Bacopa Monnieri goes by many names such as water hyssop, brahmi, and herb of grace. This creeping herb has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat asthma, ulcers, inflammations, anemia, and epilepsy. But it is best known as an herb that enhances memory and as a neural tonic. According to the latest dietary supplements market analysis, Bacopa monnieri is predicted to be the next big thing in nootropics.
As early as 2012 when research into the benefits of Bacopa monnieri was still in its infancy, it was already found to have beneficial effects on memory. There was also evidence found that the herb may help in dementia, epilepsy, as well as Parkinson’s disease. A 2017 study investigated the neurocognitive effects of a nootropic derived from Bacopa monnieri. Take a look at the study’s highlights.
#1 Antioxidant and Iron Chelating Properties
Our brains are particularly susceptible to the damage caused by free radicals, which is why antioxidants are considered as very important for brain health. When there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants present in our body, this can lead to aging and cognitive decline, especially in elderly people.
In both mice studies and human in vitro trials, Bacopa monnieri extract was found to have antioxidant properties. Other studies show that Bacopa monnieri extract has iron chelating properties which means it reduces iron concentration. This is extremely important for brain health because recent studies have already established that when there are high amounts of iron in the brain, it increases the risks of neurodegenerative diseases.
In fact, a 2014 mice study found that the combined action of both antioxidants and iron chelators can completely restore brain function after having been damaged by iron overload. Since Bacopa monnieri has both antioxidant and iron chelating properties, this makes the medicinal plant extremely beneficial for brain health.
#2 Bacopa Monnieri Protects The Cholinergic System
The cholinergic system refers to the neurons that use acetylcholine as neurotransmitter. Simply put, these are the brain cells that are damaged the most in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. When cholinergic neurons are lost, it leads to memory and attention deficiencies.
Studies have shown that daily intake of Bacopa monnieri extract can actually protect these cholinergic brain cells. Moreover, it was also shown that in mice that had their olfactory bulbs removed, but treatment with Bacopa monnieri reversed the cognitive dysfunction caused by the removal of the olfactory bulb.
#3 Bacopa Helps With Memory Impairment and Cognitive Defects
It has been shown that sustained daily consumption of Bacopa monnieri supplements can greatly enhance memory. It can also help increase information retention capacity, and in children with ADHD, improved logical memory. Even in people aged above 55 years, Bacopa monnieri can help increase memory acquisition, verbal learning, and delayed recall.
In many rat studies wherein memory loss and cognitive impairment were induced through the injection of damaging compounds, the administration of Bacopa monnieri extract was shown to improve memory and cognitive function. Even in rats with induced amnesia, Bacopa monnieri was shown to help them recover their memory.
#4 Bacopa Monnieri Improves Blood Flow To The Brain
Alzheimer’s disease has been associated with problems in the blood vessels such as atherosclerosis and constricted blood vessels. Moreover, Alzheimer’s disease is mainly associated with the cerebral cortex as well as other parts of the brain that are easily affected when there are vascular dysfunctions.
Several studies have shown that Bacopa monnieri may have vasodilator effects which means it can help improve the blood flow to the brain. Another study has shown that both Bacopa monnieri and ginkgo biloba increase cerebral blood flow. This particular research showed that even after daily dosages of Bacopa monnieri for eight weeks, it had no effect on blood pressure despite the increased cerebral blood flow.
#5 Bacopa Monnieri Enhances Neuronal Plasticity
The plasticity of the brain refers to its ability to adapt to stress and other stimuli. Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is considered an indicator of neuronal plasticity and memory. While Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) is considered an indicator of memory forming processes. Alzheimer’s is associated with low levels of BDNF while amnesic conditions are associated with low levels of GFAP.
Research has shown that Bacopa monnieri extract can increase the levels of both BDNF and GFAP. This suggests that Bacopa monnieri can indeed help protect the brain from damage caused by Alzheimer’s and prevent the disease, as well as protect the brain from memory loss.
Other Studies And Reported Side Effects
In humans with no cognitive impairments, Bacopa monnieri was found to have increased the processing speed of visual information. As well as a reduction in anxiety levels. It was also found to enhance the accuracy of spatial working memory.
In healthy elderly volunteers, Bacopa monnieri extract helped enhance the cognitive processing and working memory of the volunteers, as well as improve their attention. There are also been studies that showed Bacopa monnieri is good for brain health by protecting nerve cells and preventing oxidative stress in the brain.
Bacopa monnieri was also shown to help prevent cell death and lipid peroxidation. A condition wherein free radicals get electrons from lipids found in cell membranes which eventually cause cell damage. This process can start a chain reaction which can then lead to severe tissue damage. If happening in the brain, the damage can cause severe disorders and cognitive impairment.
All these positive results from studies do not mean that Bacopa monnieri is the brain miracle drug that people are hoping for. However, these studies do show that Bacopa monnieri has a lot of potential in terms of treating brain and cognitive diseases or impairments such as Alzheimer’s and memory loss.
Nevertheless, consumers are warned that excessive intake or intake outside of prescribed dosages may lead to possible side effects. These include nausea, stomach problems, and in men, possible reduced fertility. As with any other dietary supplements, Bacopa monnieri is best taken with precaution and after a discussion with your healthcare provider.