Bacopa monnieri is a popular plant in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s well-known for its memory-enhancing and anti-anxiety properties, making it a great addition to our Seneca Nootropic Complex. Scroll down to learn more about the health and cognitive benefits of this herbal nootropic.
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What is Bacopa Monnieri used for?
Bacopa’s main claim to fame is as an adaptogen. An adaptogen helps with stress. They work by reducing cortisol levels and increasing GABA signaling. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps you feel relaxed and at peace.
On the flip side though, low cortisol levels will lead to a lack of energy and focus. But adaptogens like Bacopa can help increase cortisol, too. Essentially, they help ease our perception of stress or increase our energy when we are feeling low.
Bacopa contains saponin compounds called bacosides. These are the active compounds that help with memory and ease anxiety. Supplements containing Bacopa are standardized to contain a certain percentage of bacosides. The higher the percentage, the more active and higher quality the Bacopa supplement is. Seneca uses Bacopa leaf extract that is standardized to contain 50% bacosides.
Bacopa Monnieri Nootropic Highlights
- It can increase brain levels of the ‘smart neurotransmitter’ Acetylcholine.
- Bacopa helps to keep brain function at optimum levels when you’re under stress.
- It stimulates antioxidant defense in the central nervous system and can improve blood flow to the brain.
Bacopa monnieri benefits: An overview of Bacopa studies
A lot of research has been done on Bacopa since it’s been used successfully for so long. Here are some of them:
1) Bacopa as a nootropic
There have been a number of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies (the gold standard for studies) into Bacopa.
These studies lasted for 12 weeks and used doses ranging from 300mg-450mg daily (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). The outcomes include improved attention, improved focus and memory, increased visual processing speed and learning rate, and reduced anxiety levels.
These results led to a further review paper by Matthew et al. They suggested that Bacopa could potentially be ‘clinically prescribed as a memory enhancer‘ (6).
A further double-blind placebo study by Peth-Nui et al, tested Bacopa at doses of 300mg and 600mg (7). They found that Bacopa at both doses improved four aspects of working memory, these being:
- Power of attention
- Continuity of attention
- Quality of memory
- Speed of memory
The study also found that Bacopa reduced the activity of the enzymes Acetylcholinesterase and Monoamine oxidase. Acetylcholinesterase break down Acetylcholine. On the other hand, Monoamine oxidase break down Dopamine, Noradrenaline, and Serotonin. Reducing these enzymes increase the amount of time before these neurotransmitters are broken down, allowing their levels to increase.
So, what do these neurotransmitters do?
Well, Acetylcholine is often called the smart neurotransmitter. It plays a role in transmitting signals associated with learning, processing, and memory.
Dopamine, Noradrenaline, and Serotonin are also needed for proper brain functioning. They play a key role in focus and making us feel good as well!
Interestingly, Peth-Nui’s study reported greater improvements in memory at 300mg/day rather than 600mg/day.
Related article: What are nootropics?
2) Bacopa Monnieri for stress reduction and mood improvement
A study at the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia found that Bacopa may help improve mood and reduce cortisol levels. These led to improved scores in stress reactivity tests (8).
Also, 3 animal studies found that Bacopa supplementation increased the number of GABA receptors in the brain (9, 10, 11). Unfortunately, it will be impossible to replicate these findings in humans. Looking for GABA receptors in the brain means dissecting it.
3) Anti-aging, antioxidant protection, and neuronal growth effects
A study at the Bharathidasan University in India injected D-galactose into rats continuously for 8 weeks to induce aging. D-galactose is a concentrated sugar solution that simulates accelerated aging. Then they treated some of the rats with Bacopa.
Interestingly, the Bacopa-treated rats had increased expression of the antioxidant enzymes, Glutathione Peroxidase and Super Oxide Dismutase. They also had less advanced glycated end products in their blood; these are proteins damaged by sugars. The study reported that in addition to increased antioxidant defense, Bacopa may also help slow down brain aging (12).
Another study published in the journal Neurochemical Research gave rats a standard diet and treated some of them with Bacopa. On testing, they found a significant reduction in pro-inflammatory cytokines. These are immune system signaling molecules that cause decreased immune activity and inflammation.
They also found reduced iNOS (inducible nitric oxide synthase), which can lead to peroxynitrite. This is a very damaging and inflammatory molecule. Researchers also saw a reduction of nitrites and lipofuscin, both markers of increased aging (13).
4) Bacopa nootropic for neuronal growth and new synaptic connections
A study published in Anatomical Science International fed rats with a Bacopa supplement for 2, 4, or 6 weeks.
The rats treated with Bacopa for 4 and 6 weeks had a significant increase in the length of dendrites in their neurons. Also, they saw an increase in the number of connections these dendrites were making in the amygdala area of the brain.
Growth and more connections mean the brain is working more efficiently to pass on information. Emotional processing and anxiety response occur in the amygdala, so these results are great news for humans (14)!
5) Bacopa was able to protect rats against heavy metal and poison damage
A third study injected the toxic herbicide Paraquat into rat brains. The rats treated with Bacopa had fewer markers of oxidation. They also saw a reversal of mitochondrial dysfunction caused by Paraquat exposure. These results are promising to humans because mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to increased aging and various diseases (17).
A fourth study chronically exposed rats to cigarette smoke. This exposure depleted the zinc and selenium levels in the rats’ brains. Researchers found that Bacopa restored zinc and selenium levels to normal. They also saw an increase in antioxidant levels in the Bacopa-treated rats (18).
6) Bacopa can simulate cerebral blood flow
Kamkaew et al (19, 20) found that Bacopa can simulate cerebral blood flow (the more blood flow to the brain, the better it can work). Ginkgo Biloba (another ingredient in our Seneca Nootropic Complex), however, had a slight edge over Bacopa in terms of blood flow. Nevertheless, they also found that Bacopa increased the production of Nitric Oxide, allowing blood vessels to vasodilate or relax.
What’s the recommended Bacopa Monnieri dosage?
Studies on humans have ranged in dosing between 300mg and 450mg a day. They normally show better results as the studies progress (with studies normally running over a 12 week period). This suggests a gradual increasing response over a number of weeks.
In fact, one study that looked at the short-term effects of Bacopa found no improvement (21). So, we suggest continuing with Bacopa for at least 3 months, although you may start seeing results within 4-6 weeks.
Also, bacoside concentration in supplements varies widely from 10% to 50%. We would recommend looking for a product with 50% bacosides to get the best bang for your buck. At Intelligent Labs, we include Bacopa monnieri in our Seneca Nootropic Complex. Each serving of Seneca contains 300mg of Bacopa standardized to 50% bacosides, along with 17 other effective nootropic ingredients!
Learn more about Seneca here: Seneca Nootropic Complex 101: What Makes This Nootropic Stack So Good?