Bacopa monnieri is one of the oldest and most famous Ayurvedic medicines. Known and used for centuries – it has a positive effect on memory and concentration. It also helps to cope with stress and difficult experiences. Brahmi, which is its most common name, has many beneficial qualities.
How does it work? Where can we find it? Is it safe? You will find the answers to these questions and more in the article below.
What is Brahmi
Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi) is a herb of Ayurvedic medicine. People use it as a tonic to soothe the nervous system and to improve memory and cognition. Currently, it is still willingly used for these purposes and is one of the most popular adaptogens. It’s is very common, you can easily find it in many regions, from the temperate zone to the tropics. Brahmi is not very demanding when it comes to conditions. It prefers the vicinity of water reservoirs and even grows like a weed. Despite it being common, Brahmi has very interesting health properties. The nickname “small-leaved” perfectly illustrates its morphology. It consists of small leaves with oval blades and blooms with small, white flowers.
Brahmi has relaxing properties – it calms you down, reduces stress, and can also improve the quality of sleep. In addition, Brahmi is known for its beneficial effect on the brain. Thanks to the active substances contained in it, it supports the regeneration of the nervous system and supports the processes responsible for the formation of memory.
Interestingly, Brahmi is a common name for this plant, but also for Gotu Kola (and their combinations), which has a very similar effect and is also derived from Ayurveda. Nonetheless, it’s much more used for Bacopa than for Gotu Kola.
Brahmi is one of the most ancient Indian herbs – the first mention of it is from 3,000 years ago. People often describe it as a plant that allows you to “find the wisdom you seek”.
Brahmi in Ayurveda
As I mentioned, Brahmi is a herb that is widely used in Ayurveda. In fact, its effect on the human body is almost legendary. It works primarily to improve the functioning of the brain and has been valued for thousands of years. Especially for its rejuvenating effect on brain cells. What’s more, it calms the nervous system, allows you to stay calm in stressful situations, while supplying the brain with energy. It also supports the intellect. An extremely important feature is the toning effect of Brahmi. During the day, when it’s necessary to focus and some tasks require putting a lot of intellectual effort into them, this wonderful herb gives energy. On the other hand, in the evening, when our mind expects a respite and rest, then we can count on its calming effect.
From the Ayurvedic point of view, Brahmi combines a bitter and a sweet flavor. This makes it perfect for pacifying Pitta dosha. Brahmi calms down and supports the Sadhaka Pitta (responsible for the functioning of the heart, the emotional state, and the relationship of the mind with the body), which helps us stay calm and content. Concerning other doshas, it has a supporting effect for Vata and Kapha.
Health benefits of Brahmi
Brahmi has a very positive opinion around the world thanks to the impressive effect it has on our health. Now that you have a better understanding of the topic of Brahmi, let’s take a look at the numerous benefits you can enjoy by adding this herb to your daily supplementation!
1. It improves memory and cognitive functions
The main way to increase memory and cognition is to improve synaptic communication. Brahmi promotes the growth and proliferation of dendrites, which increases nervous signaling. To clarify, dendrites are branched nerve cell extensions that transmit nerve impulses. With the better transmission of nerve impulses, you may experience increased cognitive function.
Brahmi also improves memory and cognitive functions by stimulating the activity of the hippocampus. It does so by increasing the activity of a protein kinase that regulates cellular pathways. Since the hippocampus is necessary for virtually all cognitive activity, scientists believe that this is one of the most important ways that Brahmi increases the power and potential of our brain.
2. It has a neuroprotective effect
Brahmi is also an excellent “brain nutrient” because it improves the condition of the brain, supports memory, and increases our intellectual abilities. People often use oil prepared with Brahmi as a remedy for headaches.
Brahmi inhibits acetylcholinesterase and activates choline acetyltransferase, which increases acetylcholine. Easy words to remember, I know. It also increases blood flow to the brain in humans and rats. Brahmi (more precisely the active compounds contained in Bacopa Monnieri – bacosides) is effective in the case of chronic age-related neuritis in the rat brain. It significantly reduces the level of pro-inflammatory cytokines, iNOS protein expression, total nitrite, and lipofuscin in the brain of elderly rats.
The ingredients present in the Brahmi extract have properties that stimulate the growth of nerve cells in adult rats. Bacopa effectively reversed the effects of oxidative damage caused by aluminum in the cerebellum of old rats.
Brahmi also helps regenerate damaged neurons and has a protective effect against DNA damage in astrocytes (glial cells of the central nervous system).
3. It reduces stress
Brahmi helps relieve stress and anxiety by significantly reducing the level of cortisol in the body. It’s primarily popular for being a powerful adaptogen. As you might know, adaptogens are compounds, herbs, or other natural substances that help our body and mind deal with all physical, emotional, and psychological stressors.
Some solid scientific studies are supporting the ability of Brahmi to lower cortisol levels in the body. We can achieve this effect by using Brahmi alone or in combination with other substances. The reduced level of cortisol allows us to maintain a good mood and deal with stress better.
Moreover, since Brahmi influences the production of dopamine and serotonin, it may weaken the chronic stress-induced states of dopamine and serotonin in the hippocampus and cortex, which serve as another evidence of the adaptogenic properties of this plant.
4. May prevent heart disease
Brahmi reduces the abnormal growth of healthy cells (hyperplasia) in human veins, which are often used in transplants. Its extract can dissolve clots in experimental organisms and thus may be a promising “thrombolytic agent”.
Brahmi alcohol extract reduces cholesterol in rats that are on a diet high in saturated fat. It’s an ingredient in the herbal preparation (DHC-1) that shows protective properties when tested on rat hearts.
Brahmi also protects rats against ischemic and reperfusion damage and lowers blood pressure. It may be an effective drug against hypertension and vasodilator of various types of arteries. Brahmi may protect against biochemical changes and aortic pathology in rats with high cholesterol.
5. Positive effect on the stomach and liver
Iranian scientists at Thi Qar University proved that methanolic Brahmi extract shows anti-ulcer activity, both preventively and therapeutically. This extract increases the secretion of mucus (which protects the stomach against irritating and damaging factors), increases the vitality of the mucosa cells, and also has antioxidant properties. In addition, in vitro studies have shown that it works against Helicobacter pylori – bacteria that is one of the causes of peptic ulcer disease.
The ethanolic extract of Brahmi also has a protective effect on the liver – this was the conclusion of Indian scientists from Jiwaji University. Thanks to it, the levels of the liver enzymes ALT and AST in mice treated with the toxic tetrachloromethane (CCl4) decreased almost to a level comparable to the norm. The level of bilirubin also decreased. This study further demonstrated that in vitro grown Brahmi has the same pharmacological properties as the naturally grown herb.
6. Brahmi – anti-depressant properties
Brahmi (given at 300 mg a day for 12 weeks) shows antidepressant effects in studies in 54 elderly depressed adults. After completing the study, participants completed the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) questionnaire measuring the scale of depression.
Turns out that in people who took Brahmi, depression was weaker than before the beginning of the experiment. It also seems to reduce anxiety and heart rate. Studies suggest that this effect is due to the increase in dopamine and serotonin levels by bacosides – the main active substances contained in Bacopa monnieri.
Norepinephrine and dopamine send information about when a person needs to gather strength, focus, prepare for a fight or flight. Serotonin triggers a feeling of sleepiness, stimulates the brain to relax the body. When, for some reason, there are too few neurotransmitters, there is interference in the links between the neutrons. These are the processes that lead to depression.
7. Antiepileptic effect of Brahmi
There are also some reports of the anti-epileptic potential of Brahmi. Although it does not directly affect the action of glutamate, Brahmi may inhibit glutamate to some extent, which is one of the alleged mechanisms of anticonvulsant and neuroprotective action. Brahmi may upregulate mGluR8 metabotropic receptors. These receptors are downregulated in epilepsy and their lower activity increases the risk of convulsions.
Which somewhat indicates the involvement of the Gabaergic system as well. GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter, so when its system fails, the excitability of the nervous system increases, and the risk of convulsions increases. The Brahmi mechanism itself looks quite promising in this respect. In rodents, they noticed that epilepsy was associated with the downregulation of the alpha1, alpha5, and delta subunits of GABA (A) receptors in the striatum, while the treatment with Brahmi (specifically with bacoside A) contributed to the reversal of these changes. A later study found similar effects in the hippocampus as well. Interestingly, it indicates the regenerative capacity of the GABA system.
8. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Brahmi
Brahmi is a powerful antioxidant. Regular use of this plant contributes to the effective fight against the infamous free radicals – damaged cells whose task is to destroy the healthy ones. Athletes are the ones who often face the effects of free radicals; both those exercising in the gym and runners or cyclists.
Free radicals are also enemies of anti-aging. The oxidation process destroys healthy cells, which in the case of aging accelerates the process of sagging skin, the appearance of age spots or wrinkles. That is why the supplementation of Brahmi extract is also recommended for people who want to enjoy the good condition of the skin, hair, and nails for longer.
Brahmi extract also has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It inhibits the release of inflammatory cytokines from microglial cells and stops inflammatory enzymes in the brain. Accordingly, Brahmi can reduce inflammation of the central nervous system (CNS).
In the context of the detoxifying properties of Brahmi, studies have also been done on aluminum contamination. In the conclusions of the research, scientists reported that the gold nanoparticles stabilized by Brahmi exhibit no toxicity and act as therapeutic agents against aluminum-induced oxidative stress.
Brahmi Side Effects and Interactions
Some people experience a decrease in motivation after taking Bacopa in the morning, which is a consequence of a relaxing effect. That’s why it’s common practice to use it in tandem with something stimulating, such as a cup of good coffee, to maintain good mental capacity. However, it is worth remembering that the modulating effect of Brahmi on dopamine may slightly weaken the effects of stimulants, including caffeine.
Occasionally, gastric ailments are reported by supplementing with Brahmi, which is mainly noted when taken on an empty stomach. For this reason, it is suggested to be taken with a meal. Such practice may also contribute to better digestibility, as some of the active ingredients are fat-soluble. Traditionally, powdered Brahmi with Ghee butter was used.
Bacopa is often used together with Gotu Kola due to a fairly similar influence on the body. It’s a continuation of practices from thousands of years ago. For stress reduction, using it together with Ashwagandha seems like a great idea, maybe even better than pairing it with Gotu Kola.
Brahmi also affects the activity of certain liver enzymes that affect the metabolism of drugs and other supplements.
The most disturbing reports concern disorders of male fertility. In mice, supplementation decreased sperm motility, viability, and count. The parameters returned to normal 2 months after the cessation of the treatment.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding are an absolute contraindication to using Brahmi. People who use phenothiazine-derived drugs should also be moderate in the use of Brahmi because it can significantly intensify their effects.
Dosage of Brahmi
In supplements, we usually see Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi) extracts standardized to ~ 20% or ~ 50% bacosides. For these more concentrated extracts (50-55%) it is reasonable to take 300-500 mg or more per day. In the case of extracts with a lower concentration, you can take more to achieve a similar amount of bacosides.
The time of use depends on the purpose of supplementation. If the goal is to improve sleep and promote evening relaxation, the best time to take it is in the evening. However, if you need to reduce stress and calm down during the day, it is best to take it with breakfast. If you need a full range of benefits, you can divide the daily dose in half and use it twice a day.
The neurogenesis-stimulating effect is defined by the fact that the best effects are noted after about 2 months of supplementation because regeneration of neurons, unfortunately, takes a while. So, when we plan to use Brahmi, it’s worth assuming a minimum of 8 weeks.
When using a powdered or cut plant (no extracts), it is best to eat it cold by mixing it with milk or ghee. High temperature degrades the active ingredients which maintain stability only at temperatures up to 30 degrees C.
Where to buy Brahmi?
Bacopa Monnieri extract (Brahmi) is now available in most dietary supplement stores and is a very popular supplement. However, it is worth choosing a supplement with the standardization of at least 50% bacosides.
Bacopa Monnieri, or Brahmi, is a natural but quite effective herb for reducing anxiety and improving cognition, with some bonus benefits. We are very busy these days. We live quickly and chaotically and slowly begin to reap the benefits of our daily decisions. That’s why it’s worth starting with natural methods and changing your lifestyle to a healthier, more thoughtful one. Adding Brahmi to your day is without a doubt the step in the right direction.