One of the oldest healing herbs globally, bacopa monnieri, is a powerhouse of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety potential. These are all tall claims for an herb so small in stature, but do they hold up? That is what we are here to find out today.
Extract of bacopa monnieri is known as one of the most effective and safest nootropics out there. Bacopa monnieri promises to bring the brain health and body into a balanced state without sedating or stimulating effects.
While bacopa monnieri is associated with many health benefits, two of its most promising and better-researched areas are related to stress reduction, learning, and memory improvement.
So, to see how bacopa monnieri performs in these and other areas, here is a look at what anecdotal and medically reviewed evidence has to offer.
- What is Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi)?
- How Does Bacopa Monnieri Work?
- What Are The Benefits of Bacopa Monnieri?
- How To Take Bacopa Monnieri?
- Does Bacopa Monnieri Have Side Effects?
What is Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi)?
Bacopa Monnieri is a perennial herb that grows in the wetlands of tropical and semitropical areas. Most famously hailing from India and holding a revered spot in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, bacopa monnieri also goes by several other names.
It is popularly called Brahmi, thyme-leaved Gratiola, water hyssop thyme, herb of grace, herpestis monniera, and others. But it is not to be confused with Gotu kola; another Ayurvedic plant also called Brahmi locally.
In terms of similarities, the two plants somewhat overlap in their improved memory-boosting benefits and part ways with bacopa monnieri, known better as an adaptogen, and Gotu kola, more renowned for healing skin issues and promoting kidney and liver health.
But coming back to bacopa monnieri, not only does this medicinal herb have a long-standing history of different health benefits, but it has also gained popularity in contemporary alternative medicine.
The research confirms the historical health benefits of bacopa. It improves cognitive function and has the potential as an effective adaptogen and anxiolytic.
It has been used to treat many ailments in these areas without causing many concerns for users.
On one end of the spectrum, much of the research done on bacopa monnieri involves the elderly or those more susceptible to cognitive decline.
On the other, it has also been researched extensively for its effects on ADHD, a condition often diagnosed in childhood with research participants being children.
Some studies have also looked at its effects on healthy adults with promising results regarding improving cognitive performance. Another demographic is people looking to reduce stress and anxiety issues, where bacopa appears to be another stellar candidate for managing stress and anxiety.
Human studies on the herb extract cover a range of ages from childhood to the elderly, yielding benefits in different health and brain functions.
This makes bacopa monnieri one of the most multitasking and versatile nootropics around.
How Does Bacopa Monnieri Work?
The working mechanism behind bacopa monnieri benefits traces back to its active compounds called bacosides. Mainly, bacosides A and B are known to offer protection against oxidative damage and age-related cognitive deterioration (1).
Additionally, bacosides can cross the blood-brain barrier making them more bioavailable in the brain. Substances that can cross the blood-brain barrier become more easily available in the region and can function more freely on cells and structures.
This feature makes bacopa monnieri supplements particularly suitable to address brain-related medical disorders. Studies in this area show bacopa monnieri to have been used as a neuro-medicine for disorders such as anxiety, depression, memory loss and for improving overall cognitive function.
Increasing clinical trials further indicate the potential of bacoside performance in inhibiting conditions like Alzheimer’s disease by reducing free radicals activity in the brain.
Another aspect of bacoside performance is their contribution to neuroprotective function. They modulate antioxidant enzymes and engage in anti-inflammatory activity.
Further still, bacopa monnieri yields effects by altering certain neurotransmitter levels in the brain. It can also balance stress hormone levels to have anxiolytic effects.
Along with being highly bioavailable and antioxidant in nature, the bacosides in bacopa do not present any significant adverse effects, as seen in both animal models and human studies.
What Are The Benefits of Bacopa Monnieri?
The benefits of bacopa monnieri are plentiful, with everything ranging from improved brain function and stress reduction to lowering blood pressure and anti-aging benefits.
Historical evidence shows the plant being used to treat these and many other conditions.
Boosts Memory Function
In a nootropic capacity, studies show that bacopa may help for improving memory and recall in people. The herb of grace shows promise in increasing the ability to acquire and retain new information and significantly lower the rate of forgetting newly acquired knowledge (2).
Another human study looked at the effects of bacopa on visual information processing and memory and information processing speed. Participants taking an extract of bacopa showed significant improvements in all areas after being tested five and twelve weeks after the study began (3).
Findings led researchers to conclude that bacopa monnieri may help improve higher-order cognitive processes such as learning and memory.
Improves Your Focus and Attention
Focus and attention are aspects of a person’s working memory, an area where bacopa monnieri shows improved cognitive performance.
One study with 107 healthy adults underwent bacopa treatment for 90 days. Of these, 62 people completed the study with 80% compliance and demonstrated significant working memory improvement (4).
Working memory and other aspects of focus and attention also improve as the antioxidant mechanism of bacopa prevent arterial plaque buildup, which can, over the long run, cause other neurodegenerative diseases.
Helps Reduce Stress
As a nervine, bacopa may help support the nervous system and reduce stress and anxiety in people. It is used to treat stress, and when taken regularly over a more extended period, can promote a sense of calm and well-being.
One of its features is to lower cortisol levels in the body. Excess cortisol puts the body into the stress response mode, where it can sap energy, elevate heart levels, and inhibit healthy blood flow by constricting blood vessels.
With its ability to lower cortisol levels, bacopa extracts may help to elevate mood and reduce stress. It works as a natural stress reliever by helping the body better handle daily stressors (5).
Provides Anti-Aging and Neuroprotective Assistance
The brain is the most metabolically active organ in the body and has to deal with oxidative stress regularly.
Bacopa monnieri studies show the plant possesses antioxidant effects that may help protect the brain from deterioration, damage from free radicals, and lower the risk of memory impairment.
Bacoside A is among its neuroprotective active compounds that help establish a healthy antioxidant environment in brain cells and tissues. It assists in scavenging free radicals and activates antioxidant enzymes that minimize oxidative stress in the brain.
Cases of both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are linked to excessive activity by free radicals, oxidative stress, and impaired cellular health.
Supplementing with bacopa in some small studies has shown a reduction in oxidative stress and improvement in cellular health, making it a potential treatment to be considered for both conditions.
Prevents Rises in Anxiety
As an adaptogen, benefits of bacopa may help relieve anxiety by elevating mood and lowering levels of cortisol. One of its mechanisms is to reduce heart rate, which helps with managing anxiety levels.
Other bacopa stress-reducing capacities also come into play here to calm the mind and improve mood. However, these effects only become noticeable with regular use of the supplement and can even take up to a few months to experience the full benefits.
Yields an Anti-Depressive Effect
Research suggests that higher serotonin levels in the brain are linked to an elevated mood and happy feeling. In comparison, lower levels are associated with various symptoms of depression, such as feeling sad, upset, and in an overall low mood.
Dopamine is essential for feeling motivated and productive. And yet another neurotransmitter, GABA, is an inhibitory transmitter as it blocks specific neural signals and decreases excessive activity in the central nervous system. It produces an anti-depressive and calming effect.
Research suggests that the effect of bacopa may help balance levels of dopamine, serotonin. And GABA levels in the brain. Supplementing 300mg of bacopa per day for 12 weeks showed study participants with significantly reduced anxiety and depression scores in adults (6).
Reduces ADHD and Dyslexia Symptoms
Bacopa monnieri is also a possible treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder symptoms.
The condition involves trouble focusing, following instructions, getting easily distracted, or even fidgeting or talking a lot, among others. The overall restlessness associated with ADHD can somewhat be muted by administering bacopa supplementation, as seen in one study (7).
Another area for treatment is dyslexia, where a child may have issues with reading while identifying speech sounds relating to letters and words. The condition typically affects brain areas that process language.
Research shows that bacopa administered to children in some studies improves mean auditory and visual reaction time significantly (8).
The calming and focus-oriented effects of bacopa seem to help both conditions, as seen in clinical studies.
Has an Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effect
Several test-tube and animal studies show bacopa monnieri to possess anti-inflammatory properties. Once again, this comes from the antioxidant effects of the active compounds found in the plant.
Animal studies show bacosides in bacopa to reduce inflammatory cytokines caused by age-related neurodegeneration (9).
Lowers Blood Pressure
Much of the research on bacopa monnieri is still in its infancy, with one area under investigation being its ability to regulate blood pressure and prevent heart disease.
Animal studies found that bacopa may help to potentially reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels by releasing nitric oxide. This mechanism encourages vascular muscle function, which can influence lowered blood pressure positively (10).
By extension, regulating blood pressure can also help with lowering the risk of heart disease.
Has Anticancer Properties
Bacopa monnieri also seems to possess some anticancer properties. Even though this area of study is relatively recent and evidence is limited, animal studies suggest that the bacosides present in bacopa may kill tumorous cells in the brain while also inhibiting breast and colon cancer growth cells.
Because the plant has a high antioxidant potential, its possible anticancer activity may stem from its unique bacoside content.
The one consideration here to remember is that bacopa shows blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells in animal and test-tube studies only. So far, human studies have not confirmed these effects, so it cannot be recommended as a treatment means yet. But the potential is undoubtedly there.
How To Take Bacopa Monnieri?
Like any other nootropics, bacopa dosage will also vary from one person to another based on individual needs.
Experts recommend starting with a lower dose and working your way up to see what works best for you.
If you go by Ayurvedic standards, bacopa is traditionally used whole or in a clarified butter(ghee) emulsion to improve memory. Otherwise, it is also available as an extract of bacopa, capsule form, or supplement blend.
The powdered form bacopa extract is typically used to brew into a soothing tea for people who have a hard time with capsules. Or, you can mix it with ghee and some warm water to concoct an herbal drink.
Since bacopa extract does not taste very good on its own, many people opt for its capsule form instead.
Based on human studies, standardized Bacopa monnieri extract can safely range from 300 mg per day to 400 mg per day, when standardized to 55% bacosides, without causing any severe side effects. It is generally considered safe to pair with other supplements and nootropic stacks.
You can also use bacopa as a single-ingredient supplement or as part of a nootropic stack to optimize its cognition-boosting benefits.
However, bacopa monnieri isn’t one of those quick fixes for memory formation or improving other mental health areas.
Instead of delivering instant results after a single dose, it is a slow-working herb that takes its time to yield cognitive effects. As such, its effects are also considered long-term.
Typically, studies show that it can take anywhere between six to twelve weeks for users to feel the full effects of bacopa monnieri extract.
Does Bacopa Monnieri Have Side Effects?
For the most part, the research found that bacopa monnieri is considered safe to use on human subjects when administered as recommended. It is safe enough to give to children as most of the studies done on ADHD subjects have been on children.
There have been no severe side effects associated with bacopa use, but it may present some minor results in people who don’t tolerate it well.
For instance, some people may experience digestive discomforts such as nausea, stomach cramps, or diarrhea. Those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome may also experience similar distress.
In many cases, these side effects can be avoided when taken alongside a meal.
Since bacopa is fat-soluble, taking it with a meal that includes some fat will also minimize any discomfort or side effects.
Not Recommended For Pregnant Women
Due to a lack of safety evidence, bacopa extracts are not recommended for pregnant women or others taking certain medications.
Risk of Drug Interaction
Taking bacopa does tend to interact with specific medications, so we advise that you always consult with your health care practitioner before starting any supplementation.
When choosing your bacopa supplement, we strongly recommend opting for organic varieties. It is because bacopa absorbs excess minerals from the ground it is planted in.
Bacopa is also used for removing heavy metals and chemicals from polluted soil and water. Keep this in mind, quality bacopa supplement should only be in organic form.
Bacopa Monnieri Limitations
Overall, bacopa monnieri is a very promising nootropic with possible potential in a lot of different areas. There is also sufficient scientific data to validate its positive effects.
However, the one thing to keep in mind is that much of the medically-reviewed research on bacopa involves only animal studies and very few human studies. A lot more research is needed with human participants to establish all of the bacopa’s potential health benefits.
That said, if you go by its extended use in traditional medicine, then bacopa monnieri is one of the oldest and safest healing herbs to use for improving cognition and mood.
It also lowers the risk of heart disease by stabilizing blood pressure while also managing escalating stress and anxiety levels.
There is a lot of anecdotal and some medically reviewed scientific evidence to support the healing potential of Bacopa monnieri.
Bacopa is a prized tonic for reducing stress and anxiety, supporting mental energy and clarity, improved attention span, regulating blood pressure, and warding off age-related cognitive damage.
And given its safety profile, bacopa monniera is tolerated well by most people. That is why we give this nootropic a thumbs up and recommend it as a good option for boosting human memory and for when you need to wind down after a stressful day at work.
- Does bacopa make you tired?
Based on user reviews, sometimes bacopa monniera can tire you out. It is not the case with most people, but if you use bacopa monnieri to ease your stress levels, you may feel tired and unmotivated after using bacopa for a while.
We recommend consulting with your doctor if you experience fatigue after starting bacopa supplementation.
- Is brahmi good for sleep?
Brahmi has a calming effect on the mind and body and can help you sleep better. It has been used traditionally for occasional sleeplessness and stress and acts as a sleep aid that can help you think better.
Research suggests that its use may improve mental clarity and focus, contributing to a better sleep experience.
- Can you take bacopa on an empty stomach?
Experts recommend taking bacopa with food instead of on an empty stomach. It is because bacopa monnieri is fat-soluble, so taking it with some fat source is recommended.
Fat assists the body absorb bacopa compounds better and deliver them more effectively to the brain.
The most often cited side effects of using bacopa monnieri include digestive symptoms, so it is better to take it with some food to avoid gastric issues.
- Does bacopa increase dopamine?
Some research suggests that bacopa monnieri may improve levels of certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine.
Dopamine plays a part in many essential functions like learning and motivation, mood and attention, and even motor function.
Many of these functions are also enhanced when supplementing with bacopa, which researchers believe is in part to the ability of bacopa to increase dopamine levels.