A sharp memory and motivation to seize the day are essential for our quality of life. If you don’t have these, you may be desperately seeking a solution for side-effect-free relief.
Bacopa monnieri could be that solution. As a natural herbal remedy, Bacopa may help restore your logical memory and bring joy back to your everyday life. Read on to learn more about how Bacopa works, what it can do for you, and the best ways to take it.
Key Takeaways: Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa Monnieri: Overview
Bacopa monnieri, also known as Bacopa monniera (Linn.), is a type of herbal remedy known as a nootropic. These improve memory impairment, brain health, and cognitive function. Use of the herb appears to have a tonic effect, unlike the overstimulating properties of conventional psychostimulants .
Bacopa monnieri is a creeping perennial plant found in wetlands and as a “weed” in rice paddy fields. Its purple flowers and small, oblong leaves characterize the plant. Native to Australia and India, Bacopa is also seen across Asia and the United States .
Bacopa monnieri is claimed to have been used by ancient Vedic scholars so they could memorize long scriptures and hymns with greater ease. The Charaka Samhita, Susrutu Samhita, and Athar-Ved ancient Ayurvedic texts described the medicinal plant extracts in the 6th century as a herb to relieve mild cognitive impairment and boost their working memory .
Because of its properties, Bacopa monnieri is often called Brahmi. It is named after Brahma, the Hindu creator god. Today, we can find extract of Bacopa in many Ayurvedic herbal formulas given for cognitive dysfunction .
How Does Bacopa Work?
A key group of phytochemicals in Bacopa monnieri are the bacosides. These are fat-soluble glycosides, which can easily cross the blood-brain barrier by simple diffusion . Diffusion requires no complex system of receptors or transporters; instead, a substance just moves from an area of high concentration (e.g., blood) to low concentration (e.g., brain tissue).
The brain is particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress, as it is the most energy-demanding part of the body. Energy production, unfortunately, creates oxidative free radicals, which damage the mitochondria (the cells’ energy generators) and the cell as a whole. Oxidative stress is linked to higher risk and greater severity of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease .
Other effects of Bacopa monnieri involve the neurotransmitters and growth factors in the brain. The herb can significantly increase both serotonin and dopamine even after an age-related decline, which respectively has mood-lifting, stress-busting, and motivation-boosting effects .
This dopamine boost makes Bacopa one of the popular nootropics for motivation. Increased dopamine means you are more likely to see taking action as worthwhile, as the neurotransmitter strengthens areas of the brain involved in emotions, cognition, decision-making, and reward perception .
Additionally, dopamine stimulates areas of the brain that integrate memories, emotion, and cognition. These effects can make dopamine-stimulating supplements helpful nootropics for memory processing, too .
Lab studies even show that Bacopa has effects against a human memory-wiping drug, scopolamine, by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine. This is a major neurotransmitter for cognition. It increases BDNF too, which promotes the growth of new brain cells .
Even better, Bacopa monnieri can relieve inflammation in the brain, measured in one study as interleukin-6 and interleukin-1b levels. The same study also found a decrease in cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone .
Overall, Bacopa monnieri has a broad range of effects on the brain.
How Is It Used?
Bacopa monnieri is used for a wide range of neurological problems, including:
- Anxiety and stress.
Bacopa’s nootropic effects may make it a useful tool in fighting depression symptoms, including among elderly people also experiencing cognitive decline. A clinical study on older volunteers found both improved cognitive function and a reduction in depression .
One of the hallmark symptoms of depression is anhedonia, defined as a loss of ability to feel pleasure. Here, things that generally make you happy or capture your interest no longer do so, which can even include favorite food or spending time with loved ones .
A placebo-controlled trial on Bacopa for depression tested it on both mice and humans. In the mouse model induced by inflammation, Bacopa monnieri extract prevented a loss of interest in sugar. The clinical trial arm also showed that Bacopa extract significantly reduced scores in the Snaith-Hamilton pleasure scale, as well as a standard depression rating scale .
Epilepsy is a disorder featuring abnormal electrical discharges, which manifest as seizures, convulsions, or fits. The damaging effects of these discharges lead to poor cognitive function and psychiatric disorders, with high rates of learning disabilities seen in children with epilepsy .
Bacopa monnieri may protect the brain in cases of epilepsy in several ways. One of these is its regenerative effect, where it increases protein synthesis in the brain. A mouse model of epilepsy repeated the disease’s symptoms of memory impairment and low cognitive performance, while a Bacopa extract was able to partially reverse this .
Additionally, Bacopa could directly relieve the abnormal discharges in epilepsy. It reduces activity of the enzyme glutamate dehydrogenase, which is needed for the neurotransmitter glutamate to function. Glutamate has excitatory effects, and an excess leads to overactivity, such as that seen in seizures. This is why conventional antiepileptic treatment focuses on dampening neuronal function .
A third benefit of Bacopa in epilepsy could be its antidepressant properties. Many people with epilepsy also suffer from depression due to the disorder’s effects on the brain and quality of life, and its unpredictability. Mouse models of epilepsy also find that Bacopa extracts can increase persistence in difficult tasks, a measure of reduced depression .
Reduce Anxiety and Stress
Despite its popularity as a performance booster, Bacopa may relieve stress and anxiety too. A clinical trial where volunteers took a multitasking test after using a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract found significant benefits in mood and test scores. They had lower levels of cortisol too, the primary stress hormone that can trigger feelings of anxiety .
Bacopa can be of use when you need to improve both cognition and anxiety. Older adults taking Bacopa doses to boost mental performance have shown reduced anxiety alongside these effects .
Potential Uses and Benefits
There are many other potential benefits of Bacopa monnieri, but they still require more clinical evidence before we can make a firm decision.
May Lower High Blood Pressure
Preliminary research suggests that Bacopa monnieri could lower blood pressure. Certain bacosides and flavonoids found in Bacopa have relaxant effects on the blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure by increasing available space. This boosts blood flow to the brain too, and may be another way that the herb enhances cognition .
Bacopa dilated the blood vessels in rats by increasing the release of nitric oxide while reducing the release of calcium. Calcium is essential for muscle contractions, so keeping it out of muscle cells’ reach means they stay relaxed .
May Enhance Brain Function
Bacopa monnieri could slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as the ability to prevent amyloid-beta plaque formation. The accumulation of these plaques is the main underlying driver of Alzheimer’s disease, as they are toxic to neurons .
A six-month study of people with Alzheimer’s tested Bacognize, a Bacopa monnieri standardized extract. Here, everyone taking 300 mg of bacopa monnieri extract daily showed improvement in Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores. Language ability; attention span; and time, place, and person orientation were some aspects that improved to varying degrees .
Bacopa monnieri even has cognitive effects in people who do not have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. In another trial, medical students taking 150 mg of Bacognize had higher working memory span and cognition scores after just six weeks .
May Reduce Inflammation
Bacopa monnieri may have anti-inflammatory effects in both the brain and body as a whole. A type of supporting cell known as the microglia are the main players in brain inflammation, and so a lab study tested several types of Bacopa extract against activated microglia .
Here, a Bacopa monnieri tea, infusion, and alkaloid-only extract significantly reduced the microglia’s production of TNF-a and interleukin-6. The three medicinal plant extracts also prevented activity of two key inflammatory enzymes. These are involved in cancers, chronic inflammation, and neurological problems such as Alzheimer’s disease .
May Ease Symptoms of ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms isn’t bad behavior. It is an often debilitating learning disability that can stop a child from reaching their full potential. For this reason, a study of 31 children tested a 225 mg dose of standardized Bacopa monnieri extract over six months, similar to the amount seen in commercially available supplements .
Around three-quarters of children had a 20% or less reduction in their total symptom scores, while the remaining children had their symptom severity fall by 21–50%. The vast majority of children showed improvement in restlessness (93%), self-control (89%), and attention span (85%). Most also had relief of learning difficulty (78%) and impulsivity (67%) .
May Boost Sexual Pleasure
Ayurvedic medicine recognizes Bacopa monnieri, known in Hindi as Mandukaparni, as an aphrodisiac. The dopamine-boosting effects of Bacopa appear to be responsible for this effect .
Dopamine increases sexual excitement in male animal studies, while dopamine medication in humans is linked to restored libido and sexual function. On the other hand, blocking the effects of dopamine dampens desire .
Precautions and Warnings: Is It Safe?
Bacopa monnieri may be natural, but does that make it safe?
Bacopa monnieri can cause gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, abdominal cramps, and increased frequency of bowel movements. There is also at least one rare instance of severe liver toxicity recorded. However, this involved a combination of herbal medicines taken for nine months, and it self-resolved after the affected patient stopped taking them .
Acute toxicity studies on animal models find that even very high doses beyond 1,000 mg per kilogram of body weight had no dangerous effects . These surpass the 300 mg doses given in clinical trials.
Bacopa monnieri appears to affect the function of some detoxification enzymes that metabolize pharmaceutical drugs. The enzymes it may impair help to detoxify drugs including antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and antipsychotics, as well as antiepileptics. However, they are affected more in the intestines than the liver, a difference which has unclear effects .
This means you could be at a higher risk of severe side effects or drug toxicity, as slowed metabolism increases their levels. If you want to take Bacopa supplements, speak with your healthcare provider first, or with a professional experienced in the integration of herbal and pharmaceutical drugs .
How To Take Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa monnieri can be bought as a herbal tea or as a wide range of herbal extracts, some of them standardized to contain specific levels of bacosides.
Bacopa Monnieri Supplements
Bacopa monnieri supplements have an advantage over teas, as they are standardized to ensure the same amount of herbal extract per serving. Many also guarantee a specific amount of certain phytochemicals, usually the bacosides. Below, we review our top three picks for Bacopa monnieri dietary supplements.
Across the clinical trials on Bacopa monnieri, you can see a typical dosage range of 150–300 mg. If you are healthy and want to improve your cognition, a lower dose is generally advised. More serious reasons for taking Bacopa, such as to stave off early Alzheimer’s, require doses at the larger end.
How Long Should You Take Bacopa?
The above clinical studies showing that extracts of Bacopa monnieri improve memory performance and other aspects of brain function generally have long trial periods. A duration of three to six months is the norm. As these periods are needed to see significant effects appear, it is recommended you persist in taking nootropics that feature Bacopa monnieri for at least three months.
You may also benefit from playing brain-training games and recording your results, or keeping a symptom diary to see how long it takes.
Top 3 Bacopa Monnieri Nootropics
Which Bacopa monnieri supplements are worthwhile? Here are our top three picks:
Mind Lab Pro
Mind Lab Pro is a fantastic all-around nootropic supplement featuring 11 evidence-based ingredients. No proprietary blends with hidden dosages and no toxic fillers.
The Bacopa extract used in Mind Lab Pro is standardized to contain 24% bacosides, the main active group of phytochemicals that cross the blood-brain barrier and have broad effects.
Read the full Mind Lab Pro Review here to see if it’s right for you.
Noocube focuses on boosting both dopamine and acetylcholine, as well as the relaxing neurotransmitter, GABA, with seven science-backed ingredients. These, including Bacopa, are included in known therapeutic dosages, with Bacopa standardized for 20% bacosides.
Read the complete Noocube Review here for more information on its clinically proven ingredients and transparency.
Qualia Mind supports neurotransmitter and energy production in the brain through nutrient supplementation, including B vitamins and tyrosine. These are backed up by a selection of targeted herbal remedies such as Bacopa. Its longer ingredient list, however, requires a higher dose to increase the chances of the ingredients’ efficacy.
In a nutshell, what do we need to know about Bacopa monnieri?
How Much Bacopa Can I Take?
Bacopa monnieri has a strong safety profile, with doses of up to 5,000 mg per kilogram of body weight showing no toxicity in animal studies. In human research, regular therapeutic doses only cause mild side effects such as stomach cramps in some people .
We recommend that you stick to the advised dose of your chosen supplement, which typically ranges from 150 to 300 mg. These are safe in the long term.
When Should I Take Bacopa, Morning Or Night?
Some clinical studies reveal that Bacopa begins to work one or two hours after you take it, increasing cognitive function . It is, therefore, best for you to take Bacopa in the morning before you start work or study to maximize its benefits. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, or your supplement recommends a nighttime dose, you can take it in the evening too.
What Are the Side Effects of Bacopa Monnieri?
Bacopa monnieri may cause digestive discomfort, such as abdominal pain and nausea . If you have irritable bowel syndrome, we recommend you use caution. It could also slow the clearance of pharmaceutical drugs, including antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs .
Is Bacopa a Stimulant?
The dopamine-boosting effects of Bacopa make it a kind of natural Adderall. Increasing dopamine levels can give you a feeling of stimulation, as you’re likely more motivated to make decisions and take action . And when you can learn new information faster, you’re less likely to feel discouraged too.
Does Ashwagandha Have Side Effects?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is another popular nootropic herbal remedy, which can be used alongside Bacopa. Clinical trials on Ashwagandha show a strong safety profile, with one only listing mild adverse effects. They included a runny nose in one participant, and constipation in another, but they didn’t have a strong relationship to the herb itself .
Bacopa monnieri shows improved memory and positive effects on cognitive processing, from cell studies to controlled human clinical trials. The strongest evidence is in favor of using the herb for revitalizing intellectual functions and rebalancing mood, while other benefits such as less inflammation and improved sexual performance need more evidence.
Although it is generally safe, Bacopa may interact with prescription drugs, so speak to your healthcare provider before taking any extract of Bacopa.
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