How Bacopa Can Help Improve Your Cognitive Function

Bacopa Monnieri

Story at-a-glance -

  • Bacopa is a popular herb in Ayurvedic medicine because of its potential effects on brain function
  • The bacopa herb is commonly known as a nootropic herb, which means that it can help repair damaged neurons and improve brain function
  • Aside from being a nootropic, bacopa is an adaptogen and diuretic as well. Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits you can acquire from this herb

Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri), or moneywort, is a popular herb in Ayurvedic medicine that has been used in India for over three centuries. The bacopa herb is commonly known as a nootropic herb, which means that it can help repair damaged neurons and improve brain function. Nootropics are usually said to have the ability to "unlock" the brain when it comes to creativity and cognitive drive.1

In India, the bacopa herb falls under the category of the "Medhya Rasayana" — herbs that have the ability to improve memory and intellect.2 This herb is also called "brahmi," together with the herb gotu kola. This was taken from the name of "Brahma," the creator of the universe in the Indian belief system. While the gotu kola herb shares the ability of the bacopa plant in improving cognition, these two can be easily differentiated based on their appearance.3

The gotu kola plant has fan-shaped leaves with slightly serrated edges, and produces purple to pink flowers.4 Bacopas, on the other hand, have succulent oblong leaves and white or light purple flowers.5 Bacopa monnieri also shares its name with the Bacopa caroliniana plant, which is widely cultivated in aquarium settings because of its blue flowers and aromatic leaves.

The two plants are closely related, but the Bacopa monnieri variety is much more known for its medicinal properties rather than its ornamental and decorative characteristics.6 Aside from being a nootropic, bacopa is an adaptogen and diuretic as well. Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits you can acquire from this herb.

Get These Impressive Health Benefits From Bacopa

Bacopa monnieri offers an impressive list of health and nutritional benefits, which are usually credited to the alkaloids, saponins and sterols that this herb contains.7 These benefits include the following:

May improve epilepsy symptoms. In Ayurvedic medicine, bacopa has been used to reduce the frequency of epileptic episodes.

In one study, the herb's effect on the GABA receptors, which are responsible for maintaining and regulating neuronal excitation, was measured. An imbalance in these receptors causes the abnormal occurrence of seizures. The use of bacopa showed a decrease in GABA receptor activity, decreasing the frequency of seizures and epilepsy symptoms.8

Has antidepressant and antianxiety properties. Bacopa contains bacosaponin C and bacopasides, which were observed to show antidepressive properties in animal studies. In a human study, people over the age of 65 who used bacopa showed a decrease in both anxiety and depression.9

Promotes normal blood pressure. This herb has been observed to help in vascular muscle function and the complete utilization of nitric oxide. These two processes help in normalizing blood pressure.10

Functions as a nootropic. As mentioned above, bacopa can boost cognitive function and improve memory and creativity. It also helps in improving focus.

May improve memory and information retention. In a study, subjects were given placebos and bacopa monnieri supplements.

The individuals who were given the bacopa monnieri showed a higher ability to retain newly introduced information. Improved cognition was also observed in people who took bacopa regularly.11

Acts as an adaptogen. Bacopa has the ability to regulate the body's response to acute and chronic stress. In an animal study, rats were treated with bacopa monnieri and subjected to high amounts of stress.

Their dopamine and serotonin levels were then measured, which showed that there were no observable decreases in both of these hormones.12

How Can the Bacopa Plant Be Used?

The bacopa plant is available in the market in various forms. It's usually sold as an oil or powder, but is also available in capsule and liquid extracts, which are easier to assimilate and add to various foods.13 Bacopa has also been incorporated into the culinary world, and is now being used as an ingredient in meals.

People who use bacopa in their diet have noted that it has a bitter taste, which may not be that appetizing for children.14 The taste, though, is just a minor characteristic because what you're actually aiming to get are the numerous health benefits it offers.

As a supplement, however, taking bacoba in large amounts is ill-advised due to the fact that it may have a toxic effect on the body. The recommended dose for this herb is normally 300 milligrams per day, but people often have varying tolerance to supplements. Be sure that you get a health practitioner's advice on the prescribed dose.15

Here's How You Can Grow Your Own Bacopa

Bacopa monnieri is a hydroponic plant, which means that it can grow without soil, and can even be cultivated in aquariums and other water-based planting systems.

The good news is that bacopa does not need too much of your attention for it to grow. All it needs is an adequate source of water and enough light.16 When growing bacopa in a hydroponic environment, make sure that it gets enough light so as to avoid the lower parts of the bacopa plant from rotting. Bacopa can either be grown through seed planting or stem propagation.

For stem propagation, here are the steps to help you grow your own bacopa in your backyard:17

1. Prepare the soil where you will be planting bacopa. This plant grows best in waterlogged areas and poorly drained soil. Plow the soil and thoroughly get rid of the weeds that can compromise the growth of bacopa.

2. Divide the area into plots and put in one or two irrigations. Moisten the soil a day before planting the bacopa cuttings.

3. Before removing the bacopa cuttings for transplantation, flood the nursery. Take care of the cuttings, making sure that you do not damage the stems and roots. Cuttings that are ready to be transplanted are usually about 6 to 8 centimeters (2.3 to 3.1 inches) long.

4. One day before planting, spread vermicompost on the surface of the plots. Flood the soil.

5. Transplant the cuttings in the wet soil, alloting 15-by-15 centimeter spaces in between.

6. Provide flood irrigation. Irrigation should be provided at three to four day intervals in order to provide enough water for these water-loving herbs.

7. Harvest the bacopa herb when it has thoroughly spread or covered the ground.

Try These Tasty and Healthy Bacopa Recipes

Once you get your hands on this herb, the next step is determining how you can add it to your diet. The good news is that there are numerous recipes available that use bacopa as the main ingredient, which means that you get the highest concentration of the minerals it offers. Here are a couple of recipes that you can follow:18,19

Brahmi Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1/2 packed cup basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed brahmi/bacopa
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
  • 50 milliliters (1.69 ounces) water

Procedure:

1. Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender.

2. Blend until smooth.

3. Transfer to a jar and keep refrigerated. This will last up for up to three days.

Brahmi with Lentils (Vallarai Keerai Kootu)

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 cups tightly packed bacopa leaves
  • 3/4 cup mung beans
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon homemade ghee
  • 2 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 dried red chili
  • 1 teaspoon black lentils
  • 1 teaspoon chickpeas
  • A pinch of asafetida
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 5 to 6 curry leaves
  • Himalayan salt to taste
  • Lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Procedure:

1. In a pressure cooker, pour 2 cups of water. Add the lentils and turmeric powder. Cook for about 10 minutes or until done. Set aside.

2. Wash the greens with cold water. Make sure that the leaves are clean and free from dirt. Blend the leaves in a food processor or a blender until it becomes a coarse paste.

3. Using a pan, heat the coconut oil and ghee on low-medium heat. Add the mustard seeds to the coconut oil and ghee mixture. Once the mustard seeds start popping, add the red chili, mung beans, chickpeas, asafetida, black lentils and cumin seeds.

4. Add the bacopa puree and cook until the raw smell is gone. Add the Himalayan salt to taste.

5. Add the cooked lentils and mix until thoroughly combined. If the mixture is too thick, feel free to add a little water until you get your desired consistency.

6. Add lemon juice to taste. Serve.

What Is Bacopa Oil?

Bacopa oil, or brahmi oil, is commonly sold in natural food and health stores. It is usually mixed with either sesame oil or coconut oil to dilute its concentration. This herbal oil has been used to help with the maintenance of certain conditions and has been observed to improve alopecia areata (hair loss), dandruff, anxiety, insomnia and stress.

Because of the limited studies that back the use of this oil, it's not yet determined if it can improve certain health conditions when ingested regularly. If you're planning on using bacopa oil therapeutically, make sure that you consult a clinical practitioner for the right dose.20

Bacopa Contraindications and Possible Side Effects

The intake and use of this herb should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women so as to avoid possible ill effects. While there are no studies that prove that bacopa causes side effects, people have observed that excessive intake of bacopa may lead to stomach upset, diarrhea and nausea. To avoid the risk of suffering from these adverse effects, it would be a good idea to gauge your tolerance for this herb.

Start with the lowest possible dose and build up your threshold. It's highly recommended to use this herb in moderation, just like other herbs.

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