa plant as used in supplements, there are some that seem to stand out.
Bacopa seems to have a positive effect on memory and recall as well as supporting learning by increasing focus and attention. It better regulates dopamine and serotonin in many test subjects and could be enhancing brain communication which might also contribute to a decrease in anxiety and depression. It is non-addictive and doesn’t seem to cause many of the side effects that you would find in other products.
Some possible bacopa side effects are nausea (particularly if taken on an empty stomach), cramping, bloating, diarrhea, dry mouth, or fatigue. It can also have drug interactions with sedatives or intensify thyroid-stimulating drugs. Patients should consult their doctors or health care professionals about taking brahmi bacopa monnieri to make sure there are no interactions with anything else they might be taking. This is especially important if they have medical conditions where taking such a supplement may have detrimental effects.
As more research is done on we’ll have a better idea of exactly how it can help the body perform at its best.