Does Nootropic herb Brahmi or Bacopa Monnieri really improve memory?


In India peoples use Brahmi or Bacopa Monnieri for enhancing memory as well as some other neurological aspects from long years. It is considered to be a “medhya rasayana”, an herb that sharpens the mind and the intellect. It also gives medicinal value to Indian Ayurveda from long time. But don’t confused brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) with gotu kola. So here our aim is to see what the studies found? Does Nootropic herb Brahmi or Bacopa Monnieri (BM) really improve memory? It is also seen distributed in the plains of Southeast Asia, tropical Asia, sub-tropical United States, tropical Africa, and Australia.

Does Nootropic herb Brahmi or Bacopa Monnieri really improve memory

Does Nootropic herb Brahmi or Bacopa Monnieri really improve memory?

Bacopa Monnieri (BM) contains Bacoside as the major component and also mentioned as BM extract in many cases. The Bacopa Monnieri (BM) contained polyphenols and sulfhydryl contents that posses antioxidant activity. That neutralize free radicals and thus reduce oxidative damage as well as decrease lipid oxidation.(1) Bacoside intake improved the antioxidant status as well as maintained the levels of trace minerals in brain.(2) Apart from other factors an imbalance between protective antioxidant mechanisms and free radical results to early aging and also cognitive decline. Bacoside extract of Bacopa monnieri also inhibits the release of the proinflammatory cytokines TNF-α and IL-6 and thus reduce inflammation in brain.(3) Also in 8-week trial, BM significantly increased 25% in cerebral blood flow in animal model independent of blood pressure.(4) When taken orally it has no effect in blood pressure. (5)

Stimulates neuronal dendritic growth

Dendrites in a multipolar neuron Source:Medical Dictionary

Nervous system uses specialized cells called neurons for generating as well as sending electrical message. And one most important structure of neurons includes dendrite which receives electrical message. Dendrites regions concerned with learning as well as memory. And Bacopa Monnieri extract had also shown neuronal dendritic growth-stimulating properties.(6)

What are the studies ?

Earlier study published in 1987, Bacopa in syrup form, equivalent to 1 gm dried Bacopa daily, for three months in 40 school children aged 6–8 years, showed improvement in immediate memory, perception, and reaction performance without any side effects.(7, 10)

A small double-blind placebo-controlled study as published in 2001 was conducted on in healthy human with 300 mg Bacopa Monnieri extract for 5 and 12 weeks. The study also suggest that B. monniera may improve higher order cognitive processes that are critically dependent on the input of information from our environment such as learning and memory. (8)

Later Development

A 2012 randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study was conducted on sixty healthy elderly both male and females with supplementation of Bacopa Monnieri extract 300 and 600 mg for 12 weeks. The results also suggest that B. monnieri can improve attention, cognitive processing, and working memory.  

AChE or acetylcholine esterase, an enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of acetylcholine(neurotransmitter) and also of some other choline esters that function as neurotransmitters. Thus AChE acts negatively in neurotransmission. The study clearly demonstrated that B. monnieri suppresses AChE activity and thus resulting in enhanced cholinergic function, which in turn enhances attention and memory processing and gives rise to the increased working memory.

They also concluded that mild cognitive impairment and early phase Alzheimer’s disease occur due to cholinergic degeneration and oxidative stress. Thus BM extract may provide a benefit in terms of decreasing memory impairment in mild cognitive impairment and early-phase Alzheimer’s disease and even in attention deficit disorder.(9)

Some more results

Another 2012 high quality systematic review of randomized, controlled human clinical trials also supports previous findings that BM most effectively reduces the rate of forgetting .(10)

In 2016 published study Navneet Kumar et. al. had conducted another randomized double blind placebo-controlled noncrossover, parallel trial on 60 college student to evaluate the effect of Bacopa monnieri on memory. Participants received orally 150 mg of Bacopa twice daily for six weeks. They observed efficiency of attention, freedom from distraction, and also working memory improved significantly with use of Bacopa. (11)

Related article:

Benefits of Bacopa Monnieri for Alzheimer’s to boost brain health and function

Final Word

Although long term study is not available these studies definitely have weight. Moreover Vdedic scholars of ancient India have been known to consume Bacopa that helped them memorize lengthy scriptures 3,000 years ago.(12)Due to low toxicity it appears as safe even in the case of child and adolescent when use within recommended dose. Overall we can consider Bacopa monnieri as memory improver along with other neuroprotective roles. Presently 300mg-450mg per day of Bacopa extract is used normally. That can be also divided into two parts. Bacopa has a bitter taste. Higher dose may also cause stomach upset. It is a small herb so you can grow even in a flower pot.

Disclaimer: Information provided here are generalized information for
educational purpose only, not intended to provide one to one health
consultation or replace practice of a qualified practitioner. Different
people may have different health condition and may have different reaction
to the same food. Hence it has been advised to consult with health care
provider before application of any of above guidelines.
Source and References:
1.Dhanasekaran M, Tharakan B, Holcomb LA, Hitt AR, Young KA, Manyam BV.,
Neuroprotective mechanisms of ayurvedic antidementia botanical Bacopa
monniera,Phytother Res. 2007 Oct;21(10):965-9
2.Anbarasi K, Vani G, Balakrishna K, Devi CS., Effect of bacoside A on
brain antioxidant status in cigarette smoke exposed rats, Life Sci. 2006
Feb 16;78(12):1378-84
3.Michelle D. Nemetchek, Andrea A. Stierle, Donald B. Stierle, and Diana
I. Lurie,The Ayurvedic plant Bacopa Monnieri inhibits inflammatory pathways
in the brain, J Ethnopharmacol. 2017 Feb 2; 197: 92–100.
4.Kamkaew N. Scholfield N. Ingkaninan K. Taepavarapruk N. Chootip K. Bacopa
monnieri increases cerebral blood flow in rat independent of blood
pressure. Phytother Res. 2013;27:135–138
5.Kamkaew N. Scholfield CN. Ingkaninan K. Maneesai P. Parkington HC. Tare
M. Chootip K. Bacopa monnieri and its constituents is hypotensive in
anaesthetized rats and vasodilator in various artery types. J
Ethnopharmacol. 2011;137:790–795
6.Venkata Ramana Vollala, Subramanya Upadhya, and Satheesha Nayak,
Enhancement of basolateral amygdaloid neuronal dendritic arborization
following Bacopa monniera extract treatment in adult rats,
Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2011 Apr; 66(4): 663–671
7.R. Sharma, C. Chaturvedi, and P. V. Tewari, “Efficacy of bacopa monnieri
in revitalizing intellectual functions in children,” Journal of Research
and Education in Indian Medicine, vol. 1, pp. 1–12, 1987 
8.Stough C, Lloyd J, Clarke J, Downey LA, Hutchison CW, Rodgers T, Nathan
PJ.,The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on
cognitive function in healthy human subjects.,Psychopharmacology (Berl).
2001 Aug;156(4):481-4
9.Tatimah Peth-Nui,Jintanaporn Wattanathorn, Supaporn Muchimapura, Terdthai
Tong-Un, Nawanant Piyavhatkul, Poonsri Rangseekajee, Kornkanok Ingkaninan,
and Sakchai Vittaya-areekul,Effects of 12-Week Bacopa monnieri Consumption
on Attention, Cognitive Processing, Working Memory, and Functions of Both
Cholinergic and Monoaminergic Systems in Healthy Elderly
Volunteers,Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012, Article ID 606424, 10 pages
10.Pase MP, Kean J, Sarris J, Neale C, Scholey AB, Stough C.,The cognitive-
enhancing effects of Bacopa monnieri: a systematic review of randomized,
controlled human clinical trials,J Altern Complement Med. 2012
11.Navneet Kumar, L. G. Abichandani, Vijay Thawani, K. J. Gharpure, M. U.
R. Naidu, and G. Venkat Ramana,Efficacy of Standardized Extract of Bacopa
monnieri (Bacognize®) on Cognitive Functions of Medical Students: A Six-
Week, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial, Evidence-Based Complementary and
Alternative Medicine,Volume 2016, Article ID 4103423, 8 pages
12.Kaustubh S. Chaudhari, Nishant R. Tiwari, Rakesh R. Tiwari, and Rohan
S. Sharma,Neurocognitive Effect of Nootropic Drug Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri)
in Alzheimer's Disease,Ann Neurosci. 2017 May; 24(2): 111–122.

Bikramjit Konwar

Author: Bikramjit Konwar


One Response

  1. Informative post. I think a lot needs to be done at molecular and cellular level in different experimental animals. One needs to show conclusively in animals and human beings that brahmi extract improves memory. Also, proper clinical trials have to be conducted under controlled condition.

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