Bacopa monnieri is a perennial herb native to marshy areas of India, Asia, and South America, that has been used for centuries in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to prevent disease, promote healthy longevity, and strengthen the mind.
Extensive research has been able to confirm that Bacopa may be an effective anxiety reducer, a potent cognitive enhancer, and a powerful brain protectant with potential as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Bacopa’s legal status varies throughout the world, though in most countries, including the US and Canada, it is unregulated and can be legally purchased and consumed. In Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Australia Bacopa is regulated as an ingredient in medicinal preparations.
Benefits and Effects
Bacopa monnieri is considered a powerful adaptogen, or natural substance that helps the body handle stress by normalizing bodily processes.
It’s widely used throughout Asia, both as a pharmaceutical ingredient and as a traditional treatment for a wide variety of disorders ranging from skin diseases to psychological disorders.
In the Western world, it is usually taken for its nootropic and anxiolytic properties, and for its potential as a treatment for neurological diseases.
Traditional medicine has used Bacopa monnieri as a memory booster for centuries, and modern research confirms that it may improve both memory formation and speed of recall.
Studies have shown that Bacopa significantly improved memory in groups of older people, and ongoing research is investigating its potential for treatment of memory-impairing neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease.
Bacopa’s memory-enhancing capabilities don’t appear to be limited to the elderly. In a study involving 76 adults between 40 and 65 years of age, Bacopa monnieri was shown to increase the ability to retain new information, and follow-up testing indicated that it also decreased the rate of forgetting newly-acquired information.
In a six-week placebo-controlled clinical trial involving a group of 60 medical students, those who received Bacopa monnieri showed statistically significant improvement in all tests related to memory and cognitive function.
Anecdotal reports from users that have supplemented with Bacopa appear to corroborate its memory enhancing effects.
Improved Learning Ability
Bacopa monnieri has been shown to augment cognitive processing, making learning new things faster and easier.
A study on school-aged children indicated that Bacopa supplementation significantly improved spatial learning.
A 2015 review of five Indian studies on children and adolescents suggests that Bacopa supplementation resulted in significant, consistent improvements in language use, cognition, and memory.
Bacopa monnieri has also been shown to enhance learning capacity in animal models, both in animals under stress and in animals in which non-spatial short-term memory, spatial working memory, and long-term fair memory were all artificially impaired. In these and other animal tests Bacopa successfully ameliorated cognitive dysfunction.
Many users report that taking Bacopa monnieri improved their overall cognition, particularly their memory.
Anxiety Reduction and Stress Relief
Bacopa monnieri has traditionally been used to relieve anxiety and ease the symptoms of stress.
Current research appears to confirm its anxiolytic properties, in both human and animal studies.
Though human studies on Bacopa’s anxiolytic potential are limited, those that exist are positive. A six-week study involving 54 healthy, non-demented volunteers over 65, Bacopa supplementation significantly reduced anxiety and depression.
In a 12-week placebo-controlled study on 72 men and women between 30 and 60, the participants who took 450 mg of Bacopa daily scored significantly lower on state anxiety than their counterparts who took placebo.
Animal studies compare Bacopa favorably to other plant extracts for the effective treatment of anxiety and other psychiatric disorders, and one study concluded that a standardized extract of Bacopa worked as effectively as lorazepam, a well-known benzodiazepine anxiolytic, in reducing anxiety in mice.
One of the most exciting aspects of Bacopa monnieri is its potential as an anti-aging supplement.
Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine as a brain tonic, Bacopa has been shown to have powerful antioxidant properties that can protect the brain against environmental stressors implicated in the cognitive impairment related to aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurological disorders.
Bacopa has also been shown to have a therapeutic effect on Parkinson’s disease, preventing the dopaminergic neurodegeneration characteristic of the condition.
In animal studies, Bacopa monnieri was shown to reduce the age-related neuroinflammation that is closely associated with neurodegenerative diseases, and it has been proven to promote production and expression of Nerve Growth Factor, a neuropeptide involved in the growth and survival of neurons.
How It Works
Bacopa monnieri impacts many body systems, but its nootropic, anxiolytic, and neuroprotectant effects are largely created by its ability to promote neural communication and modulate the release of certain neurotransmitters.
One important way Bacopa improves neural communication is by enhancing the growth and proliferation of dendrites, the “branched” nerve cell extensions along which neural impulses travel. Research has shown that 4–6 weeks of treatment with Bacopa monnieri extract induced structural changes in neurons that improved learning and memory.
In addition, the active ingredient in Bacopa monnieri extract has been shown to stimulate nerve cells and make synapses more receptive to nerve impulses. It is also thought to stimulate activity in the hippocampus by increasing the activity of kinases, proteins that regulate cellular pathways. Because the hippocampus is integrally involved in virtually all cognitive activity, this is believed to be one of the most important ways in which Bacopa boosts brain power.
Treatment with Bacopa monnieri has been shown to significantly upregulate levels of serotonin, catecholamine, GABA, glutamate, and acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter most closely associated with cognition. It was also shown to have an inhibitory effect on cholinesterase, a brain chemical which breaks down acetylcholine, and this activity is believed to further increase acetylcholine levels.
Though it doesn’t directly upregulate the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, Bacopa has been shown to protect dopamine receptors against oxidative stress and prevent dopamine depletion. This makes it particularly interesting as a possible treatment for Parkinson’s disease, an age-related neurological disorder characterized by low dopamine levels.
Bacopa monnieri’s ability to reduce anxiety is believed to be due in large part to its ability to raise brain levels of both serotonin and GABA, a powerful inhibitory neurotransmitter that acts to prevent anxiety by restricting the firing of neurons that are over-excited by stress.
The standard dose of Bacopa monnieri is 300 mg, assuming that the total weight is comprised of 55% bacosides, or active compounds.
The percentage of bacosides can vary among products but should be stated on the supplement’s label.
Bacopa monnieri is available in both capsule and powder form.
It is fat-soluble and should be taken with food or milk; in Ayurvedic medicine, it is traditionally taken with clarified butter or ghee. It can be dissolved in hot liquid but has a strong taste that some find objectionable.
Though Bacopa monnieri may work relatively quickly as an anxiolytic, it must be taken regularly over several weeks to fully experience its cognitive enhancement effects.
Achieving maximum cognitive enhancing benefits from Bacopa may require an extended regimen of regular doses over two to three months.
Bacopa appears to be very well tolerated. No incidents of toxicity were noted in human trials, and in animal studies administration of very large doses (up to 5,000 mg daily) over 270 days did not produce any toxicity.
Some users find that the time of day that they take Bacopa monnieri is important because of how it affects their sleep and alertness. Many say it helps them sleep, though others say it can disrupt sleep, and some users report feelings of lethargy and unwanted daytime drowsiness, particularly when taking higher doses.
As with any supplement, it’s wise to start with the lowest possible effective dose and closely monitor reactions and effects, adjusting dosage and schedule accordingly.
Bacopa monnieri works well on its own but is considered by many to be at its best in combination with other nootropics.
It is frequently combined with other herbal supplements for general health benefits, but for cognitive enhancement and mood management, it works well to round out just about any nootropic stack.
Bacopa Monnieri Stack for Universal Cognitive Enhancement
For a preformulated nootropic that contains a blend of 11 cognitive enhancing supplements, including Bacopa monnieri, designed to optimize a wide array of cognitive functions, we recommend Mind Lab Pro.
Mind Lab Pro’s strategy aims at all aspects of memory, mental performance, mood and stress resistance, and brain repair, and maintenance. Their combination of nootropics is designed to affect brain energy, neurotransmitters, brain blood flow, brain waves, neuroprotection, and regeneration.
Read our Mind Lab Pro review for a detailed overview.
Though Bacopa monnieri is generally safe and well tolerated, there are some potential side effects.
The most common side effects of Bacopa are indigestion, dry mouth, increased bowel movements, and fatigue. These side effects may be most noticeable when starting supplementation and may disappear as the body becomes accustomed to Bacopa. Reducing the amount taken daily may also relieve side effects.
An animal study found that Bacopa temporarily reduced sperm count after several weeks of supplementation. Sperm count levels returned to normal after supplementation was suspended for 56 days.
Where to Buy
Bacopa monnieri is widely available via different vendors ranging from supplement stores to specialized online vendors. Keep in mind that not all Bacopa available on the market is of high quality.
Bacopa monnieri can also be purchased directly from PureNootropics.net, our recommended supplier of nootropics.
Alternatively, if you’d like to take a supplement that contains a blend of 11 cognitive enhancing nootropics, including Bacopa monnieri, we recommend Mind Lab Pro. Read our Mind Lab Pro review for a detailed overview.
Bacopa monnieri is an ancient herbal supplement that has a lot to offer to the modern world.
Used for many centuries as a mental and physical tonic and treatment for a variety of ailments, it’s now recognized as a promising nootropic, anxiolytic, and neuroprotectant.
It’s safe, well tolerated, and has very few side effects.
A growing body of research suggests that it’s an effective memory booster and cognitive enhancer that could also help protect brains against aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
One thing Bacopa monnieri isn’t, however, is fast acting. Though it may be acutely effective in relieving anxiety, studies show that it must be supplemented for weeks, or even months, to fully benefit from its cognitive enhancing effects.
If you’re looking for an all-natural supplement that can boost your brain power, relieve stress and anxiety, and even protect your brain against aging – and you have the patience to keep up a regular regimen over at least two months – Bacopa could be an excellent choice.
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Planning to start a new supplementation regimen? See our medical disclaimer.
This page was last updated on November 21, 2018.