The benefits of bacopa are largely due to its incredible rejuvenation of the brain. However, grand claims that it cures serious diseases should be treated with caution due to insufficient evidence.
We read between the lines, bringing you a bit of neurological know-how; check out some of the cognitive benefits and see what all the fuss is about.
Key Takeaways: Bacopa Monnieri
What Is Bacopa Monnieri?
Bacopa monnieri is an ancient medicine and herb that has been used traditionally in India for thousands of years. It’s said to have some fantastic benefits, such as revitalizing intellectual functions and improving working memory due to its neuroprotective effects. It might also help the body regulate critical physiological processes, such as muscle control, due to its role in increasing neurotransmission .
The herb is an emerging area of interest for scientists and has recently been experimented with in modern clinical trials, including with survivors of Alzheimer’s disease, thyroid hormone imbalances (hypothyroidism), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, more is needed—there is insufficient research about all of its effects and benefits.
How Does It Work?
Bacopa monnieri works by supporting the body and brain with a collection of important physiological processes.
Firstly, it protects the brain from oxidative stress that can kill brain cells. Oxidative stress is caused by physical stress, toxins, and free radicals from the environment. Bacopa monnieri has antioxidant qualities that help the brain clear itself from this type of harm .
Second, the herb is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor . That means it stops an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase from disrupting and reducing neurotransmission. Acetylcholinesterase is harmful and has been found in some cancerous tumors. When Bacopa monnieri or acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are introduced, the levels of the enzyme reduces, and choline levels naturally rise.
Choline is an essential part of neurological health because it helps repair and make cells in the central nervous system and brain . It is found in certain foods like eggs and liver. Increasing choline levels by eating well and taking supplements supports the brain to renew itself and prevents cognitive decline caused by aging.
Cerebral blood flow is highly important for the brain to get the nutrients it requires to function. As with any other living thing, the brain must be fed with oxygen and glucose to flourish. Bacopa monnieri has the capacity to increase cerebral blood flow, which helps to provide the brain with essential nutrients.
The final reason that bacopa is so useful is that it can affect the monoamine system, which means it increases the brain’s neurotransmission of hormones that are at the center of the brain’s reward system . The hormones are called dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline. They regulate our ability to feel good, and when they increase, mood is lifted.
Supporting neurotransmission of the monoamines through what we consume is good for mental health. It can also lead us to better physical outcomes. The hormones, especially dopamine, are involved in supporting strong motor skills. Choline, too, helps us gain control over muscle function and helps the cardiovascular system.
Bacopa monnieri’s beneficial effects on people have been observed by healers for upwards of 1,400 years. It is recorded in ancient medicinal texts from India as early as the 6th century A.D. . The herb was a key ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient form of holistic healing that dates back 3,000 years.
Informally, bacopa is called brahmi, because of its roots in Hinduism. Brahma is the god of creation and all-knowing intelligence.
Because of bacopa’s connection with intellect and increased memory capacity, the herb was taken by ancient scholars who wanted to memorize long scriptures, as well as provided by physicians as a remedy for mental impairments. Its effect was allegedly made more potent when combined with other intellect-enhancing herbs, such as Centella asiatica (Gotu kola) .
In botany, bacopa monniera linn is described as a non-aromatic herb that tends to inhabit swamp areas in tropical regions of the earth. Its leaves are small, around 4–6mm long, succulent, and oblong. It grows small, white flowers and can survive when completely submerged in water .
Known in English as water hyssop, it is now a popular aquarium plant that has caught the eyes of botanists, historians, and pharmacologists alike. In a survey from Australia, it was proven a go-to aid for memory impairment for a large number of 60–64-year-old people .
Bacopa Monnieri Uses
According to historical texts and modern scientific evidence, bacopa extracts have an array of possible uses:
- Reduce depression.
- May reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
- May ease symptoms of ADHD.
- May boost sexual pleasure.
- Reduce stress and anxiety.
- May lower high blood pressure.
- May enhance brain function.
- May reduce inflammation.
Bacopa monnieri extract has shown positive effects on reducing depression. In a study with rats, artificial stressors were made to upset the creatures, and their stress hormones were measured. Those given bacopa (although at high doses in relation to their body weight) showed a notable reduction in the animal’s stress hormones .
Another study, which was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with older adult participants, showed that those administered bacopa extracts scored better on a depression scale than the placebo group. The study concluded that the people taking bacopa were probably happier, more relaxed, and less stressed out by the study itself .
Bacopa extract has this effect on people and animals because it lifts dopamine levels, which has a handful of benefits—one of which is reducing the likelihood of depression caused by stress.
May Reduce the Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
Clinical studies about therapeutic plants and their impact on Alzheimer’s disease show that bacopa monniera extract could contribute to emerging new treatments for the degenerative condition .
Alzheimer’s causes memory loss and dramatic cognitive deterioration, leading to erratic behavior and a loss of sense of self. It is an increasing public health concern due to a rapidly aging population. Scientists have created the Alzheimer’s disease model to coherently measure rates of decline for those suffering from the condition.
Within this model, bacopa has been tested in controlled human clinical trials. The evidence shows promising results in favor of using bacopa as a clinical memory enhancer . Scientists also strongly note its neuroprotective effects are worth developing. However, it is discussed that optimum results from bacopa in working memory tests are with healthy human subjects or those with mild cognitive impairment.
Therefore, bacopa may not be the best solution for severe cognitive dysfunction caused by diseases like Alzheimer’s. Bacopa is scientifically proven to support learning and memory, but complex conditions like Alzheimer’s impair other areas of cognitive function as well, such as memory-free recall and reasoning .
In an animal study and clinical trial, preliminary research suggests that bacopa may be useful in this regard. Medicinal herb administration was analyzed to assess effects on the brain of the epileptic rats, vs. a control of non-epileptic rats. The epileptic rats were also tested for learning and memory .
The rat frontal cortex was pictured and examined before and after being administered with Bacopa. Results showed that GABA binding sites in the brain, which are areas of the brain that become over-stimulated during seizures, were significantly reduced to near-normal levels. The results for the learning and memory tests were also favorable, according to the research.
Therefore, this study concluded that bacopa monnieria could have a therapeutic effect in the treatment of epilepsy.
May Ease Symptoms of ADHD
A clinical trial assessing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children showed that standardized bacopa monnieri extract reduced some behavioral symptoms by as much as 93%.
Restlessness, which is on a checklist of symptoms for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), was shown to decrease by that much. The children were said to increase their self-control by 89% and overall, adverse symptoms of ADHD were reduced by 85%, according to the study .
The condition is characterized by inattention and possible learning impairments. The children tested for learning problems improved learning and memory, including logical memory on the scores.
May Boost Sexual Pleasure
Historically, in the ancient Ayurveda studies and texts, bacopa monnieria is one of a combination of herbs that was recommended for use by the Kamasutra.
Evidence of aphrodisiac qualities with bacopa extract alone is difficult to come by. However, judging by the evidence of other aphrodisiac herbs and food ingredients, it may be that the overall feeling of relaxation and well-being that is associated with bacopa could enhance sex drive and arousal .
Reduce Anxiety and Stress
Bacopa monnieri standardized extract is shown to reduce stress and increase a feeling of well-being. It does this by raising levels of dopamine in the brain (a reward hormone) and reducing cortisol levels (a stress hormone).
When supplemented with certain brain-enhancing compounds, like bacopa extract, brain chemicals can be positively and naturally adjusted, increasing neurotransmission of hormones that make us feel calm, alert, and well .
May Lower High Blood Pressure
The science behind the reduction in blood pressure is that the herb helps us release nitric oxide, which facilitates the widening of the blood vessels. Bacopa monnieria also supports the maintenance of vascular smooth muscle cells—important for the cardiovascular system’s functioning .
May Enhance Brain Function
It’s fairly well acknowledged by clinical trials that bacopa benefits memory processing. This is because, firstly, bacopa increases choline levels in the brain. Enhanced cholinergic function promotes the growth and renewal of brain cells, which are needed for a sharp mind .
Second, when released into the brain, dopamine creates a balanced mood conducive to focus and learning. Thirdly, the effect that herbs like bacopa monnieria have on increasing cerebral blood flow means that more oxygen gets to the brain, helping it to function.
Various studies show bacopa’s effect of cognitive enhancement, especially in healthy people and those with unserious memory impairment .
However, scientific literature notes that there is more to cognitive performance than free memory recall, such as fluid intelligence and creative thinking. Further research is needed to assess the range of benefits bacopa could have on human cognitive function.
May Reduce Inflammation
Research suggests that bacopa can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha, in the brain cortex . Pro-inflammatory cytokines are harmful molecules. When humans are exposed to them, it causes fever, inflammation, and tissue destruction. The result is the degradation of neurons.
Neuroinflammation refers to damage in the brain and spinal cord caused by stress, infection, brain injury, aging, and pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Bacopa has neuroprotective elements associated with cell regeneration, and choline slows the aging process in the brain that causes cognitive decline .
Is Bacopa Monnieri Safe?
Yes, there is very little reason to suggest that bacopa is not safe when it is taken in recommended doses.
Adverse effects from bacopa are very rare, but bacopa sometimes causes nausea and an upset stomach .
Precautions and Warnings
The FDA warns against the drug being used to treat serious diseases in humans, such as cancer and drug-induced liver injury—known as morphine-induced hepatotoxicity. Bacopa has been shown ineffective in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, despite some outdated claims .
It may cause stomach upset. Evidence that strong alcoholic extract of bacopa used on animals disrupts smooth intestinal smooth muscles, causing them spontaneous bowel movements .
If you have an overactive thyroid, avoid bacopa extracts. Its ability to stimulate hormones could worsen hyperthyroidism. On the other hand, it may be a possible benefit for those with hypothyroidism .
Not much evidence exists about the effects of bacopa during pregnancy or breastfeeding; therefore, it is not clear whether it is safe and should be avoided.
There is little available information about whether bacopa has any adverse interactions with other medications. That is, if the herb is made less effective or reacts with other substances.
How To Take Bacopa Monnieri
If you want to try taking a bacopa supplement, you could get a bottle of 100% bacopa capsules or take it in a nootropic stack. Many of them include bacopa as part of their blended ingredients.
Bacopa Monnieri Supplements
Supplements are readily available online and as part of nootropic dietary supplements, which contain a mix of other brain-boosting herbs.
Bacopa doses can be safely taken at 300mg–600 mg per day . In nootropic stacks, the average amount of bacopa contained in a capsule is 200 mg–250 mg.
Is It Safe To Take Bacopa Long-Term?
It’s not clear whether chronic effects of taking bacopa are harmful to humans. Research suggests that there can be toxic effects on the body from high doses of nootropics long-term, but this is more clearly shown in animal studies. However, in animal studies, very high doses are often experimented with .
Best Bacopa Monnieri Nootropic Supplements
There’s a range of nootropic supplements on offer that contain bacopa monnieri. Here we weigh up a few pros and cons of leading nootropics:
Mind Lab Pro
Mind Lab Pro is a nootropic supplement that contains medicinal plant extracts and added B vitamins. The ingredients are well researched and shown to have cognitive effects and benefits on human memory and a relaxing effect that is conducive to learning.
The product costs just over $50 per bottle, making it slightly cheaper than other nootropic brands. Online customer reviews of the product and service are good. For more on this, you can also read our Mind Lab Pro review.
NooCube is a blend of popular herbal extracts. It contains amino acids for alert wakefulness, cat’s claw, which increases antioxidant activity in the brain, and a high concentration of bacopa to improve memory.
One bottle costs $59.99, and discounts are available if you buy more. For more on this, check out our NooCube review.
Qualilia Mind nootropic stack is a blend of some 28 natural ingredients. It contains high levels of B vitamins, which are excellent for brain health; however, it is possible that adding so many ingredients is surplus to requirements or reduces potency. Despite this, the brand has a good reputation in online communities.
Let us recap with the most commonly asked questions about bacopa.
What Does Bacopa Do in the Brain?
In a nutshell, bacopa raises levels of good brain chemicals to protect it. It enhances neurotransmission, and that allows cells in the brain and nervous system to communicate more easily with one another.
The effect is said to be faster cognitive processing and improved working memory.
Does Bacopa Monnieri Increase Dopamine?
Yes, which is why nootropics for motivation all contain compounds that do the same. Dopamine receptors are at the center of the brain’s reward system, and increasing them gives us a feeling of satisfaction.
Is Bacopa Monnieri Good for Kidneys?
Possibly, but not as a reliable remedy. Evidence from animal studies state that bacopa, due to its great antioxidant effects, may decrease damage caused by drug-induced liver injury . But this theory is not thoroughly tested with humans yet.
Is Bacopa a Stimulant?
No, bacopa monnieri standardized extract is not a stimulant medication, it is an active nootropic ingredient and herbal supplement. Bacopa may stimulate you naturally through its effect on the brain, which helps with cognitive processing. For that reason, it’s sometimes referred to as a type of natural Adderall.
Does Bacopa Have Side Effects?
Very rarely. Side effects in humans are generally minor, such as nausea and an upset stomach.
Bacopa and medicinal plant extracts have captivating histories and benefits to health. It might not be the emerging cure for cancer, but it could have some wonderful benefits for your brain. Research about Alzheimer’s and ADHD is in its infancy, but an improved memory by taking a supplement is not to be ignored.
- Rajan, K. E., Preethi, J., & Singh, H. K. (2015). Molecular and Functional Characterization of Bacopa monniera: A Retrospective Review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2015, 945217. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/945217
- Tamara Simpson, Matthew Pase, Con Stough, “Bacopa monnieri as an Antioxidant Therapy to Reduce Oxidative Stress in the Aging Brain”, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2015, Article ID 615384, 9 pages, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/615384
- Das A, Shanker G, Nath C, Pal R, Singh S, Singh H. A comparative study in rodents of standardized extracts of Bacopa monniera and Ginkgo biloba: anticholinesterase and cognitive enhancing activities. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2002 Nov;73(4):893-900. doi: 10.1016/s0091-3057(02)00940-1. PMID: 12213536.
- Derbyshire, E., & Obeid, R. (2020). Choline, Neurological Development and Brain Function: A Systematic Review Focusing on the First 1000 Days. Nutrients, 12(6), 1731. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061731
- Aguiar, Sebastian, and Thomas Borowski. “Neuropharmacological Review of the Nootropic HERB Bacopa Monnieri.” Rejuvenation Research, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Aug. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746283/.
- NOTES on the Genus BACOPA (Plantaginaceae, GRATIOLEAE) in … huh.harvard.edu/files/herbaria/files/25_2_195_aymard_etal_bacopa.pdf.
- Jorm AF, Rodgers B, Christensen H. Use of medications to enhance memory in a large community sample of 60-64 year olds. Int Psychogeriatr. 2004 Jun;16(2):209-17. doi: 10.1017/s1041610204000298. PMID: 15318765.
- Hazra, Somoday, et al. “Evaluation of Antidepressant Activity of Bacopa Monnieri in Rats: A Study in Animal Model of Depression.” Drug Discovery , vol. 2, no. 4, Oct. 2012, pp. 2–7.
- Calabrese, Carlo, et al. “Effects of a Standardized Bacopa Monnieri Extract on Cognitive Performance, Anxiety, and Depression in the Elderly: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., July 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3153866/.
- Abdul Manap AS;Vijayabalan S;Madhavan P;Chia YY;Arya A;Wong EH;Rizwan F;Bindal U;Koshy S; “Bacopa Monnieri, a Neuroprotective Lead in Alzheimer Disease: A Review on Its Properties, Mechanisms of Action, and Preclinical and Clinical Studies.” Drug Target Insights, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31391778/.
- N. Uabundit, J. Wattanathorn, S. Mucimapura, and K. Ingkaninan, “Cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective effects of Bacopa monnieri in Alzheimer’s disease model,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 127, no. 1, pp. 26–31, 2010.
- Pase, Matthew P., et al. “The Cognitive-Enhancing Effects of Bacopa Monnieri: A Systematic Review of Randomized, Controlled Human Clinical Trials.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 18, no. 7, 2012, pp. 647–652., doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0367.
- Mathew, Jobin, et al. “Decreased GABA Receptor in the Cerebral Cortex of Epileptic Rats: Effect OF Bacopa Monnieri and Bacoside-A.” Journal of Biomedical Science, BioMed Central, 24 Feb. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3306740/.
- Dave UP;Dingankar SR;Saxena VS;Joseph JA;Bethapudi B;Agarwal A;Kudiganti V; “An Open-Label Study to Elucidate the Effects of Standardized Bacopa Monnieri Extract in the Management of Symptoms of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children.” Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24682000/.
- Malviya, Naleesh, et al. “RECENT STUDIES ON APHRODISIAC HERBS FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF MALE SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION ñ A REVIEW.” Drug Research, vol. 68, no. 1, 2011, pp. 1–6.
- Kamkaew N;Scholfield CN;Ingkaninan K;Maneesai P;Parkington HC;Tare M;Chootip K; “Bacopa Monnieri and Its Constituents Is Hypotensive in Anaesthetized Rats and Vasodilator in Various Artery Types.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21762768/.
- Rastogi, Manisha, et al. “Amelioration of Age Associated Neuroinflammation on Long Term Bacosides Treatment.” Neurochemical Research, Springer US, 25 Dec. 2011, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11064-011-0681-1.
- Nemetchek MD, Stierle AA, Stierle DB, Lurie DI. The Ayurvedic plant Bacopa monnieri inhibits inflammatory pathways in the brain. J Ethnopharmacol. 2017 Feb 2;197:92-100. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2016.07.073. Epub 2016 Jul 26. PMID: 27473605; PMCID: PMC5269610.
- JP;, Yadav SK;Jain AK;Tripathi SN;Gupta. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Therapeutic Evaluation of Indigenous Drugs.” The Indian Journal of Medical Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2697693/.
- S;, Dar A;Channa. “Calcium Antagonistic Activity of Bacopa Monniera on Vascular and Intestinal Smooth Muscles of Rabbit and Guinea-Pig.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10433473/.
- S;, Kar A;Panda S;Bharti. “Relative Efficacy of Three Medicinal Plant Extracts in the Alteration of Thyroid Hormone Concentrations in Male Mice.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12065164/.
- Peth-Nui, Tatimah, et al. “Effects of 12-Week Bacopa Monnieri Consumption on ATTENTION, Cognitive Processing, Working Memory, and Functions of Both CHOLINERGIC and MONOAMINERGIC Systems in Healthy Elderly Volunteers.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3537209/.
- Sumathy T, Subramanian S, Govindasamy S, Balakrishna K, Veluchamy G. Protective role of Bacopa monniera on morphine induced hepatotoxicity in rats. Phytother Res. 2001 Nov;15(7):643-5. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1007. PMID: 11746853.