Why ‘brain tonic’ bacopa is in the spotlight

With mental fatigue a hot topic of late, herbal wonder bacopa – AKA brahmi – is being hailed for its ability to combat stress and promote calm and clarity.

While bacopa monnieri – also known in general terms as “brahmi” –  isn’t as commonly known as other adaptogens such as Siberian ginseng or ashwagandha, it has a long history in Ayurvedic medicine.

What is bacopa?

Referred to as a “brain tonic”, bacopa has traditionally been used to enhance intellect.

“Its powerful nootropic (cognitive-enhancing) action makes it a popular herb to be used when the aim is to boost learning and memory potential,” says naturopath Jade Williams.

“Taken long-term, studies have shown it to be cognitive-activating by stabilising mitochondria and enhancing synaptic plasticity,” she says.

Bacopa can help us concentrate and keep on task, says House of Wellness pharmacist and herbalist Gerald Quigley.

“It’s also beneficial in times of stress or mild anxiety,” he says.

Jade adds: “I also love using this herb when mild psychological stress is present, which often goes hand-in-hand with learning difficulties, as it demonstrates a soothing effect on the nervous system.”

Bacopa’s potent antioxidant nature makes it a versatile herb used in a wide range of conditions, says Jade.

It may also reduce inflammation, mildly stimulate thyroid function, while an Indian study found bacopa monnieri has a therapeutic application in epilepsy management as it may help reduce seizures.

Who is bacopa best for?

Our experts say no matter what stage of life you’re in, bacopa can help you perform at your best.

“It’s good for students, people working under pressure, older folk who are in a book group and are worried about remembering things – this is how broad it is,” says Gerald.

Due to its neuro-protective effects and ability to improve memory, there is some limited evidence to suggest it may help with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

How can bacopa be taken?

“Much of the research conducted on bacopa was based around the dried form of the herb,” says Gerald.

“The dried form of the herb is the most convenient.”

It can also be administered through liquid herbal tinctures or tea infusions, as well as in capsule form.

“Bacopa should always be administered under the care of a trained herbal professional,” says Jade.

“Side effects are mainly related to mild digestive and thyroid disturbances, so those with related conditions should avoid it.”

Written by Samantha Allemann.