By-Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
What Is Bacopa monnieri?
Bacopa monnieri (Linn), commonly referred to as “Brahmi,” from the plant family Scrophulariaceae is a creeping herb found in India and neighbouring tropical countries that grows in wet marshland up to 1500 m in altitude. It has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat conditions such as fever, inflammation, pain, asthma, epilepsy, and memory decline. It has been used in a standardized form in clinical research since 1996. Steroidal saponins and Bacosides A and B are the active chemical constituents responsible for improving both learning and memory. Other constituents include bacopasaponins D, E and F as well as alkaloids, flavonoids, and phytosterol. (1)
What is Bacopa used for?
BM has been used by Ayurvedic medical practitioners in India for almost 3000 years and is classified as a medhyarasayana, a drug used to improve memory and intellect (medhya). The earliest chronicled mention of BM is in several ancient Ayurvedic treatises including the Caraka Samhita , in which it is recommended in formulations for the management of a range of mental conditions including anxiety, poor cognition and lack of concentration, and the Bravprakash Var-Prakarana. Brahmi is currently recognized as being effective in the treatment of mental illness and epilepsy. After clinical trials in human volunteers, a chemically standardized extract of BM has now been made available for clinical use by the central Drug Research Institute in India. (2)
Traditionally, Bacopa was utilized in various conditions afflicting the mind and nervous system. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, Bacopa is a rasayana, or a rejuvenative tonic, which promotes the revitalization of the body and tissues. It was used tonically to promote intellect and longevity. Modern research on Bacopa shows that Bacopa monnieri extracts are able to improve various cognitive functions in healthy college students. Other studies suggest that Bacopa monnieri decreases the rate of forgetting newly acquired information in healthy adults, and may improve cognitive processes in healthy humans. (3)
- Boosts Cognition: One of the most prized benefits of brahmi is its ability to stimulate the mind, particularly in terms of memory and concentration. It has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to increase focus and retention. Some of the organic compounds in brahmi stimulate cognitive pathways in the brain to boost cognitive ability.
- Treats Cognitive Disorders: Closely related to that first benefit of brahmi is the second its ability to reduce the onset of cognitive disorders as we age such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Research has shown it to be an effective way of stimulating the creation of new neural pathways and lowering oxidative stress in the brain, which keeps our minds sharp well into our old age.
- Reduces Anxiety & Stress: The leaves of the brahmi plant can be chewed (only 2-3 at a time) in order to relieve stress and anxiety. The active ingredients in this herb can affect hormonal balance in the body and positively impact the balance of stress hormones in our body, there by inducing a calm, relaxed state in a natural way, avoiding the side effects of traditional pharmaceutical options for stress and anxiety relief.
- Anti-inflammatory Capacity: When the leaves of the brahmi plant are rubbed topically on affected parts of the body, the compounds released can reduce swelling and eliminate irritation, as well as Inflammation inside the body as well. This is ideal for people suffering from arthritis, gout, and other inflammatory conditions.
- Antioxidant Content: The antioxidants contained in brahmi are essential for promoting a healthy lifestyle. Antioxidants also prevent certain types of cancer; research is on-going into the direct pathways that brahmi’s components take to prevent or slow the spread of cancer. There is one particularly dangerous toxin, called acrylamide, which brahmi has specifically shown resistance to; acrylamide is connected to neurodegenerative diseases, so this can add to brahmi’s list of benefits as well.
- Improves Respiratory Health: When brahmi is brewed in a tea or chewed as normal leaves, it can boost your respiratory health. It has been used in Ayurvedic treatments for bronchitis, congestion, chest colds, and blocked sinuses. It can clear out excess phlegm and mucus and relieve the inflammation in the throat and respiratory tracts to provide you with rapid relief.
- Boosts Immunity: When consumed in any form, tea, leaves, or otherwise, brahmi can give the immune system a necessary boost. The nutrients are supplemented by the antioxidant compounds to increase the response time of our immune system against pathogens, viruses or bacterial infection.
- Treats Epilepsy: The leaves of brahmi have been used as a treatment for epilepsy for thousands of years. This is thought to be due to the effect brahmi has on neural pathways. It helps to prevent epileptic fits, as well as other forms of mental disease, including bipolar disorder and neuralgia. (4)
How to take Bacopa monnieri
- Bacopa monnieri can be purchased online and from health food stores.
- It’s available in several forms, including capsules and powders.
- The powdered form can be added to hot water to make a soothing tea. It can also be mixed with ghee a form of clarified butter and added to warm water to make an herbal drink.
- Although Bacopa monnieri is considered safe for most people, speak with your healthcare provider before taking it to ensure your safety and proper usage.