Brahmi, Water hyssop, Indian pennywort, herb of grace
Native to Australia and India, Bacopa Monnieri is a creeping, succulent perennial that grows naturally in moist or wet places such as the borders of irrigated fields, streams, water channels and wells.
Bacopa Monnieri is a particularly important plant in Ayurvedic medicine where it has been used for almost 3000 years. Throughout this time, it has been associated with a variety of health benefits including heightened learning capacity, promoting memory and concentration and as a nerve tonic.
Bacopa Monnieri is recommended in various Ayurvedic texts to be taken during each decade of life after the first decade. It was also said to be used by ancient Vedic scholars to memorise lengthy sacred hymns and scriptures.
In Siddha (Tamil) medicine it is used for constipation, painful urination, oedema, nervous debility and poor memory and in Unani (Islamic) medicine for treatment of brain and nervous weaknesses. It is currently being used in Western countries as a memory enhancing agent.
The scientific significance of Bacopa Monnieri in improving memory and learning skills was first published in 1982 and since then it has been studied extensively in various in vitro and animal models, and humans, to determine the numerous properties it exhibits.
The efficacy of Bacopa Monnieri has been attributed to its neuroprotective and antioxidant effects, as well as regulation of dopamine, and inhibition of cholinesterase.
Bacopa Monnieri produced significant improvement in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms of participants (31 children, ages six to 12). In this study the symptom scores for restlessness were reduced in 93% of children, while self-control was improved in 89% of ADHD participants. The attention deficit symptoms were also reduced in 85% of children. Learning problems, impulsivity and psychiatric problems symptom scores were also reduced.
Bacopa Monnieri showed small to medium effect sizes for attention and information processing tasks. Larger effect sizes were evident for auditory verbal learning tasks. These findings substantiate the potency of Bacopa Monnieri, particularly in measures of verbal recall.
Bacopa Monnieri acts by suppressing the function of acetylcholinesterase in the cerebral cortex, especially in the parietal cortex and hippocampus, leading to increased available acetylcholine in that area. This gives rise to enhanced attention and memory operation capability or cognitive processing and finally resulting in enhanced working memory.
Bacopa Monnieri consumption shows significant improvements in neuropsychological testing measures including statistically significant changes in learning rate, information processing speed and reduced anxiety.
Bacopa Monnieri is an antioxidant with in vivo and in vitro studies indicating several modes of action that may protect the brain against oxidative damage including the binding and detoxification of metal ions, free radical scavenging and increasing antioxidant activity. Bacopa Monnieri contains potent antioxidants and is seen to work dose dependently as a metal chelator and perhaps also a free-radical chain reaction-breaker.
Mechanisms involved in the neuroprotective and memory enhancing effects of Bacopa Monnieri may include the binding and detoxification of metal ions and metal ion chelating effects. Metal chelation has been suggested as a potential therapy to reduce oxidative stress. Hydrogen peroxide is generated during the beta-amyloid aggregation process that leads to fibril formation. Interactions of divalent metals such as iron and copper with hydrogen peroxide can produce hydroxyl radicals and highly toxic reactive oxygen species. Both of these metal ions may contribute to membrane associated oxidative stress in the brain.
Bacopa Monnieri has been observed to decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure without significantly affecting heart rate. Vasodilatory activities have been shown to be one of the mechanisms that achieves better heart function and circulation.
Results from animal experiments have found that Bacopa Monnieri increases thyroxine (T4) concentrations by 41% without enhancing hepatic lipid peroxidation suggesting that it could be used as a thyroid stimulating herb and improve metabolic function.
Preclinical and traditional evidence indicates that Bacopa Monnieri can be anti-epileptic, or anticonvulsive, and additionally that it could help attenuate some of the negative effects of anti-convulsant medications such as cognitive impairment.
In animal models Bacopa Monnieri has been shown to exhibit significant analgesic and antinociceptive effects comparable to morphine, which is particularly applicable in cases of neuropathic pain. Bacopa Monnieri may strengthen the analgesic effects of morphine treatment while improving some of the negative effects of opioids such as depression, opioid tolerance and increased sensitivity to pain related to morphine withdrawal, while also protecting major organs against toxicity.
Bacopa Monnieri's pain-relieving properties are possibly mediated via COX-2 inhibitory anti-inflammatory pathways.
Studies on Bacopa Monnieri have demonstrated direct spasmolytic activity on intestinal smooth muscle, via inhibition of calcium influx across cell membrane channels. This property suggests that Bacopa Monnieri may be of benefit in conditions characterised by intestinal spasm such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Animal and in vitro studies suggested that Bacopa Monnieri can have a protective and curative effect on gastric ulcers and studies were reported for its anti-ulcerogenic activity.