Bacopa Monnieri Health Benefits: What the Science Says

bacopa monnieri benefits

Bacopa monnieri is an herb native to India but also found in warm, tropical areas around the world.  It has been used medicinally for at least 5,000 years and was described in Ayurvedic texts from the 6th century.

Now, bacopa is getting a lot of attention for its health benefits. Unlike many other medicinal plants, there is actually a lot of research into these benefits.  Here are the main benefits of bacopa monnieri plant which are backed by science.


Other Names for Bacopa:

  • Water hyssop
  • Brahmi
  • Herb of grace
  • Indian pennywort
  • Thyme-leafed gratiola

*Brahmi is also a name for the Ayurvedic herb Centella asiatica, which also have many health benefits.


Bacopa Health Benefits

1. Improve Memory and Cognitive Function

Bacopa is best known for its ability to improve memory and cognitive function, particularly in speed of recall.  Ancient Ayurvedic scholars allegedly used the plant to help them memorize long scriptures.  Research shows these benefits are due to the presences of unique chemicals called bacosides.

The mechanism of action is that bacopa improves neuron communication and signaling in the brain. It increases the growth of dendrites, which are the part of a neuron which receives information.  Bacopa also improves brain protein synthesis and blood flow to the brain.


2. Improve ADHD

Various studies have found that taking bacopa monnieri helps reduce ADHD symptoms in children, including restlessness and self-control.  ADHD is linked to decreased levels of dopamine in the prefrontal region of the brain.  Taking bacopa helps by increasing dopamine levels.  It also is neuro-protective and acts on neurotransmitters associated with attention.


3. Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Bacopa monnieri reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.  It also regulates the expression of other hormones related to the stress response.  This can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.  Further, the antioxidants in bacopa are neuro-protective and can protect the brain against the long-term effects of stress.


4. Treat Depression

Bacopa helps treat depression.  The mechanism is not fully known.  However, the benefits are likely because bacopa increases dopamine and serotonin levels and helps regulate GABA levels.    It also regulates various hormones linked to depression, such as corticosterone and ACTH.  By protecting the brain against oxidative stress, bacopa can reduce the likelihood of depression.


5. Alzheimer and Neuro-degenerative Diseases

Not only does bacopa protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer, it can also reduce the severity of them once they’ve set in.  It works by reducing levels of acetylcholinesterase – an enzyme which breaks down acetylcholine.  Because acetylcholine is important for nerve cell communication, increasing its levels can reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Neurodegenerative diseases are also linked to inflammation in the brain.  Bacopa antioxidants reduce inflammatory cytokines from brain cells, thus reducing inflammation in the central nervous system.


6. Anti-inflammatory

In addition to bacosides, bacopa contains various phytochemicals which can reduce inflammation in the body.   Inflammation is the root cause of many health disorders, which explains why bacopa has shown benefits for various inflammation-related health problems including:

  • Pain
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Skin disorders like psoriasis


Also read: Best Bacopa Supplements 

Image credit: “Bacopa monnieri 9aIR2” (CC BY 2.0) by jimduggan24

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