Bacopa Monnieri Nootropic Effects: Memory, Learning, Focus, and Cognition
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, and spread all across the world. From Bacopa’s family, monnieri is one of the most spread ones growing worldwide. Bacopa Monnieri nootropic effects extend beyond memory. From enhancing learning and focus to neuroplasticity, bacopa’s one of the all-in-one nootropics.
- What is Bacopa Monnieri
- Bacopa Monnieri Benefits
- 1. May Improve Cognitive function
- 2. Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory effects
- Mood Enhancing
- 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 natural nootropics like Caffeine, Lions Mane Mushroom, and Cordyceps have also shown some potential cognition enhancement effects.
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.
Bacopa may help in lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and anxiety, improve cognition and attention span. Besides all these great effects, it’s known for its neuroprotective and memory-enhancing effects.
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. The 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 (1)
Bacosides 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.
- Bacopa may improve memory by decreasing the breakdown of acetylcholine – enhancing brain signaling. ACH plays a role in memory as it activates intrinsic mechanisms and increases synapse modification. (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)
- Bacopa supplementation at 150g x 2 significantly improved working memory and visual processing in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, compared to a placebo. (4)
Attention & Focus
By suppressing Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) bacopa positively affected attention, cognitive processing, and working memory in sixty elderly patients. – AChE acts as a catalyst in acetylcholine breakdown – it’s slowing improves acetylcholine levels and helps brain signaling. (5)
- Bacopa Monnieri has also shown some anti-amnesic effects in mice with diazepam-induced amnesia. BM extract reduced latency time, probably by affecting the GABA neurotransmitter. (6)
- Bacopa Monnieri extract was also shown to be beneficial for memory acquisition, retention, verbal learning, information retention, and short-term memory. (7) (8) Higher dosages of this plant can cause abdominal cramps and nausea which were experienced by 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 fighting against cytotoxicity. It protects the cholinergic system and reduces amyloid plaque in the hippocampus. (9)
Age-related cognitive decline partially develops due to inflammation and oxidative stress. Bacopa is known to reduce both, due to its high antioxidant status. (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. All four – 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)
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 a physiological (hormonal) level. Bacopa showed many anxiolytic, adaptogenic, and nootropic effects in 17 healthy 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 – rewiring in a sense. Our brain can adapt to change and 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)
Extra research: Bacopa on Cognition
- 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
Bacopa may assist in slowing down cognitive decline due ot its high antioxidant status – reduction of oxidative stress and its ability to reduce amyloid plaque build-up in the brain.
- Bacopa in combination with Gotu Kola and Ashwagandha was 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 Oxidative stress levels, as we get older, mitochondrial function decreases, which accelerates cognitive decline. Bacopa can be beneficial in slowing down brain aging – acting as an antioxidant, fighting oxidative stress. (26) (27)
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. (28)
- Bacosides are powerful bioactive compounds found in Bacopa. Bacosides may reduce neuroinflammation as some of their effects include 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. (30)
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.
- Stress reduces dopamine and serotonin, which make us feel good. Bacopa can counteract this by increasing serotonin and dopamine levels in the cortex and hippocampus. (31)
- Bacopa methanolic extract was shown to exert anxiolytic effects in older people. (32) Plus, bacopa when compared to Lorazepam, was quantitively comparable for its anxiolytic effects, without slowing down motoric activity. (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.
- Bacoside-enriched extract of Bacopa Monniera reduced elevated levels of cholesterol and lipoprotein, which are the two main markers in predicting cardiovascular diseases. (34)
One of the major causes of hypertension is clogged arteries. Hypertension is a risk factor for many Cardiovascular diseases and lowering blood pressure can help in most cases. Impairment of nitric oxide in the endothelia is a risk factor for developing hypertension.(35)
- Bacopa extract 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. (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 a hard time focusing on one subject for a prolonged period of time.
Using prescription drugs like Adderall (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 children with ADHD, compound herbal preparation improved their focus, attention, cognition, and impulse control. (38)
- Standardized bacopa extract at 225 mg/d (SBME) also improved restlessness and self-control by 93% and 89% respectively. Impulsivity symptoms were reduced by 67% and learning problems by 78% of all 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 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.
According to WebMD, there are special precautions to be taken into consideration, before supplementing with Bacopa Monnieri for these groups of people: (40)
- 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.