Bacopa monnieri (AKA: Brahmi) is an Ayurvedic herb best known for its memory-boosting properties.
Since ancient times, it has been used to improve cognition and information retention.
Only recently though, science has shown bacopa has other benefits, too:
- Protects neurons – Bacopa’s active compounds, bacosides, boost antioxidant activity in the brain. This improves the strength and resilience of your brain cells, protecting them from damage.
- Reduces Stress & Anxiety – Bacopa has a profound effect on how your brain deals with stress and anxiety. It does this by regulating serotonin, the neurotransmitter that controls your mood. Bacopa also appears to lower cortisol, the stress hormone.
- Boosts Neurotransmitters – Bacopa boosts your brain chemical messengers, including serotonin, GABA, and acetylcholine. While acetylcholine is important for memory retention, GABA makes you feel calm, and prevents neuron “excitation” and cell death.
Here, we explain all about Bacopa and how it works in your brain – as shown in clinical research.
What is Bacopa Monnieri?
Bacopa Monnieri is also known as water hyssop and Brahmi. The name originates from the god of Hinduism, Brahma.
The records of Bacopa date back to ancient Ayurvedic times.
This herb was believed to possess magical memory-enhancing properties.
And anyone who would drink Bacopa, would be rejuvenated mentally.
According to science, these people weren’t far off with their findings.
Bacopa is a promising nootropic for boosting memory and cognition.
It’s also effective in regards to reducing stress, anxiety, and depression – along with protecting from oxidative stress and damage to brain cells.
The active compound in Bacopa is called Bacoside A. It’s fat-soluble and can readily cross the blood-brain barrier.
How it Works
Once it enters the brain, Bacopa starts exerting some of its powerful benefits. These include:
- Stress reduction – Bacopa calms your nervous system down. It inhibits excitatory neurotransmitters such as glutamate while boosting GABA, which helps reduce anxiety and stress.
A study conducted in India showed that Bacopa is as effective for reducing anxiety as a prescription medication such as lorazepam.
However, lorazepam is linked to memory loss.
On the other hand, bacopa showed to reduce anxiety while improving memory and cognition. (1)
- Memory boost – The active components of bacopa, bacosides A and B, improve signaling between neurons. This results in faster electrical impulses between brain cells, which translates to improved memory.
Not only that, bacopa increases the growth of dendrites. These are short extensions of your brain cells which are responsible for their communication.
In a study from Oregon, 54 volunteers received 300mg of Bacopa every day for 12 weeks.
At the end of the study, the study participants had much better memory, learning, word recall, attention, and reduced anxiety and resting heart rate. (2)
- Bacopa repairs brain cells – Alongside protecting brain cells with its antioxidant activity, bacopa also works to repair damaged neurons, bringing them back to life.
Bacopa’s Effects on Your Brain
Modern research suggests that Bacopa helps users retain memories.
At the same time, it appears to boost other aspects of cognition, such as learning and focus. (3, 4)
Other research shows that Bacopa possesses adaptogenic effects. It blunts the effects of stress, calms you down, and keeps your cognitive functions sharp at the same time. (5)
This is one advantage that Bacopa has over traditional anti-stress and anti-anxiety therapies, which calm the mind but also slow down your cognition. (5)
Bacopa monnieri is a perfect nootropic for students and people looking to retain newly gained information.
What’s more, it’s also a perfect supplement for those who want to stay composed during stressful times.
Above its memory enhancing and adaptogenic properties, Bacopa also supports healthy mood, long-term brain function, and overall brain performance across all boards.
So, the question is:
How does Bacopa do all of this?
In order to find that out, we should look at the brain pathways which Bacopa affects.
Bacopa Monnieri helps boost acetylcholine. (6)
This is a key neurotransmitter for your cognition, memory, and mental performance.
Animal research backs this up and shows that bacopa indeed does increase acetylcholine in the brains of animals – which helps with learning and memory. (7)
In addition, Bacopa also raises serotonin and GABA levels in the brain.
Which explains the calming and mood-enhancing effects of the herb. (10)
Brain Cell Protection
Bacopa Monnieri is a strong antioxidant which regenerates other antioxidants in the brain.
These include glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase. (5)
Thanks to its strong antioxidant activity, bacopa protects the neurons from free radical damage.
Furthermore, Bacopa’s antioxidants help clear the irregular protein plaque in the brain. (9)
And thanks to its adaptogenic activity, Bacopa helps you deal with the damaging effects of stress too.
It’s well known that stress can kill your brain cells. Bacopa prevents this and enables the brain to think quickly and clearly under challenging situations.
Cerebral Blood Flow
As per animal evidence, Bacopa Monnieri boosts cerebral blood flow by up to 25%. (10)
The better the blood flow, the more oxygen and nutrients your brain gets.
Ultimately, experts call this a “pro-cognitive” effect of Bacopa.
Clinical Evidence of Bacopa’s Benefits
Bacopa Reduces Stress
Bacopa Monnieri might be best known for boosting memory. But it’s also a powerful stress reducer.
In a double-blind, cross-over, placebo-controlled research, 17 people received 320-640mg of supplemental Bacopa extract.
The research found that these people had a much better mood and lower cortisol after taking Bacopa.
This study showed the adaptogenic power of this herb.
It not only reduced perceived stress and mood, but it affected these people on a hormonal level. That is, it reduced cortisol and raised feel-good neurotransmitters. (11)
Bacopa Improves Cognition
This study comes all the way from Swinburne University, Australia.
The research involved 107 healthy people who received 300mg of Bacopa Monnieri for 3 months.
Three months later, these people showed significant improvements in several areas of their cognition:
- Memory accuracy
- Spatial coordination and memory
- Visual information processing
Ultimately, the study concluded that Bacopa improves multiple areas of cognition – not just memory. (12)
Bacopa Keeps Your Brain Young
Heavy metals such as aluminum can do a lot of damage to your brain.
Unfortunately, they can’t be completely avoided because they are pretty much everywhere.
Of course, it’s still possible to reduce exposure from these toxic elements.
For example, when using deodorants, choose the one which doesn’t contain any aluminum.
Another way of preventing the damage of heavy metals is by taking Bacopa Monnieri.
Studies suggest that this herb protects you from toxins such as aluminum.
It does this by preventing the build-up of heavy metals within and between brain cells.
Bacopa also prevents damage to your hippocampus. This area of the brain is key to cognition, memory, focus, and other mental functions.
Researchers from India gave drinking water contaminated with aluminum chloride to rats.
That’s the kind of aluminum that damages your neurons.
Some of these rats were given Bacopa Monnieri prior to this.
Ultimately, Bacopa protected the rats’ brains from the damage caused by aluminum.
It restored critical antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) to almost normal levels. (13)