What is Bacopa Monnieri?
Bacopa monnieri is an herb that grows in marshy wetlands and tropical regions. It goes by many names, including brahmi, water hyssop, and herb of grace. Ayurvedic traditional remedies use bacopa to improve cognition, relieve stress, reduce inflammation, and enhance longevity. Modern research shows that Bacopa monnieri may be beneficial for boosting cognition, alleviating stress, reducing inflammation, and more.
Potential Bacopa Monnieri Benefits
Bacopa Monnieri as an Antioxidant
Bacopa monnieri is rich in an antioxidant compound called bacosides. It may boost levels of other antioxidants as well, including superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and reduced glutathione (GSH). Researchers have hypothesized that the bacosides are responsible for much of the claims that bacopa can reduce stress, enhance longevity, and boost cognitive function. Bacosides protect against oxidative stress by scavenging free radicals and preventing lipid peroxidation. Lipid peroxidation occurs when oxidants steal electrons from the lipids in cell membranes, ultimately causing damage to the cell. Free radicals also cause oxidative stress, inflammation, and premature cellular aging.
Bacopa has anti-inflammatory properties and can prevent the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Bacopa also has analgesic properties that may provide relief from inflammation-related pain. While inflammation is a normal part of the immune system, chronic inflammation caused by free radicals can damage cells and worsen many disease states.
Bacopa Monnieri and Stress
Bacopa monnieri is also an adaptogen, meaning it blocks the physical and chemical effects of stress from acting against the body. Animal studies show bacopa supplements inhibit the loss of dopamine and serotonin caused by chronic stress. Researchers also found that bacopa monnieri reduced biomarkers of stress across all areas of the brain and was particularly effective in the hippocampus—the part of the brain involved in learning and memory.
Bacopa helps modulate the stress response and may minimize the intensity of perceived stressors. A human study found that bacopa exerts anxiolytic effects by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Researchers also confirmed bacopa has adaptogenic properties and improves mood during periods of stress.
Bacopa Monnieri as a Nootropic
Nootropic supplements primarily exert effects on several areas of cognition, including memory, alertness, and overall function. Bacopa monnieri appears to exert nootropic effects on individuals of all ages. Human studies hold strong promise. Bacopa supplements successfully improved information retention, retention speed, rate of learning, verbal learning, and overall memory in healthy adults ranging from the ages of 18 to 60. Another study reported similar effects in elderly adults.
One proposed mechanism is bacopa’s ability to enhance dendritic proliferation in the hippocampus and basolateral amygdala—two known areas of the brain involved in memory. Dendrites act as learning units within the brain and help improve spatial learning and increase the brain’s capacity to retain memories. Another possible explanation is that bacopa interacts with the serotonin system, which then modulates the cholinergic system. Cholinergic functions play a role in attention, learning, and mnemonic memory functions. Animal studies also show that bacopa has neuroprotective properties and may reduce neural inflammation associated with aging.
Potential Bacopa Monnieri Side Effects
Taking Bacopa monnieri powder on an empty stomach may cause gastrointestinal side effects. These include nausea, bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Take bacopa supplements with food to mitigate these side effects. Individuals taking amitriptyline should consult with a physician before taking Bacopa monnieri supplements, as bacopa may enhance the bioavailability of this medication.
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