So far is this plant’s international reach that it goes by many names: Bacopa monnieri, brahmi, water hyssop, herb of grace, and even Indian pennywort. It is an herb native to the wetlands and marshy areas of the world where it grows wild and produces small white flowers. It can also be found in the home aquariums of everyday fish lovers who counts on its ability to thrive in water. Bacopa monnieri can be found growing wild in southern India where is it known as brahmi. Brahmi has traditionally been employed in Ayurvedic medicine both alone and in combination with other herbs in the treatment of a number of ailments. But the herb’s uses haven’t been limited to treating disease and disorder. It also belongs to an Ayurvedic classification of herbs and medicinal plants known as medhya rasayana, which are herbs used to enhance intellect and memory. This is where Bacopa monnieri’s reputation as a natural nootropic comes into play. In fact, Bacopa monnieri has been called nature’s most powerful nootropic. Let’s find out why.
Nature’s Most Powerful Nootropic
Though Bacopa monnieri has been used to treat disorders from asthma to epilepsy to irritable bowel syndrome, it has long been used as a neural tonic and for stress and anxiety relief. Due to the rising interest in nootropics and cognitive enhancement in the Western world, several studies have been published on the effects of Bacopa monnieri. It is one of the most highly studied natural nootropics. Some of these studies (including this one) have concluded that the herb has a significant effect on the retention and retrieval of new information. Others simply have provided evidence of Bacopa monnieri’s potential to safely heighten cognitive performance in healthy and aging individuals.
Perhaps even more encouraging than the cognitive enhancement studies, however, are those that point to Bacopa monnieri’s antioxidant and cell protection properties, which has led many to consider its potential in the treatment or prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Though extensive scientific study of Bacopa monnieri is still in its infancy, the conclusions regarding its nootropic qualities are promising. And we must not forget the long history of use in Indian traditional medicine, which certainly accounts for something in our books.
How It Works
Like most proclaimed nootropics, Bacopa monnieri’s exact mechanisms of action are still unclear. Most studies have shied away from presenting hard conclusions on how Bacopa monnieri works in the brain but many have provided theories.
It is believed that Bacopa monnieri increases the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are involved in and influence learning and memory. The herb’s extract is also known to inhibit acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that inhibits the transmission of acetylcholine (a chemical associated with retaining new information and accessing memory). Other studies have even hypothesized that Bacopa monnieri’s stress relieving effects allow a greater tolerance for frustration allowing for increased cognitive performance. Perhaps less stress really does lead to better performance.
Bacopa Monnieri Dosage
Dosage of any natural extract is generally a tricky business, and the concentration and purity of natural supplements are not currently regulated by the FDA. But existing scientific research has studied the short-term (to be more specific, up to 12 weeks) use of Bacopa monnieri extract. When taken orally, studies followed the manufacturers’ recommended dosages of 300-450 mg daily.
Bacopa Monnieri Side Effects
Most natural nootropics’ claim to fame is their low toxicity and low incident of harmful side effects. But as with any supplement, there have been some reported Bacopa monnieri side effects. The most common side effects include stomach cramps, nausea, increased bowel movements, dry mouth, and fatigue. Specifically, taking Bacopa monnieri on an empty stomach may cause a higher incidence of gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. So go ahead and have that piece of vegan carrot cake with your natural nootropic.
Bacopa Monnieri Supplements
Perhaps most interesting about Bacopa monnieri is that the entire plant can and has been used for its positive effects on the brain. And as the rules of consumerism would dictate, with the growing interest in Bacopa monnieri in Western culture has come an equal growth in Bacopa monnieri products on the market. But as we know, not all supplements are created equal. Here is one we like submitted by a Natural Alternative Remedy reader: NutriGold Bacopa Gold.
We like it because…
Nutrigold Bacopa uses the BacoMind® Standardized Extract, which was the active ingredient administered in many of the existing scientific studies of the nootropic effects of Bacopa monnieri. Additionally, this product’s 500mg formula includes 320mg of extract and 180mg of bulk Bacopa monnieri rather than utilizing additional fillers. Always a favorite, the supplement also uses a vegetarian capsule and is free of the most common food allergens.
As always, we recommend consulting a trusted healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.
Want to learn more about natural nootropics and how they work? Check out our nootropics guide.