Bacopa-monnieriThe most notable member of the Bacopa genus is Bacopa monniera. In Ayurvedic medicine, this plant has been used for over 3000 years and particularly in India to treat tumors, indigestion, diarrhea, anemia, inflammation and mental disorders. In the past three decades, there has been extensive research where numerous clinical trials were conducted to prove the benefits of this marvelous herb.
Bacopa monniera, known as water hyssop belongs to the Bacopa genus of aquatic plants in the Plantaginaceae family of flowering plants. Described in religious Hindu texts centuries ago, this medicinal herb shares the same Sanskrit name “Brahmi” with Centella asiatica (Gotu Kola), a plant that is used in traditional medicine and has similar pharmacological properties. [1]
This perennial, marsh plant is native to North and South America, southern India, Europe and Australia. It has small, white flowers with five petals that blossom for many months and succulent leaves arranged oppositely on the stem. Grows in damp areas and it has been cultivated as medicinal crop. It is planted during rainy season and harvested during October-November. Bacopa can be easily grown in pots or gardens, using natural fertilizers. It is sensitive to frost and in winter should be kept in warm places. Propagation can be done by seeds and cuttings. [2]
Bacopa monniera contains different chemical compounds such as alkaloids (brahmine, nicotine and herpestine), sterols and bacosides that are responsible for the many pharmacological effects. Early research studies show that Bacopa can be used in treating anxiety, backache, rheumatism and fluid retention. It is effective in reducing neural inflammation, it increases the blood flow in the brain and it’s beneficial in treatment of epilepsy. Bacopa acts as an antioxidant by protecting the cells from free radicals and increasing the activities of enzymes such as catalase and superoxide dismutase. Free radicals cause oxidative cell damage that leads to mutation and cancer promotion. Various studies have shown that Bacopa extract demonstrates relaxant effect on bronchoconstiction and can be potentially used to elevate symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, allergies and coughs. It is believed that Bacopa shows positive vasodilatory effect on the cardiovascular system by acting as “cardiotonic”. Many clinical studies support the use of Bacopa to treat depression and anxiety.
In healthy individuals, Bacopa can improve memory, cognitive function and verbal learning. It’s widely used by Indian students, in the form of Brahmi tea to improve concentration and mental recall. The use of Bacopa is truly beneficial in early brain development and helpful for children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. [3]
Today, there are various commercial products available on the market in the form of tablets and supplements. In the last few years, a growing number of people confirmed the positive effects of using this herb as a memory enhancer and stress fighting weapon. When administered orally, alongside a meal, in short term period Bacopa extract is relatively safe. However, possible side effects include fatigue, dry mouth, nausea, and “congestion” in the intestines. Pregnant woman and patients with thyroid condition should avoid using supplements. [4]