Bacopa monniera (also known as Brahmi) is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used for centuries to help people of all ages learn and remember new information. In fact, it is classified as a rasayana (herbal remedy) in ancient Vedic texts to slow down brain aging, and help regenerate neural tissues.1Today scientists are studying how Bacopa supports cognitive function, and are discovering some pretty interesting additional benefits.
Enhances working memory
A study recently published in the Journal of Enthnopharmacology (Jan 8,2010) found that when Alzheimer’s animal models (rats that were given a substance to simulate Alzheimer’s disease) were given an extract of Bacopa they had better spatial memory and were more successful at navigating a maze. There was also improvement in the density of cholinergic neurons—nerve cells that produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is in low supply in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Consequently, the researchers believe that Bacopa is a potential cognitive enhancer and neuroprotectant against Alzheimer’s disease.2
Bacopa has also been shown to improve memory in human trials. A 90-day double-blind placebo controlled trial with 62 participants who completed the study found that, like in the above animal study, the participants who took the Bacopa (150 mg. twice a day) performed significantly better on a spatial memory test than those who took a placebo.3
Reduces anxiety and depression
Another interesting discovery is that Bacopa helps reduce anxiety and depression in the elderly. In a double-blind placebo controlled study at Helfgott Research Institute, National College of Natural Medicine, in Portland, Oregon, 48 participants, 65 or older, were given a daily dose of 300 mg. of Bacopa or a placebo for 12 weeks.
The participants did not have clinical signs of dementia, but those who took the Bacopa showed improved word recall memory scores in comparison to the placebo group. The Bacopa group also showed less anxiety and depression after taking the supplement when compared to the placebo group. It’s interesting that heart rate decreased in the Bacopa group over time, but increased in the placebo group. This study provides further evidence that Bacopa has potential for safely enhancing cognitive performance in the elderly, without producing side effects.4
Supports the learning and retention of new information
An Australian study reported on the effects of Bacopa on human memory. Seventy-six adults between 40 and 65 years old took part in a double-blind randomized, placebo controlled study in which various memory functions were tested and levels of anxiety measured. There were three testing sessions: one prior to the trial, one after three months on the trial, and one six weeks after the completion of the trial. The results showed a significant effect of the Bacopa on a test for the retention of new information, leading the researchers to conclude that Bacopa decreases the rate of forgetting newly acquired information.5
How does Bacopa work?
According to scientists at the Central Drug Research Institute, 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 support cognitive function, making it easier to learn and remember new information. Bacopa also supports serotonin activity, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation.
How safe is Bacopa?
Bacopa is safe and effective for people of all ages, without any known side effects. It does not contain addictive ingredients and can be used indefinitely.
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Singh RH, Narsimhamurthy K, Singh G. Neuronutrient impact of Ayurvedic Rasayana therapy in brain aging. Biogerontology. 2008 Dec;9(6):369-74. Epub 2008 Oct 18.
Uabundit N, Wattanathorn J, Mucimapura S, Ingkaninan K. Cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective effects of Bacopa monnieri in Alzheimer's disease model. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Jan 8;127(1):26-31. Epub 2009 Oct 4.
Stough C, Downey LA, Lloyd J, Silber B, Redman S, Hutchison C, Wesnes K, Nathan PJ. 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. 2008 Dec;22(12):1629-34.
Calabrese C, Gregory WL, Leo M, Kraemer D, Bone K, Oken B. Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med.2008 Jul;14(6):707-13.
Roodenrys S, Booth D, Bulzomi S, Phipps A, Micallef C, Smoker J. Chronic effects of Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) on human memory. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2002 Aug;27(2):279-81.