A traditional medicinal herb which has been used for millennia, bacopa monnieri has shown itself to be beneficial in many different ways. Numerous studies have shown it to have cognitive benefits but can bacopa monnieri boost your memory?
We all know the feeling of having momentarily forgotten someone’s name or where we left our car keys. But most of us accept this as either getting older or being busy or stressed.
Whatever the reasons, we could all use a boost when it comes to recalling facts, people, places and things. So we’re going to take a look at bacopa monnieri and see if it can help with memory and recollection.
We will also examine some of the other potential benefits of this medicinal herb.
What Is Bacopa Monnieri?
Bacopa monnieri is known by many names. This shouldn’t be surprising as this plant has been used by people for more than 3,000 years.
In Ayurvedic medicine it is known as brahmi which is a Sanskrit word but should not be confused with gotu kola, another plant which is also called brahmi.
Bacopa monnieri is also known as water hyssop, thyme-leaved gratiola, Indian pennywort and herb of grace. The name water hyssop gives some clue to this plant’s preferred environment. It thrives in wet soil but also needs a sunny environment.
For this reason it can be found in many places around the world that support these conditions including Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and North and South America. This creeping, perennial herb can be found in wetlands in all of these locations.
It is also a popular addition to aquariums as it successfully grows and thrives underwater.
Bacopa monnieri has been classified as an adaptogen and a nootropic. Adaptogens increase our stress resilience and decrease the effects of stress on our brains.
Nootropics support neurotransmitters to balance our mood and optimize brain function. They also increase antioxidant capacity. As it happens bacopa monnieri is loaded with antioxidants. So what are its benefits?
Benefits Of Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa monnieri is considered safe for use as a herbal supplement either by itself or in conjunction with other nutrients or supplements.
It has a long list of potential benefits including stress resilience, cognitive health, mood balance as well as aiding memory.
Studies of bacopa monnieri have shown it to be effective in memory retention and learning. These studies have been done on rats who were able to learn new skills more quickly and retain information for longer periods.
The powerful chemicals contained in bacopa monnieri are called saponins. These plant chemicals are believed to have memory-enhancing effects through a process called dendrite branching.
Dendrite branching is what your brain cells do to communicate with other cells in your body. A study conducted in 2011 showed that bacopa monnieri increased the length and number of dendrites. This leads to enhanced memory retention and learning.
Over three months adults with memory related problems were given 125 mg of bacopa monnieri twice daily. Following the trial the patients were better able to learn new tasks, had better ability to control their thoughts and emotions and were able to think more logically.
So although you won’t feel the benefits of bacopa monnieri to your memory immediately, over the course of two to three months you should be able to see improvement.
Although in a 2001 study healthy adults who were given bacopa monnieri showed enhanced learning in just five weeks, the full effects were however seen after twelve weeks.
How Does Bacopa Monnieri Boost Memory?
You may wonder how bacopa monnieri is able to help with memory retention and learning new tasks. A study in 2002 with middle aged participants tested their memory capabilities.
With those people who were given the supplement they experienced two different benefits. First, the ability to learn new tasks and retain the information was enhanced, so there was less difficulty in learning how to do something new.
Secondly, there was a significant decrease in the rate at which the participants forgot any newly acquired information. Even when distracted with other tasks those who had taken the bacopa monnieri supplement were able to recall the information effectively and fully.
Free Memory Recall
In 2012 a statistical analysis of six studies on memory intervention showed that bacopa monnieri improves free memory recall.
Free memory recall is a method of measuring the vitality of memory and attention. Typically, with this method a participant is shown a list of items which then need to be recalled.
The recollection can be done in any order, similar to memorizing items on a shopping list or the street names on a particular route.
Age Associated Memory Impairment
For many of us as we age the inevitable loss of memory is accepted. This is considered by most people to be a normal part of aging and is not related to the more serious condition of dementia.
Age associated memory impairment or AAMI responded well in some people to the supplementation of bacopa monnieri. Elderly participants found that their ability to procure and retain information and memories was significantly improved with the supplement.
So it seems that bacopa monnieri is capable of helping the process of converting short term memories into long term memories. This is known as memory consolidation and is what people do when they study for a test.
By using repetitive techniques for learning the information is stored on the pathways in your brain. The longer you study, the stronger these pathways between your synapses become.
Much like using muscles makes them stronger repetitive practices and using mnemonic devices strengthens the synaptic connections in your brain. Bacopa monnieri can help with this and allow you to recall the information you need more easily.
Spatial memory is something we use all the time without really thinking about it. You use it when you follow a route, locate an object that you need or remember where an event took place.
By combining your working memory with spatial memory you are able to locate things, places and recollect the location of past events. Working memory is simply the retrieval of short term memories in order to process information needed in the present.
Using bacopa monnieri boosts your working memory as well as the spatial aspect of your memory.
One of the many distressing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is not remembering places, so this supplement may help to prevent or delay this type of memory loss.
As mentioned before, bacopa monnieri is loaded with antioxidants and these plant compounds are vital in the fight against aging. They do this by protecting the cells from cellular damage caused by free radicals in the body.
This cellular damage is caused by oxidative stress, which is why antioxidants are used to counter the negative effects of these free radicals.
It has been shown in studies that bacopa monnieri is a free radical scavenger potentially protecting against cognitive decline in elderly people. The supplement is also an anti-inflammatory which could afford even more protection against memory loss.
By reducing inflammation in the central nervous system the risk of developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease may be reduced along with its distressing memory impairment.
A study in 2016 found that bacopa monnieri targeted inflammatory mediators in the peripheral and central nervous system which were linked to neuroinflammation.
Stress & Anxiety
It is recognized that stress and anxiety can also affect our ability to remember things. In particular, our working memory, which is what we use in the present to carry out everyday routine things, can be severely affected by stress and anxiety.
When your working memory is not functioning effectively it can lead to mistakes, lack of concentration and difficulty in finishing tasks. This can have a negative effect on your work and personal life.
For some people bacopa monnieri can have an anxiolytic effect. This means that it reduces the feeling of anxiety. In clinical trials of bacopa monnieri participants experienced lower heart rates and reduced anxiety levels.
These physiological effects indicate the adaptogen qualities of this medicinal herb. Reduced stress and anxiety will potentially reduce the likelihood of memory impairment.
People who suffer from ADHD, whether children or adults, can experience a multitude of issues when it comes to memory and recollection. The very name of the disorder indicates the struggles that sufferers face on a daily basis, i.e. a deficit of attention.
While the majority of those diagnosed with ADHD will be children, there are also many adults who suffer from ADHD who were not diagnosed when they were younger.
A clinical trial of bacopa monnieri in children found that taking between 125 mg and 225 mg daily significantly reduced the impulsivity, restlessness, and issues with learning. Simultaneously, the supplement improved cognitive functioning and self control.
However, any medically prescribed medication for ADHD should not be replaced with a herbal supplement of any kind. Any change to ADHD medication or treatment should always be done under the supervision of medical professionals.
How To Take Bacopa Monnieri
If you feel that bacopa monnieri would benefit you and help with either memory problems or other issues you will want to know how to take it.
In the majority of studies carried out on bacopa monnieri it was administered as a capsule or in powder form.
If taken as a powder the contents can be added to hot water to make a tea. Alternatively it can be mixed with ghee and then with warm water to make a herbal drink. This is effective as bacopa monnieri is fat soluble and uses fat to move through the bloodstream.
For those who live in a suitable climate, that is somewhere that doesn’t regularly fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you could grow your own bacopa monnieri.
The leaves can be chewed raw or boiled in water, however they have a bitter taste, so this may deter some people.
Clinical studies typically used a dosage of 300 mg, although this can be increased to 450 mg per day. Having said that, the amount that you take may alter depending on the particular brand or product that you buy.
If you are unsure about the amount of bacopa monnieri that you should be taking, speak to a healthcare professional before taking the supplement.
Time Of Day
You can take bacopa monnieri in the morning or at night, but you should ensure that you take it with a meal. The supplement is fat soluble and so will be better absorbed into the body when taken with food.
As mentioned, you can add the powder to clarified butter or ghee with some warm water to aid absorption. It is possible to buy a ready made combination online which is called Brahmi ghee. One teaspoon of this mixture can be combined with warm water and taken twice daily.
Are There Side Effects?
Bacopa monnieri is considered safe but as with any medicine or herbal supplement there may be some people who experience side effects.
Some noted side effects of the 300 mg daily dose of bacopa monnieri were diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps.
One study noted reduced fertility in male mice, but this effect was reversible and had no effect on libido.
For people who take amitriptyline, an antidepressant, the use of bacopa monnieri is not recommended. This is because the efficacy of the amitriptyline may be compromised by ingesting this supplement.
Whenever you consider taking a dietary supplement you should always first have a conversation with your doctor. This is particularly relevant if you have any pre existing health issues or are taking any prescription drugs.
As an aid in boosting memory there is evidence to suggest that bacopa monnieri is effective when taken regularly in the long term.
However, it has the potential to be applied to a range of cognitive health issues. Nevertheless, more research is needed to fully understand the potential of this herbal supplement.
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