Bacopa monnieri, also called brahmi, water hyssop, thyme-leaved gratiola, and herb of grace, is a staple plant in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
It grows in wet, tropical environments, and its ability to thrive underwater makes it popular for aquarium use.
Bacopa monnieri has been used by Ayurvedic medical practitioners for centuries for a variety of purposes, including improving memory, reducing anxiety, and treating epilepsy.
Research shows that it may boost brain function and alleviate anxiety and stress, among other benefits.
A class of potent compounds called bacosides in Bacopa monnieri is believed to be responsible for these benefits.
Here are seven emerging benefits of Bacopa monnieri.
1. Bacopa monnieri contains powerful antioxidants
Antioxidants are substances that help protect against cell damage caused by potentially harmful molecules called free radicals.
Research suggests that damage caused by free radicals is linked to many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Bacopa monnieri contains potent compounds that may have antioxidant effects.
For example, bacosides, the main active compounds in Bacopa monnieri, have been shown to neutralize free radicals and prevent fat molecules from reacting with free radicals.
When fat molecules react with free radicals, they undergo a process called lipid peroxidation. Lipid peroxidation is linked to several conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Bacopa monnieri may help prevent damage caused by this process.
For example, a study showed that treating rats with dementia with Bacopa monnieri reduced free radical damage and reversed signs of memory impairment.
Summary: Bacopa monnieri contains active compounds called bacosides, which have been shown to have antioxidant effects, especially in the brain.
2. Bacopa monnieri may reduce inflammation
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to help heal and fight disease.
However, chronic, low-level inflammation has been linked to many chronic conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and heart and kidney disease.
In test-tube studies, Bacopa monnieri appeared to suppress the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are molecules that stimulate an inflammatory immune response.
Also, in test-tube and animal studies, it inhibited enzymes, such as cyclooxygenases, caspases, and lipoxygenases — all of which play critical roles in inflammation and pain.
In animal studies, Bacopa monnieri had anti-inflammatory effects comparable to diclofenac and indomethacin — two nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs commonly used to treat inflammation.
Nevertheless, more research is needed to determine whether Bacopa monnieri reduces inflammation in humans.
Summary: Test-tube and animal studies show that Bacopa monnieri may have potent anti-inflammatory properties and suppress pro-inflammatory enzymes and cytokines.
3. Bacopa monnieri may boost brain function
Research suggests that Bacopa monnieri may help enhance brain function.
For example, one study in mice showed that supplementing with Bacopa monnieri improved their spatial learning and ability to retain information.
The same study also found that it increased dendritic length and branching. Dendrites are parts of nerve cells in the brain that are closely linked to learning and memory.
Additionally, a 12-week study in 46 healthy adults observed that taking 300 mg of Bacopa monnieri daily significantly improved the speed of visual processing information, learning rate, and memory compared with the placebo treatment.
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Another 12-week study in 60 older adults found that taking either 300 mg or 600 mg of Bacopa monnieri extract daily improved memory, attention, and the ability to process information compared with the placebo treatment.
Summary: Animal and human studies show that Bacopa monnieri may help improve memory, attention, and the ability to process visual information.
4. Bacopa monnieri may help reduce ADHD symptoms
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by symptoms like hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness.
Interestingly, research has shown that Bacopa monnieri may help reduce ADHD symptoms.
One study in 31 children aged 6–12 years found that taking 225 mg of Bacopa monnieri extract daily for six months significantly reduced ADHD symptoms, such as restlessness, poor self-control, inattention, and impulsivity in 85% of the children.
Another study in 120 children with ADHD observed that taking an herbal blend that contained 125 mg of Bacopa monnieri improved attention, cognition, and impulse control, compared with the placebo group.
Although these findings are promising, more large-scale studies examining the effects of Bacopa monnieri on ADHD are needed before it can be recommended as a treatment.
Summary: Bacopa monnieri may help reduce ADHD symptoms, such as restlessness and self-control, but more large-scale human studies are needed.
5. Bacopa monnieri may prevent anxiety and stress
Bacopa monnieri may help prevent anxiety and stress. It’s considered an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it increases your body’s resistance to stress.
Research suggests that Bacopa monnieri helps reduce stress and anxiety by elevating your mood and reducing levels of cortisol, a hormone that is closely linked to stress levels.
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One rodent study showed that Bacopa monnieri had anti-anxiety effects comparable to those of lorazepam (benzodiazepine), a prescription medication used to treat anxiety.
However, human studies on Bacopa monnieri and anxiety show mixed results.
For example, two 12-week human studies found that taking 300 mg of Bacopa monnieri daily significantly reduced anxiety and depression scores in adults compared with the placebo treatment.
Yet, another human study found that treatment with Bacopa monnieri did not affect anxiety.
More large-scale human studies are needed to confirm its effects on stress and anxiety.
Summary: Bacopa monnieri may help reduce stress and anxiety by elevating mood and reducing cortisol levels. However, human studies show mixed results.
6. Bacopa monnieri may help lower blood pressure levels
High blood pressure is a serious health concern, as it places strain on your heart and blood vessels. This can weaken your heart and increase your risk of heart disease.
Research suggests that Bacopa monnieri may help keep blood pressure within a healthy range.
In one animal study, Bacopa monnieri reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels. It did this by releasing nitric oxide, which helps dilate blood vessels, resulting in improved blood flow and lower blood pressure.
Another study showed that Bacopa monnieri significantly lowered blood pressure levels in elevated rats, but it had no effect in rats with normal blood pressure levels.
However, one 12-week study in 54 healthy older adults found that taking 300 mg of Bacopa monnieri daily did not affect blood pressure levels.
Based on current findings, Bacopa monnieri may lower blood pressure in animals with high blood pressure levels. Nevertheless, more human research is required to confirm these effects.
Summary: Bacopa monnieri may help reduce blood pressure in animals with high blood pressure levels. However, human research in this area is lacking.
7. Bacopa monnieri may have anticancer properties
Test-tube and animal studies have found that Bacopa monnieri may have anticancer properties.
Bacosides, the active class of compounds in Bacopa monnieri, have been shown to kill aggressive brain tumor cells and inhibit the growth of breast and colon cancer cells in test-tube studies.
Additionally, in animal and test-tube studies, Bacopa monnieri induced skin and breast cancer cell death.
Research suggests that the high levels of antioxidants and compounds like bacosides in Bacopa monnieri may be responsible for its cancer-fighting properties.
Keep in mind that these results are from test-tube and animal studies. Until there are more human studies on Bacopa monnieri and cancer, it cannot be recommended as a treatment.
Summary: Bacopa monnieri has been shown to block the growth and spread of cancer cells in test-tube and animal studies, but human research is needed to confirm these effects.
Bacopa monnieri side effects
While Bacopa monnieri is considered safe, it may cause side effects in some people.
For example, it may cause digestive symptoms, including nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
Furthermore, bacopa monnieri is not recommended for pregnant women, as no studies have assessed the safety of its use during pregnancy.
Finally, it may interact with certain medications, including amitriptyline, a medication used for pain relief.
If you are taking any medications, speak with your healthcare provider before taking Bacopa monnieri.
Summary: Bacopa monnieri is generally safe, but some people may experience nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Pregnant women should avoid this herb, while those on medications should speak with their healthcare provider before taking it.
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.
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Typical dosages for Bacopa monnieri extract in human studies range from 300–450 mg per day.
However, dosage recommendations can vary widely depending on the product you purchase. If you have questions regarding dosage, speak with a qualified health professional to ensure your safety.
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.
Summary: Bacopa monnieri is available in several forms but is most commonly taken in capsule form. Typical doses range from 300–450 mg per day.
Bacopa monnieri is an ancient Ayurvedic herbal remedy for many ailments.
Human studies show it may help boost brain function, treat ADHD symptoms, and reduce stress and anxiety. Furthermore, test-tube and animal studies have found that it may possess anticancer properties and reduce inflammation and blood pressure.
Although these potential health benefits are promising, more research on Bacopa monnieri is needed to understand its full effects in humans.