What is Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa Monnieri is a perennial herb, part of Ayurvedic medicine used for many of its nootropic effects. It is native to Eastern India, spread all across the world. From Bacopa’s family, monnieri is one of the most spread ones, since It grows in Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, Pakistan, Vietnam & Taiwan, as well as in other African tropical places like Madagascar and Florida & Hawaii in the USA.
- What is Bacopa Monnieri
- Bacopa Monnieri Benefits
- 1. May Improve Cognitive function
- 2. Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory effects
- 3. Mood elevation, modulates Serotonin and Dopamine
- 4. Enhances Neuroplasticity, improves Learning
- 5. Neuroprotective effects, Anti-aging for the Brain
- 6. Anxiolytic effects, Reduction in Cortisol
- 7. Improves circulation, Lower blood pressure
- 8. May improve ADHD
- Uses, Dosage, Precaution, Drug Interaction
This plant has some amazing nootropic, brain-enhancing effects used back in history 600 A.D for improving mental performance. Other potent nootropics like Caffeine, Lions Mane Mushroom and Cordyceps have also shown some potential cognition enhancement effect.
- Bacopa monnieri was named Brahmi after the supreme god Brahma. It was used in ancient times, for memorizing long texts while traveling, and for some of its anxiolytic effects.
Bacopa is one of the most popular brain-enhancing plants on the planet, as well as one of the most studied Ayurvedic herbs.
It was shown to help in lowering blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, improve cognition and attention span. Besides all these great effects, Bacopa’s main use is to improve memory and enhance neuroplasticity.
Because of its high antioxidant properties, this plant has been used in a variety of supplements aiming at neuroprotective effects on the aging brain. Some of the compounds it contains can fight inflammation and improve antioxidant status in the brain, which is good prevention against brain cell damage or death.
Bacopa has been used in studies mostly as a Standardized BM extract. Content of certain bioactive components in Bacopa is thought to be the main reason behind its therapeutical, nootropic effects.
Here is a list of its Bioactive Compounds:
- flavonoids (glucuronul-7-apigenin, glucuronyl-7-luteolin, luteolin-7-glucoside and luteolin
- saponins (bacogenins, bacosides and bacopasides. (1)
Bacoside A and B are one of the main bioactive components responsible for bacopa’s powerful effects on the brain.
Bacopa Monnieri Benefits
1. May Improve Cognitive function
Memory, which is the ability of the brain to store information, declines with age. Memory declines with age because of the reduction of certain hormones, proteins, and neurotransmitters that nourish these centers. Bacopa has been shown to be beneficial for improving short-term, long-term, and spatial “working” memory, as well as to improve information retention.
Bacopa has active compounds known as bacoside A & B which can improve electrical signaling in the brain while rebuilding damaged neurons. Bacosides can easily cross the blood-brain area. With chronic stress, usually, nerve endings are damaged. Memory and cognition suffer because toxins can hijack normal nerve function and oxidative damage from free radicals can harm cells unless it is properly removed from the system.
The mechanism by which Bacopa can affect memory is mostly related to the pathways that control neurotransmitters. Bacopa was shown to decrease the breakdown of acetylcholine, which helps in brain cell signaling. Acetylcholine plays important role in memory by increasing synapse modification and activating intrinsic mechanisms for persistent spiking which may enhance encoding. (2)
Bacopa may affect serotonin metabolism. Serotonin is known as the happiness hormone, but it also plays role in memory. Serotonin plays important role in an emotional state, sexual behavior, eating pattern, and activity rhythms. The serotonergic system is known to play role in learning and memory as well. (3)
In this 90 day, double-blind, placebo-controlled study Bacopa’s effects on cognition were investigated. Using a special Bacopa Monnieri extract 2 x 150g or placebo. Working memory and visual processing were significantly improved in the experimental group. (4)
Attention & Focus
Bacopa positively affected attention, cognitive processing, and working memory in sixty elderly patients. In 12 week period, participants improved their attention and spatial memory, due to suppression of AChE activity, which is known as Acetylcholinesterase which acts as a catalyst in acetylcholine breakdown in the body. Slowing this process down can improve our acetylcholine levels, which helps cell signaling. (5)
Bacopa Monnieri has also shown some anti-amnesic effects in mice with diazepam induced amnesia. BM extract reduced latency time, probably through affecting the GABA neurotransmitter. (6)
The Bacopa Monnieri extract was also shown to be beneficial for memory acquisition, retention, and verbal learning, information retention and short-term memory. (7) (8) Higher dosages of this plant can cause abdominal cramps and nausea which were experienced in some of the participants.
2. Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory effects
Bacopa Monnieri extract, due to its high antioxidant capacity can be beneficial for decreasing oxidative stress, can protect cells in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, and fight against cytotoxicity. It protects the cholinergic system and reduces amyloid plaque in the hippocampus. Being also able to improve memory, learning, and neuroplasticity this plant is probably one of the most potent nootropics out there. (9)
The age-related cognitive decline comes from inflammation. Inflammation or oxidative stress can damage our brain cells and decrease their efficacy and function. Bacopa was found to battle the damage from oxidative stress and nourish the aging brain, due to its high antioxidant effects. (10) Antioxidant superpowers of this plant some of its other benefits, including cognition-enhancing, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and anti-stress effects. (11)
Lipid peroxidation, known as oxidative degradation of lipids is one of the main reasons for our brain slowing down with age. Free radicals take lipid electrons, which causes damage to the cell membranes. (12) These oxygenated fatty acids possess neurotoxic activity, and usually, patients with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease have increased lipid peroxidation in the brain. (13)
How can Bacopa help with this? Well, Bacopa has been shown to inhibit IL-6 and TNF-α, which are pro-inflammatory cytokines. This is why this study aimed to investigate Bacopa’s effect on CNS inflammatory pathways. Results showed that the infusion, the tea, and alkaloid BM extracts, as well as Bacoside A all significantly inhibited the release of TNF-α and IL-6. This suggests that it inhibits enzymes that are associated with inflammation in the brain. (14)
Significant improvement was shown in peroxidative damage and disturbed antioxidant status in diabetic rats. Bacopa also increases the activity of some antioxidant enzymes like SOD, Catalase, and GPx, suggesting that BM extract had beneficial effects on reducing damage from oxidative stress. (15)
3. Mood elevation, modulates Serotonin and Dopamine
The two most important systems of mood regulation are dopaminergic, the reward system, and serotonergic, a regulator of mood, appetite, and sleep. Levels of dopamine and serotonin play a major role in how you feel daily. Besides regulating other important human needs, these two hormones are known as “the hormone of satisfaction” or Dopamine and “the happiness hormone” – Serotonin.
With the manipulation of these two, by engaging in healthy physical activity, sun exposure, herbal remedies, or improved nutrition we can elevate our mood.
Bacopa monnieri has been traditionally used as a memory enhancer, but this plant also showed other mood-enhancing properties. BM can act as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor and neurotransmitter modulator. It modulates acetylcholine, dopamine (DA), and 5-HT (serotonin receptors). (16)
In this study, BM extract attenuated the stress-induced changes in dopamine and serotonin levels in the cortex and hippocampal regions. (17) It was also shown for Bacopa monnieri to decrease brain noradrenaline and increase dopamine levels in lipid extracts with bacopa. (18)
Reducing cortisol or other stress-related hormones, and increasing serotonin and dopamine are signs of mood improvement, on physiological (hormonal) level. Bacopa showed many axiolytic, adaptogenic, and nootropic effects in 17 health volunteers, in dosages between 320mg and 640mg. (19)
Last but not least, Bacopa Monnieri extract was also shown to reduce morphine hyperactivity and at the same time reduced elevated striatal dopamine and serotonin turnover. These results suggest that BM may act as a potent agent in treating morphine dependence and opioid sensitivity. (20)
4. Enhances Neuroplasticity, improves Learning
Neuroplasticity is a brain-changing process, we can call rewiring or upgrading brain process. Our brain can adapt to change, can learn new things through a change in neural pathways, and synapses. After learning a new instrument or language, there are structural changes in the brain.
High achievers, known to have high cognitive abilities like learning, memory, or focus have enhanced their neuroplasticity through training. How can Bacopa help with this?
Bacopa monnieri is a nootropic that can increase BDNF, which stands for Brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF can improve the differentiation and growth of synapses and neurons, which directly improves neuroplasticity.
This powerful nootropic has shown multiple effects related to learning and memory. Specifically in this study, they treated Wistar rats with three different dosages, 20 mg/kg, 40 mg/kg, and 60 mg/kg divided into 2, 4, and 6 week periods. Bacopa monnieri extracts resulted (especially in higher doses) in increased dendrites length in neurons located in the amygdala (basolateral) and improved spatial learning performance. (21)
In humans, Bacopa Monnieri was investigated on its effects on cognition. It turns out that the group treated with 300 mg of BM extract had improved their learning and memory consolidation skills, with maximal effect after 12 weeks of usage. (22) Three mechanisms behind Bacopa’s nootropic, brain-enhancing effects have been reported. These include antioxidant effect, action on the calcium channels, and change in acetylcholine levels. (23)
In rats, with chronic unpredictable stress-induced situations, they started to show signs of depression, levels of BDNF protein, and mRNA levels in the hippocampus and frontal cortex dropped lower. During 4 week period, Bacopa significantly reduced stress-induced changes in BDNF and mRNA in the hippocampus and frontal cortex. (24)
5. Neuroprotective effects, Anti-aging for the Brain
Besides Bacopa’s cognitive enhancement effects, it was also found to prevent or slow down age-related cognitive decline, due to its antioxidant superpowers which can reduce oxidative stress that causes brain cell damage. Bacopa may also reduce amyloid plaque build-up and modulate certain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that can keep the brain at a healthy functioning level.
When it comes to age-related cognitive decline, higher levels of oxidative stress and build-up of amyloid plaque are your brain enemies. This is where Bacopa may has the potential to act. Studies show that Bacopa in combination with Gotu Kola and Ashwagandha were successful in decreasing the build-up of amyloid plaque in the brain. Accumulation of plaque in the brain is associated with neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. (25)
As for the Oxidative stress levels, as we get older, mitochondrial function decreases, which accelerates cognitive decline. Bacopa can be beneficial in slowing down brain-aging, since it is a powerful antioxidant, plus it can have cognitive enhancement effects. (26)
This may suggest its use as a possible agent in treating dementia. The antioxidant mechanism, inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, and reducing β-amyloid may be some of the mechanisms for its neuroprotective properties. (27)
Since aluminum salts have been reported to accelerate oxidative damage to lipids, nucleic acids, and proteins which causes neurotoxicity in the cerebral cortex, this study investigated BM effects on aluminum toxicity inhibition. Bacopa was successful in reducing this oxidative damage, suggesting it can exert some neuroprotective effects. (28)
The power of Bacopa lies in the bioactive compounds it contains, known as bacosides, which were shown to decrease age-related neuroinflammation. A different mechanism of action is responsible for the neuroprotective properties of this plant, some of which are attenuation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, iNOS protein expression, and total nitrite & lipofuscin content. Long term bacosides treatment prevented aging and neurodegeneration. (29)
6. Anxiolytic effects, Reduction in Cortisol
As an adaptogen, Bacopa can help us deal with stress. Adaptogens have been widely used for stress management since they contain certain bioactive compounds that can enhance our resilience to physical, chemical, mental, or biological stressors.
These plants are believed to interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal HPA axis, to help our body produce hormones or chemicals that can make us more resilient to outside stressors. It may reduce Nitric Oxide or Cortisol levels, which are raised during stress.
It is important to note that stress is not bad by itself unless is chronic, resulting in hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, anxiety, and so on. Our bodies have the needed mechanisms to fight back unless the stressor is too high or too consistent. Adaptogens, like Bacopa monnieri can help us with that. (30)
Stress causes different chemical changes in our blood and brain, increasing cortisol and noradrenaline levels, respectively. Besides this, stress can reduce “feel-good” chemicals like dopamine and serotonin in the brain which can cause mood disturbances. And this is where Bacopa can help too, by increasing the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the cortex and hippocampus. (31)
Another important Bacopa potential in mood improvement lies in its ability to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Bacopa methanolic extract was shown to exert anxiolytic effects in older people. (32) Plus, bacopa when compared to Lorazepam, was quantitively comparible for its anxiolotyic effects, without slowing down motoric activity. Many of these benefits are believed to come from its saponins and bacosides A, B content, powerful bioactive compounds. (33)
7. Improves circulation, Lower blood pressure
Bacopa contains certain bioactive components that can help in the production of Nitric Oxide and improve vasodilation, which enables more blood and oxygen to travel through. This is crucial in treating clogged arteries and lowering blood pressure. Besides this, bacopa may reduce VLDL & LDL oxidation and triglycerides levels which suggests it can be used to lower hypertension.
Bacoside enriched extract of Bacopa Monniera reduced elevated levels of cholesterol and lipoprotein, which are the two main markers in predicting cardiovascular diseases. This study was done on 25 postmenopausal women. After 4 months, Bacopa extract helped in the reduction of VLDL (very low-density lipoproteins) and triglycerides. Blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic, and heart rate reduced in Bacopa’s experimental group. (34)
One of the major causes of hypertension is clogged arteries. Hypertension is a risk factor for many Cardiovascular diseases and lowering down blood pressure can help in most cases. Impairment of nitric oxide in the endothelia is a risk factor for developing hypertension. (35) In this study, Bacopa extract used in rats, resulted in the reduction of blood pressure through increasing the release of Nitric Oxide in the endothelium and action on Calcium homeostasis on vascular muscle. Nitric Oxide acts as a vasodilator and helps in the reduction of blood pressure. (36)
Bacopa may be effective in hypertension since studies found that it possesses some anti-hypersensitive properties. (37)
8. May improve ADHD
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, characterized by hyperactivity and inability to focus. Children with ADHD have a shorter attention span or hard time focusing on one subject for a prolonged period of time.
Using prescription drugs like Adderall (being the most popular one) may have negative side effects and cause damage to the cardiovascular system, if used in excess. Hypertension and tachycardia are known as side effects from long term usage of ADHD drugs. So, using well-studied adaptogens might be a better option for improving cognitive function that has fewer side effects.
In this study, a compound herbal preparation (CHP) helped children with ADHD to improve their focus, attention, cognition, and impulse control. After a 4 month trial, there was a significant improvement in all 4 areas mentioned before. (38) The study suggests that with the usage of well-tolerated herbal remedy we can positively influence brain development.
31 children old between 6-12 years received a dosage of 225 mg/d of (SBME) Standardized Bacopa monnieri extract. After 6 months of treatment, children’s scores improved in restlessness, improvement in self-control for 93% and 89% respectively. Impulsivity symptoms were reduced by 67% and learning problems by 78% of children. (39)
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Uses, Dosage, Precaution, Drug Interaction
Bacopa Monnieri is an adaptogenic herb used in Ayurvedic medicine. Used in different areas, this plant has been shown to be most effective in preventing cognitive decline and improving one’s memory, focus, and attention span. Bacopa is an adaptogen and for its effects to be seen, it will require somewhere from four-six weeks.
It is important to note, that this adaptogenic herb may have some beneficial effects on anxiety, stress reduction, improving brain function, and so on but is not a therapy replacement for serious medical conditions. That being said, these are the areas in which Bacopa was used in the past.
- Memory improvement
- Mental Illness
- Sexual dysfunction
- Fluid retention
- Joint Pain
In 2019 FDA had sent a warning to suppliers of herbal supplements for their claims on how plants like Bacopa can treat various diseases like Alzheimer’s, a stomach disorder, or controlling blood pressure. (40)
Bacopa Monnieri is considered possibly safe taken by mouth, by adults for up to 12 weeks. Long term studies on BM side effects are not available yet.
There have been examples of lighter side effects like stomach cramps, abdominal discomfort, nausea, dry mouth, and fatigue in people who took more than recommended dosages. Otherwise, it is well tolerated by most people.
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding women should stay away from this supplement to avoid possible side effects.
- Bradycardia patients or people with slow heart rate shouldn’t use Bacopa, since it can slow down the heart rate and amplify the problem.
- People with gastrointestinal tract blockage should stay away too, since BM may cause congestion, thus creating additional problems.
- Ulcers might worsen since bacopa can increase secretion in the intestines and stomach and worsen the preexisting situation
- For asthmatic patients or anyone with a lung problem, due to BM effect on increasing lung fluid, is best to stay away from it.
- Hyperthyroidism or anyone with thyroid problems must consult a doctor since Bacopa can raise thyroid hormone levels.
Bacopa Monnieri dosage depends on factors like age, health, sex, activity level, and so on. There is no recommended dosage of it. Usually, with Bacopa, it depends on the percentage of bacosides it has in it.
- Some doctors recommend a dosage that has 45% bacosides – 200-450mg daily or 20% bacoside 750mg daily, while higher doses are best taken divided throughout the day.
- The logic here goes that the higher the bacoside percentage, the lower the dose, and the other way around. From the studies used on humans, there were different forms of it. It can be used as powder, extract, or taken in a capsule form. In studies on humans, the dosage of 300mg of BM extract was well tolerated.
Studies have some limitations, important to evaluate the validity of their results. Here’s a highlight of some and NOT ALL studies (and limitation), shown in this article, for context.
- Further research to investigate the role of cholinergic modulation.
- Further research to investigate effective dosage range for Bacopa Monnieri.
- Further research to investigate BM’s synergistic effects with other Ayurvedic herbs.
- In-vitro research done in animal models *Male Wistar rats, anaesthetized rats.
- Further research to investigate the duration to attain BM’s effects over long term administration.
- Meta-analyses which show potential for cognition improvement, without specific recommendations.
- Investigating specific population, hard to generalize *elderly population with neurological conditions.
- In vivo studies *effects of biological entities tested on whole, living organisms or cells.
- Not-implied in vivo brain imaging techniques to study central oxidative stress and brain aging.
Bacopa Monnieri is one of the most powerful nootropic herbs that has shown the potential to improve our Cognition. Numerous health benefits include improving both short-term and long-term memory, anti-inflammatory properties, mood elevation, endorphin secretion increase, improved learning & neuroplasticity and circulation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Bacopa Monnieri?
Bacopa Monnieri is very well-known Ayurvedic herb, with many potential nootropic or “brain-enhancing” effects. It was used in ancient times to memorize long text while traveling, plus for its anxiolytic effects.
How does Bacopa Monnieri work?
Bacopa Monnieri is involved in pathways that control neurotransmitter secretion and transport. It is known to reduce acetylcholine breakdown, thus helping neural transmission. It’s compounds, bacosides A and B are known to help with electrical signaling, which can improve memory (short-term, long-term and spatial memory). It also may affect serotonin metabolism, known as the happiness hormone.
What are the benefits of Bacopa Monnieri?
Bacopa Monnieri comes with a myriad of potential health benefits which include:
– may support brain function
– may improve memory and learning
– is potent antioxidant, reduces inflammation
– can improve circulation/ blood flow
– It may elevate mood, increase serotonin and dopamine
– may enhance neuroplasticity and increase BDNF levels
– exerts neuroprotective effects, may reduce amyloid plaque build-up
– can potentially reduce anxiety & stress
Is Bacopa Monnieri powerful nootropic for the brain?
Yes, Bacopa is one of the most powerful nootropic herbs. It is known to support brain function and may aid in improving short-term and long-term memory, improve cell signaling, reduce neural inflammation and degeneration.
Can Bacopa monnieri improve memory, cognition and focus?
Research shows that supplementing with Bacopa Monnieri extract may support brain function, improve cognitive function and potentially improve short-term and long-term memory.
Is Bacopa Monnieri good for neuroprotection?
The main potential benefit of Bacopa Monnieri related to neuroprotection has to do with its potential to reduce amyloid plaque build-up. Amyloid plaque-build-up is actually associated to neurodegenerative diseases. By improving circulation and mitochondrial function, BM may exert neuroprotective activities.