Bacopa, a Plant that Can Benefit Your Memory

Bacopa is a popular plant in Ayurvedic medicine. It's used to enhance memory, protect brain health and prevent premature aging.
Bacopa, a Plant that Can Benefit Your Memory
Franciele Rohor de Souza

Reviewed and approved by the pharmacist Franciele Rohor de Souza.

Last update: 27 October, 2022

Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) is a plant that’s well known in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family, the same family as gratiola and mullein. It’s also known by other names such as “neer brahmi”, “water hyssop” and “herb of grace”.

It’s an aquatic plant that grows in humid tropical environments in countries such as Pakistan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan, and southern China. It’s also found throughout various parts of North America, Central America, and tropical Africa.

Although it’s used as a garden plant, due to its showy flowers, its popularity is due to its medicinal applications. In particular, evidence suggests that it has anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, analgesic, sedative and anti-epileptic potential. Interested in learning more about it? Below we’ll take a look at its main benefits.

Main bioactive compounds of bacopa

Before detailing the uses and benefits of bacopa, it’s worth highlighting its main bioactive compounds. These explain its pharmacological potential and multiple properties.

According to information reported in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition , its main constituents include the following:

  • Saponins
  • Alcohols
  • Steroids
  • Alkaloids
  • Sugars
  • Amino acids
  • Flavonoids
  • Cucurbitacins
  • Glycosides, sterol glycosides, and phenylethanoid glycosides

The main active compound is saponins, which, in turn, comprise bacosides, bacopasides, bacosaponins, betulinic acid, and monnierin. They’re associated with neural and brain health benefits.

Uses and benefits of bacopa, the memory-boosting plant

In Ayurvedic medicine, bacopa is valued for its potential to stimulate memory and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, it has other therapeutic attributes that are currently being evaluated in various clinical and pharmacological trials.

Let’s see what science says so far.

Helps stimulate brain function

It’s no coincidence that bacopa and derived supplements are widely used as brain stimulants. Animal and human research suggests that it improves memory, attention, and learning rate.

A study shared via Psychopharmacology reported that healthy adults who took 300 mg of Bacopa monnieri daily for 12 weeks had improved memory, ability to process visual information, and learning.

Research shared in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine supports these properties. Similarly, adults taking 300 mg to 600 mg of Bacopa monnieri extract per day reported improvements in attention, cognitive processing, and working memory.

In animal studies, the plant also showed potential as an adjuvant to improve spatial learning and the ability to retain information. More research is needed to corroborate these effects.

Bacopa improves memory.
Scientific studies show a beneficial effect on memory in adults who consumed bacopa.

It has neuroprotective potential

In addition to the above, bacopa stands out for its neuroprotective effect. This is linked to the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In this regard, a study in Drug Target Insights found that bacosides have therapeutic potential in Alzheimer’s disease.

These antioxidant-acting substances protect the brain against oxidative damage and age-related cognitive decline. The hypothesis suggests that they have the ability to guard neurons against beta-amyloid-induced toxicity.

However, a review shared in the Interactive Journal of Medical Research casts doubt on these effects. The researchers concluded that the evidence obtained is of “low certainty”, as they didn’t observe relevant effects of the plant when compared to a placebo and donepezil (a drug used to enhance memory).

Exhibits anti-epileptic potential

A review in the journal Fitoterapia details that bacopa is used as a tonic to increase mental performance. Due to its antioxidant qualities, it would be neuroprotective. Therefore, it’s also beneficial for disorders such as epilepsy.

This neuronal disease is characterized by the presence of epileptic seizures, learning disorders, and memory problems. So far, only studies in animals have been able to determine this potential.

The content of bacosides and triterpenoids is linked to its ability to improve nerve impulse transmission. It has also been observed that it may protect cognition.

Human studies are required to verify these effects.

Helps prevent anxiety, stress, and depression

The adaptogenic effect of bacopa was evaluated in a study carried out on rats, and shared in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. It concluded that B. monnieri extract has “potent” adaptogenic activity. Thus, it could improve the body’s response to stress.

A small study in humans supports these properties. In it, the administration of extracts of the plant was linked to a decrease in cortisol levels, a hormone that causes the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

A randomized controlled trial reported in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that the plant improved cognitive performance and reduced anxiety and depression in older adults with incipient degenerative disorders.

Other possible uses for bacopa

Bacopa’s high antioxidant content is often linked to other interesting benefits. And, while larger, more comprehensive studies are needed, some preliminary research has promising findings, such as the following:

  • In a clinical trial shared by Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, 85% of children with ADHD treated for 6 months with 225 mg daily of Bacopa monnieri extract had improved impulse control and inattention.
  • Test tube and animal studies suggest that Bacopa monnieri has the potential to inhibit the growth of malignant cells. However, more studies are needed to prove these effects in humans.
  • Bacopa flavonoids and saponosides have antioxidant and vasodilatory qualities. In animal studies, the plant exhibited vasodilatory potential, which in turn was linked to the prevention of coronary risk. Robust human studies are needed.
A brain.
The plant’s action on the nervous system allows us to hypothesize varied effects, improving memory, nerve transmission, and adaptation to stress.

Bacopa risks and side effects

Bacopa is generally safe for most healthy adults. Even so, it can lead to adverse reactions such as nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.

Likewise, its use is contraindicated in the following cases:

  • Stomach ulcer
  • Renal obstruction
  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Biliary and intestinal obstruction
  • Patients with bradycardia (low heart rate)

Like other plants, its simultaneous consumption with medications can lead to interactions. Specifically, it has been observed to interact with amitriptyline, which is a drug used to relieve pain.

To prevent these reactions, it’s advisable to consult a doctor before taking supplements.

Dosage and presentations

In online stores, pharmacies, and herbalists, bacopa is distributed as tablets, extracts, in combination with other medicinal plants, and as a dried plant for infusion. However, it isn’t usually easy to find it on the market.

In any case, all forms of consumption should be carried out with caution, respecting the doses suggested by the manufacturer. Often, between 300 mg and 450 mg per day are suggested, but this may vary depending on the presentation.

You may be interested in: Natural Foods That Fight Memory Loss

What to remember about bacopa?

In Ayurvedic medicine, bacopa is valued for its potential to stimulate memory, reduce stress levels, and protect cognitive health. Some research has evaluated these effects and made promising findings. Still, more robust and conclusive studies are needed.

It shouldn’t be a first-line treatment for illnesses. Its use is merely complementary and, as far as possible, should be supervised by your doctor. The plant is scarce and difficult to find, which is also a disadvantage.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.