Bacopa monnieri, moneywort, water hyssop, and brahmi – all names which relate to one “wonder herb”. Due to its numerous neurological benefits, bacopa herb has been classified as a nootropic. Among many things, it has proven effective in repairing damaged nerve cells, thus improving brain function and neuron communication. It also serves as a powerful brain cell protector, keeping brain cells safe from harmful chemicals that could cause neurological diseases.
Since it is hardly possible to put all benefits into a single sentence, or even a small passage – let’s dissect this plant to conduct a detailed examination.
What is bacopa monnieri
Bacopa is a creeping herb that grows in wetlands and bogs on inhabited continents – in tropical and subtropical regions, especially on the American continent. It got its name from the Hindu god of creation, Brahmā and is best recognized for its small fleshy leaves and white flowers.
Traditionally it was used in India and their Ayurvedic system of healing. Bacopa has been a crucial remedy in ancient healing practices of Indians and Chinese, who were one of the first to discover that it has the power to bring your body and mind into balance.
Is bacopa safe to use
Bacopa monnieri is safe for consumption by both children and adults. Unlike other supplements which demonstrate similar benefits, bacopa supplement mixes well and hasn’t yet demonstrated any side-effects in combination with other nootropics.
When it comes to dosage, there is no universal amount – it depends on a user’s age, health, a condition they are treating, and a few other factors. It is best to follow directions on product labels and instructions provided by medical professionals.
Important: Bacopa monnieri should not be used in combination with (or instead of) antidepressants, Alzheimer’s medications, glaucoma medications, or antihistamines without consulting with your doctor first.
Benefits of Bacopa monnieri
While ancient cultures understood bacopa monnieri benefits, they could not explain how exactly it worked its wonders. Today we know that the bacopa herb contains biologically active compounds, including alkaloids, flavonoids, and saponins, all responsible for this plant’s positive therapeutic and pharmacological effects.
Here’s what we have discovered so far about bacopa monnieri plant and its effect on our well-being.
Boosts mood and mental health
Since bacopa may increase the neurotransmitter effect, its consummation can help you maintain the sense of calmness. This way it minimizes the chances of suffering from any mental illnesses.
Here’s what happens – the imbalance of certain neurotransmitters, such as noradrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine, can be the cause of depression, anxiety, or even schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. People diagnosed with any of the diseases are prescribed pharmaceutical drugs which, although help improve a patient’s state, often come with unwanted side-effects.
For this reason, bacopa represents a better alternative for some patients, since it acts as a powerful mood booster and anti-depressant but comes without any negative outcomes.
Bacopa has been classified under adaptogens, a group of herbs that aid in improving resilience to stress. As already mentioned, it maintains your internal balance, so it helps prevent the onset of serious mental illnesses. However, it is also highly beneficial for fighting everyday stress and anxiety. It manages the production of cortisol, keeping the levels of this stress hormone in balance.
Chronic stress and acute stress have been declared modern-age diseases on a global level and have been known to trigger more serious conditions – ulcers probably being the most common ones. Fortunately, a study from 2003 managed to prove that bacopa can reduce damaging adrenaline activity and in return stomach ulcers.
Furthermore, it is essential to mention that bacopa herb doesn’t act like a sedative. While it has a calming effect for a stressed mind, it simultaneously increases your energy – and this is precisely what makes it a preferable antidepressant.
Improves memory in people of all ages
Bacopa is often referred to as a memory enhancer, not just for elderly and patients suffering from neurological disorders, but also for young adults looking for an effective memory boost, and in children treating certain brain-related conditions.
Studies involving humans further support bacopa monnieri’s ability to minimize the effect of dementia, but also Parkinson’s disease and in some cases even epilepsy, without exhibiting higher levels of toxicity. The herb demonstrated great potential in the amelioration of cognitive disorders, simultaneously promoting cognitive enhancement in healthy people, and reducing oxidative damage.
Nonetheless, what it has been shown to affect most positively was participants’ performance in delayed word recall tests, which measure a certain type of memory. In children, especially, bacopa improves their overall language skills – their ability to process sounds and understand words, ability to learn new words and expand vocabulary, as well as spelling.
Balances neurotransmitter levels
Neurotransmitters represent biochemicals that are utilized by brain cells for communication. Additionally, they are responsible for our mood, energy, motivation, and even appetite.
The Bacopa herb has been shown to help balance neurotransmitters like serotonin (happiness hormone), GABA (a hormone which pauses brain activity when needed) and dopamine (hormone which regulates productivity and motivation). Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for memory and learning, is also affected positively by this wonder plant. In seniors, low Acetylcholine levels have been shown to reduce short term memory effectiveness.
Therefore, introducing a bacopa supplement into your diet can improve your ability to concentrate, learn and remember, as well as relax and get some rest when needed.
Prevents brain aging
The Bacopa herb has also shown to be a powerful instigator of new brain cell formation. In fact, a study published in Romanian Journal of Morphology and Embryology demonstrated that there was a significant increase in the dendritic intersections and branching points in adult rats who were treated with bacopa monnieri between 4 and 6 weeks. They demonstrated better spatial learning abilities and memory retention.
However, further studies are required to prove the extent to which bacopa herb affects brain aging in humans. What we know so far is that it is a potent antioxidant that prevents brain damage caused by free radicals that can hasten the process of cell aging. Bacopa seeds can also boost brain plasticity, that is, the brain’s ability to grow and form new neural pathways.
Fights Alzheimer’s disease
According to Alzheimer’s Drug Foundation, bacopa supplements might hold promise for Alzheimer’s induced dementia. At this point, there are no human studies, only observational studies and clinical trials which had promising results.
So far, participants demonstrated slightly improved scores on some cognitive tests, but not enough to significantly change everyday functioning. However, hints about its benefits received from clinical trials were strong enough to encourage further research.
Epilepsy seizures are a result of miscommunication between brain cells.
While no research has been conducted on humans, animal studies indicate that bacopa extract might just be an effective natural treatment for epilepsy. The results have shown that this herb regulates gene expression and repairs faulty brain cell reception. It also increases GABA responses, thus providing us with enough proof that seizure activity and cognitive impairment can be relieved with bacopa.
Minimizes chronic pain
Chronic pain represents a huge health concern for a modern generation, not only due to a feeling of constant discomfort, but also because in as much as 77% of cases it results in depression. Can bacopa work its magic in this case as well?
According to a review published in Current Medicinal Chemistry – yes. Namely, the bacopa herb displayed pain-reducing capabilities similar to morphine. In combination with its anti-depressant properties, it is considered a safe herbal therapy for patients who are looking for an alternate pain management solution.
Helps children diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia
Although studies still haven’t defined the mechanisms related to bacopa supplement’s effect on ADHD and dyslexia patients, its benefits are evident.
What sets it apart from other brain supplements is the fact that the influence of bacopa monnieri has been studied on children. The results have demonstrated that a bacopa supplement can alleviate the symptoms of the two disorders, aiding young minds reducing their urge to act impulsively, boosting their levels of self-control, and helping them concentrate while studying.
Adults struggling with dyslexia, as well, can benefit from bacopa extract. In fact, a research which included adults aged between 40 and 65 has proven that the herb promotes retention of new information, perception, concentration, attention span reaction, and performance times. Furthermore, bacopa has shown to improve results when it comes to boosting peoples’ multitasking abilities and reducing anxiety related to cognitively demanding tasks.
Prevents heart disease
An animal study involving rats consuming the bacopa herb as a potential remedy for some cardiac and renal damage. It seems that this plant’s protective properties are strong enough to minimize the possibility of heart or kidney damage, which can be to some extent attributed to its antioxidant activity.
Those suffering from cholesterol might benefit from bacopa too, as it could potentially protect various biochemical changes which occur as a result of higher cholesterol levels. Additionally, it protects the heart against ischemia-reperfusion injury and reduces blood pressure.
Supports cerebral blood flow
Rejuvenation research conducted in 2016 demonstrated bacopa can increase blood flow to the brain, thus boosting necessary transport of oxygen, hormones, nutrients, glucose, and neurotransmitters. All of these are the brain’s primary energy sources, necessary for optimal functioning.
Prevents aluminum toxicity
As a neurotoxic metal, aluminum can have a negative effect on memory, as is quite often found in high concentrations in people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Bacopa monnieri presented itself as an effective tool for preventing the decrease in SOD activity and increase in oxidative damage done to proteins and lipids – both resulting from aluminum toxicity. Bacopa showed the same level of success as l-deprenyl (selegiline), which is commonly prescribed to reduce symptoms in patients who have entered early-stage Parkinson’s.
Bacopa as an alternative
As already mentioned above, bacopa is a great alternative for other more addictive supplements and nootropics which have in some cases resulted in negative side-effects.
What has been investigated more closely is the comparison between bacopa herb and Adderall, commonly used to treat depression and ADHD. Though it is an over-the-counter drug in most countries, a number of side-effects have been reported over the years that bacopa has far and few downsides.
Unfortunately, Adderall can be addictive and has well documented negative outcomes, even when used in the short-term. These include insomnia, restlessness, appetite suppression, and in some more extreme cases – cardiac issues. Bacopa, on the other hand, is not addictive at all and has also been sown to be effective in treating depression and ADHD, along with a number of other diseases and health conditions.
Additional clinical studies are needed to discover the full potential of this wonder herb, and to which extent it can boost our neurological functioning and reduce overall brain damage. However, research conducted so far support indications that bacopa monnieri can minimize the negative effects of neurological disorders, as well as improve our mood, memory, and cognition. Its long history of use is also a testament to bacopa’s effectiveness.
Today, bacopa extract is a popular ingredient in a number of brain supplements, but it can also be found as an individual supplement. It is produced most commonly in a form of a pill, but it is also possible to see it in a form of a powder or liquid extract.
Bacopa tea has also been growing in popularity in recent years. While it may not keep you as alert as a caffeine beverage, it does create a somewhat uplifting and relaxing feeling. As it comes with a slightly woody and bitter taste, many decide to add a bit of honey.
Prior to substituting any medication you are prescribed with bacopa, we again advise you to consult with your doctor.