“Brahmi” (Bacopa monnieri) benefits the brain by balancing levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, thus improving cognitive and mental health. The many ways that bacopa benefits cognitive and mental health are impressive. Bacopa is a foundational herbal remedy in the ancient healing traditions of both China and India. It has been highly prized as a brain tonic for reducing stress and anxiety, boosting mental energy and clarity, and protecting the brain from aging. It is very easy to grow. (Full article down below.)
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Bacopa benefits the brain by balancing levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, thus improving cognitive and mental health. Get details on using it.
The many ways that bacopa benefits cognitive and mental health are impressive.
Bacopa is a foundational herbal remedy in the ancient healing traditions of both China and India.
It has been highly prized as a brain tonic for reducing stress and anxiety, boosting mental energy and clarity, and protecting the brain from aging.
Bacopa is neither stimulating nor sedating but works by bringing the body and mind into a state of balance.
In this article, I’ll look at this traditional herb and why it deserves a place on any list of top brain supplements.
Traditional Uses for Bacopa
Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) is a creeping herb with white flowers and small fleshy leaves that grows in bogs and wetlands on every inhabited continent.
It’s of major importance in India’s traditional Ayurvedic system of healing.
It also goes by the name brahmi after Brahmā, the Hindu god of creation. (1)
Its use as a nerve and brain tonic for improving memory, learning, and concentration goes back at least 3,000 years.
According to legend, it was used by ancient scholars to memorize lengthy hymns and scriptures.
Bacopa Balances Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are chemicals brain cells use to communicate with each other.
They regulate mood, appetite, addictions, energy, libido, motivation, and more.
They control your ability to focus, concentrate, learn, remember, and turn off your mind when it’s time to relax and go to sleep.
Bacopa is a master neurotransmitter regulator that dials their production up or down as needed.
The symptoms of low levels of acetylcholine are typical of what we joke about as “senior moments” — struggling to find the right word, constantly losing things, and not remembering what you’ve just read.
Without adequate acetylcholine your brain can’t turn short-term memories into long-term memories. (5)
Since Alzheimer’s patients typically have extremely low acetycholine levels — usually around 10% of normal — it’s suspected that this brain chemical plays a significant role in Alzheimer’s. (6)
The drugs currently used to treat Alzheimer’s work by blocking the breakdown of acetylcholine.
So far about a dozen bioactive compounds have been found in bacopa, the most important of which are bacopaside A and bacopaside B. (7)
These compounds encourage the growth of new nerve endings called dendrites which brain cells need to communicate with each other. (8)
Bacopa exhibited superior cognitive benefits compared to both of them.
Bacopa can improve attention, memory, and the ability to learn in seniors, children, and everyone in between. (10)
This versatility makes it a popular addition in brain-boosting nootropic formulas and in supplements that address age-related mental decline.
Bacopa Balances Stress Hormones
Bacopa belongs to a small group of herbs known as adaptogens.
Like all adaptogens, bacopa balances the level of the potentially damaging stress hormone cortisol and supports healthy adrenal function.
The adrenal glands are an important part of a properly functioning stress response system.
Adaptogens have the unique ability to calm a stressed mind and increase energy without being either sedating or stimulating.
In many ways, adaptogens act like a thermostat that keeps you in an emotional “comfort zone.”
It’s this ability to restore balance that makes bacopa equally beneficial for anxiety and depression. (11)
Bacopa Is a Multipurpose Brain Protector
It’s an herb that increases cerebral blood flow, delivering more oxygen, nutrients, and glucose — the brain’s primary energy source — to the brain. (14)
Bacopa acts as an antioxidant to fight the effects of free radical damage to the brain. (15, 16)
Free radicals are unattached oxygen molecules that damage and age all cells, especially brain cells.
Bacopa is also an anti-inflammatory agent.
When the immune system becomes overactive, it results on chronic inflammation.
This can happen anywhere in the body including in the brain.
Bacopa Supplements Dosage and Side Effects
Bacopa is a very popular ingredient found in many brain supplements.
It’s also available as a single-ingredient supplement.
Bacopa supplements are almost always sold in the form of capsules and only occasionally as a liquid extract or powder since it doesn’t taste very good.
To be sure you are getting genuine bacopa, look for a supplement that specifically states Bacopa monnieri on the label.
Bacopa can easily be confused with gotu kola (Centella asiatica), another Ayurvedic remedy that shares the common name brahmi.
The standard daily dose for Bacopa monnieri is 300 mg if standardized to 55% of bacosides. (21)
The University of Maryland’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide recommends taking 50 to 100 mg of bacopa three times per day, once with each meal. (22)
Note that bacopa is not a quick fix.
While its anti-anxiety effects are usually evident immediately, it can take two to three months to experience maximum cognitive-enhancing benefits.
Bacopa Side Effects
Bacopa is considered very safe — safe enough to give to children.
The rare side effects of bacopa such as dry mouth, nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea can largely be avoided by taking it along with meals. (23)
Historically, traditional practitioners understood this and administered bacopa cooked with clarified butter known as ghee.
Since bacopa is fat soluble, cooking it would have increased its bioavailability.
Taking bacopa along with a meal that includes some fat will almost certainly help it work better for you too.
Bacopa Benefits: The Bottom Line
Bacopa is an herbal brain tonic with a long history of use that is widely recognized as a safe and effective cognitive enhancer today.
It balances neurotransmitter levels and aids brain cell communication by growing new dendrites on nerve cells.
Bacopa also protects the brain from the damaging effects of stress, free radicals, inflammation, and environmental toxins.
Supplementing with bacopa is an excellent choice if you have memory loss accompanied by burdensome stress or are seeking to prevent or minimize age-related mental decline.