Benefits of Bacopa Monnieri

bacopa monnieri

Background

Bacopa Monnieri is an herb that grows throughout India and Asia, and which has a centuries-long history as a staple in the Ayurvedic tradition of Indian herbal medicine. The earliest descriptions of its use date as far back as sixth century, where it was described as a potent herb for sharpening one’s intellect, and is believed to have been used by ancient Vedic scholars for assistance in memorizing long sections of their holy texts.

Other long-standing, traditional uses of this herb include using it to treat a wide variety of mental and physical ailments, including anxiety, depression, and bodily inflammation.

Due its long and well-known history as a potent herbal medicine, Bacopa Monnieri has been extensively studied by scientists and clinicians over the past several decades, and this research has identified a truly impressive range of potential preventative, restorative, neuro-protective and nootropic effects.

These beneficial effects include (but are not limited to):

  • Fighting against age-related cognitive decline
  • Improving cognition, learning, and memory
  • Alleviating the symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Alleviating acute and chronic pain
  • Protecting the brain from damage from inflammation and free-radicals

Due to its broad suite of beneficial effects, Bacopa figures prominently within the nootropic community, where it is commonly used as a nutritional supplement. In fact, many products within our Best Brain Supplement ranking contain bacopa in their blends.

Bacopa Monnieri Mechanisms

The primary bioactive compounds of the Bacopa Monnieri plant are Bacosides, which are processed in the body into a large set of secondary metabolites that broadly improve overall brain function by promoting the growth of new connections between neurons.

While the many specific mechanisms involved are still being discovered, it is currently believed that Bacopa’s primary effects come from its influence on the serotonergic system. For example, a recent study from 2016 concluded that Bacopa inhibits a variety of enzymes responsible for regulating the development of serotonin receptors throughout many brain regions. Because the serotonin system plays a crucial role in learning and memory, it is believed that this may be the primary mechanism through which Bacopa supplementation leads to cognitive improvements in these areas.

However, Bacopa also appears to affect a wide variety of other neurotransmission systems, including dopamine, another major neurotransmitter involved in learning and motivation. For example, a recent study showed that administering Bacopa supplements to rats prevented the depletion of dopamine when rats were exposed to chronic forms of stress.

Additionally, yet other studies have suggested that Bacopa also helps to regulate the cholinergic system, effectively boosting the activity of acetylcholine by inhibiting the enzymes that break it down. Several memory studies in rats have shown that Bacopa increases acetylcholine levels throughout the brain – and that this boost in cholinergic activity can prevent common forms of memory loss that occur when rats are given memory-blocking drugs.

While the precise mechanisms of Bacopa’s beneficial effects on the brain are still the subject of active scientific investigation, its effects on a variety of learning- and memory-related brain systems has now become extensively well-documented. Moreover, these effects are not limited only to those with age-related or disease-related cognitive declines, but can instead benefit healthy users of any age.

Scientific Data Supporting Bacopa Supplementation

Bacopa’s beneficial effects were first studied in animals, where a large number of studies demonstrated its considerable potential as a medicinal agent. As this evidence accumulated, clinical researchers began to study its effects on human beings, particularly with respect to its potential to prevent declines in memory and overall cognitive function associated with dementia and aging.

  • A study from 2002 treated healthy adults between the ages of 40-65 with 300mg/day of Bacopa supplements, and found that the treatment group showed an improved ability to retain newly-learned information relative to a control (placebo) group.
  • In 2006, a similar study treated a sample of 55+ year-old subjects with 125mg/day of Bacopa extract for 3 months, and reported significant improvements in a variety of memory-related tasks relative to an untreated placebo group.
  • Additionally, a study conducted in 2008 administered 300mg/day of Bacopa supplements to a cohort of healthy, 65+ year old subjects for 3 months, and discovered that this group showed improvements in both working memory and attentional focus; this group also gave lower self-report ratings of anxiety- and depression-related symptoms.
  • Finally, a 2010 study administered 300mg/day of Bacopa to a large, healthy sample of 55+ year olds over several months, and measured their performance on the Auditory Verbal Learning Task (ALVT) both before- and after the Bacopa treatment regimen. Post-treatment assessments revealed that the Bacopa-treated subjects displayed improvements in verbal memory, learning, and their ability to recall novel information after an experimental delay period, thereby providing yet further proof of Bacopa’s efficacy in improving memory-related function in older population samples.

Much research over the past 15 years has continued to uncover substantial evidence that Bacopa’s ability to improve cognition and memory in the elderly also generalizes to normal, healthy populations, thereby justifying its role as a potent nootropic compound.

Neuroprotective Effects Of Bacopa Supplements

In addition to its potent effects on memory, learning, and cognition, there is considerable evidence that Bacopa also acts a powerful neuroprotective agent, due to its potent anti-oxidant properties as well as its strong anti-inflammatory effects.

Other Beneficial Effects

Finally, in addition to all of the major effects already described, there are also several promising lines of evidence that suggest that Bacopa may help fight the effects of chronic stress, and may even alleviate some of the major symptoms of depression.

Perhaps most intriguingly of all, however, is that Bacopa may be an even more effective pain-killer than aspirin. A 2015 study showed that even very small doses of Bacopa extract can significantly reduce the number of painful gastric contractions in mice – and that it accomplishes this effect without much of the acute physiological stress otherwise caused by common drugs such as aspirin.

It must be noted, however, that these anti-stress and analgesic (pain-killing) effects have so far only been observed in animal studies, and therefore it remains to be seen whether these effects will hold up in human populations as well. Nonetheless, given all of Bacopa’s well-established benefits on memory and cognition, it will remain an excellent candidate for nootropic treatment even if these additional effects don’t happen to pan out.

Safety Information & Side-Effects

Due to its centuries-long history as well as its widespread medicinal application across all age ranges and health status, Bacopa has long been considered to be an exceptionally safe herbal medicine. Additionally, numerous scientific safety and toxicity studies in both animals and humans alike have repeatedly verified that Bacopa is remarkably safe as a supplement.

While averse side-effects can occur, these are relatively rare. For example, in the human safety study cited above, unwanted side-effects were experienced by only 2.3% of all subjects. Moreover, the side-effects themselves are relatively minor, and most commonly include nausea, cramping, and other mild gastrointestinal disturbances. Fortunately, such side-effects, if they occur, are strictly temporary and will go away almost immediately if the supplementation regimen is stopped, and therefore do not pose any major risks when used as a nootropic supplement.

Bacopa Monnieri Dosage

The common standard dose for Bacopa Monnieri is 300mg, which can be taken all together, or split up into multiple doses throughout the day.

Note that this typical dose is based on the assumption that the total bacoside content of your supplements is ~55% – if your supplements are more- or less than this, adjust accordingly.

How to Use

The active components of Bacopa Monnieri are fat-soluble, and supplements should accordingly be taken with full meals for optimal absorption; taking Bacopa on an empty stomach not only substantially limits its efficacy, but also increases the potential for unwanted side-effects.

Contraindications

As with most supplements, Bacopa’s safety regarding fetal development is unknown, and so should not be taken by pregnant women.

Similarly, users with pre-existing medical conditions would be well advised to consult with their doctors before commencing any new supplementation regimen.

Additional Notes on Use

Finally, it should be noted that many of Bacopa’s more potent beneficial effects are not immediate, but typically take several weeks to manifest. One should therefore not expect noticeable results until at least 4-6 weeks of supplementation, whereas it’s full effects will likely take closer to ~8-12 weeks to become fully apparent.

Conclusions / Summary on Bacopa

Bacopa’s many potent effects in improving a diverse range of cognitive and neurobiological functions, together with its extremely low risk profile, make it an excellent candidate for nootropic supplementation.

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