Bacopa for the Brain! ---> Give your brain a boost with Bacopa!

Gail Ann By Gail Ann, 2nd Mar 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3jtc14sr/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Gardening>Herbs

Bacopa has emerged from the recesses of a 3,000-year-old Indian medicinal tradition to claim its place in todays pharmacopoeia. It was used historically as a brain tonic for memory and learning, a nerve tonic for anxiety or epilepsy, and a cardiac and respiratory aid. Research continues to be done on the herbs prospects for improving memory, and the studies are very encouraging.

BACKGROUND / DESCRIPTION

Bacopa improves our ability to learn and retain new information. An Australian study of adults aged 18 to 65 indicates that taking 300 mg of bacopa extract daily for up to 12 weeks can enhance brain function. Using various tests of cognitive performance, the study revealed that subjects were able to process visual information more quickly, learn faster and consolidate new material into memory more effectively.

Through the consumption of Bacopa, one can greatly increase synaptic activity and the speed of nerve transmission and impulses. This in turn makes the thinking process faster and improves the speed of memory recall. Memory itself is enhanced due to Bacopa increasing the levels of Acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter that shuttles messages from one brain cell to another.

Many studies have proven significant improvement in the area of long and short term memory in people who consistently take a Bacopa herbal extract. While its beneficial for people of all ages, anyone over the age of 40 will most likely benefit most from it. It can go a long way in keeping your brain and memory sharp.

Not only is this herb beneficial for the conditions mentioned above, its also great for its anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects. People taking this herb often report that they are better able to handle stress and feel less anxious and depressed then usual.

Other little known uses for Bacopa are for the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and allergies. This is probably due to its ability to relax the pulmonary artery, trachea and aorta. It also possesses some anti-inflammatory properties.

Bacopa was first described in 800 BC, and indications for its medicinal use was recorded in one of the three earliest Ayurvedic medical treatises - the ‘Carak Samhita’ in the third century BC. Its common name, Brahmi, derives from the name of the Hindu creator Brahma and reflects the herbs reputation as a brain tonic because the brain is seen as the creative force within humans. Within the ancient Ayurvedic texts the herb is classified as ‘Medhya Rasayana’ which pertains to it possessing mental/intellectual enhancement properties (Medhya) as well as to its capacity to foster longevity (Rasayana). A number of pre-clinical and clinical studies support this traditional understanding and usage of Bacopa. Laboratory studies have demonstrated antioxidant and cholinergic actions in the brain as well as improved memory and cognitive performance in animal models. Human clinical trials of Bacopa have also demonstrated improved memory performance.

Learning and memory seem to operate better when we are calm and relaxed — and one of the ways bacopa may act is by allaying anxiety. In a 1980 study, patients treated with bacopa for anxiety saw their anxiety levels lowered by about 20 percent and experienced reduced mental fatigue and better short-term memory performance. Four weeks of bacopa therapy also produced a decrease in average systolic blood pressure, from 117 mm-Hg to 112 mm-Hg, and a 37 percent increase in respiratory function, as assessed by breath-holding time. Other symptoms of anxiety, such as insomnia, headache, irritability, lack of concentration, tremors, palpitations and nervousness, also were notably relieved. In other words, bacopa may improve memory and productivity by reducing anxiety and related problems. An added advantage is that it may be a safe substitute for anti-anxiety drugs without the side effects.

Another aspect of memory relates to motor function in our bodies. Memory operating at a molecular level is involved in transmitting chemicals that govern motor responses and nerve signals. Researchers believe that, among its other mechanisms, bacopa may help regulate these important chemicals by stimulating production of a neurotransmitter in the brain known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA inhibits convulsive behavior and assists locomotor function. This neurotransmitter further helps prevent pain from super-sensitive nerve endings and can serve as a sedative. So we can now understand why bacopa has been used successfully for millennia to help counteract epilepsy, a serious neurological disorder.

Bacopa’s positive influences also are seen in children. In one study from India, healthy children aged 6 to 8 who took bacopa syrup daily for four weeks not only solved problems more quickly and accurately, but they also showed greater exploratory behavior — a key ingredient of curiosity, attention and motivation. Children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also have been shown to benefit. Another Indian study of 8- to 9-year-olds, published in 2000, found that children who received bacopa extract twice daily for 12 weeks did better on tests. Bacopa syrup is commonly given to school children in India.

Scientists have really only begun to dig into the mysteries of this plant. Study continues on this amazing plant to understand it on many fronts, including antioxidant actions, antimicrobial properties, possible capacity to combat cancer, cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory ailments. What appears to be emerging is that bacopa may have an adaptogenic effect, meaning it strengthens the body’s overall resistance to stress and disease.

Bacopa seems to provide a specialized cleansing and repair system for our nervous system. Its “memory chemicals” are unique saponins known as bacosides. Saponins are natural detergents present in many plants and are commonly used in soaps because of their foaming action. They help flush out damaging chemicals, such as free radicals and excess cholesterol, from the body, protecting molecules such as DNA from damage. The key ones in bacopa, bacoside A and B, are a mixture of saponins that further serve to repair damaged nerve cell connections by aiding protein synthesis, thereby allowing nerves to transmit signals more effectively. The bacosides, combined with many other chemicals in the plant — such as useful alkaloids, sterols and flavonoids — provide a well-stocked cache of brain and nerve foods to boost learning and memory.

What can this mean to people at risk for, say, Alzheimer’s disease? The main feature of this ailment is a loss of nerve-cell function in the brain’s hippocampus, and animal studies indicate bacosides have antioxidant activity in the hippocampus as well as the frontal cortex and striatum. This suggests they may help protect the integrity of the brain’s nerve cells in these regions and perhaps deter the onset or development of the disease.

Learning, memory, motor function and even anxiety relief — a lot of benefits from one plant, especially one considered a mere weed in its native India. This aquatic weed has now adopted many other countries, including the United States. It withstands extremes of weather, temperature and elevation. In fact, it’s hard to kill a bacopa plant as long as there is sufficient water around — which is why it’s also a popular aquarium plant. In these watery environments, saponins are an advantage, because they discourage fish and microbes from dining on the plant.

Bacopa contains bacosides and saponins which have a very beneficial effect on the brain’s neurotransmitters and also help to repair neurons that have become damaged. The bacosides in this herb possess antioxidant activity and help protect the brain from free radical damage. Bacopa extract is now being considered as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Bacopa contains bacosides A and B, which enhance neuron repair and speed up information transfer between brain cells. This herb also has powerful antioxidant properties which protect the brain cells from damage.

The mode of action of brain cell protective effects is due to the antioxidants that suppress neuronal oxidative stress and the acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activities. Treating patients with bacopa extract may be a way to treat neurodegenerative disorders associated with oxidative stress as well as perhaps Alzheimer's disease.

Bacopa herb contains many compounds including bacopasaponins such as bacoside A, bacopaside II, bacopaside I, bacopaside X, bacopasaponin, bacopaside N2 and minor components bacopasaponin F, bacopasaponin E, bacopaside N1 bacopaside III, bacopaside IV and bacopaside V. The total saponin content in samples, plant materials and extracts vary from 5 to 22%. Dammarane-type triterpenoid saponins classified as pseudojujubogenin and jujubogenin glycosides are reported as some of active components in this plant.

COMMON USES

Bacopa is extensively used in traditional Indian medicine as a nerve tonic and thought to improve memory and mental function. This herbs leaves have a strange lemon scent. Press the leaves and soak/steep them in water to make a tea from this leaves and drink before retiring to bed. This tea supports a sound sleep and revitalizes your energy while you rest. Tea is how I prefer using this herb, but it is also available online from numerous sources in pill form.

The mental enhancement benefits of bacopa herb or extract are often noticed within a few hours or a few days depending on the dosage used and how sensitive you are to herbs.

Many studies have shown the herb to have a beneficial effect on the mind and memory.

Bacopa Uses: Improve brain function - - Improve memory - - Improve learning ability - - Improve focus and attention - - Improve concentration - - Reduce stress - - Reduce depression - - Reduce anxiety - - Repair damaged neurons - - Treat Alzheimer’s disease - - Treat Parkinson’s disease - - As an antioxidant - - Treat asthma - - Treat bronchitis - - Treat allergies - - As an anti-inflammatory - - For mild tranquilizing effect - - Treat Epilepsy - - Treat ADD and ADHD - - Treat diabetes

CULTIVATION / GROWING

The Bacopa Monnieri plant is a creeping herb which is small in size and has many branches. Its leaves are oblong and fleshy. It produces white to purple flowers and prefers moist to wet soil. If conditions are good, this plant will spread tremendously. My brother has a plant that has covered his front porch in a single season. We’re still using the dried herb saved from that first year.

Bacopa is known to grow under varying soil and climatic conditions. The plant performs exceptionally well in poorly drained soils and waterlogged areas under subtropical conditions. The plants grow faster at high temperatures (30-40̊ C) and humidity (65-80%). Ideally, the plants should be transplanted in March-June and allowed to grow and proliferate through hot and humid months till September after which harvest should be taken. - Water well if there aren’t frequent rains.

The soil should be moistened a day before planting by flooding for the successful establishment of plant cuttings. Before removing the cuttings from the nursery, nursery plants should be flooded. The plants are dug out taking care to minimize the damage to the roots of the cuttings. Plant cuttings about 6-8 cm long, containing nodes with roots are used for transplanting. One day before planting, vermicompost is
spread on the surface of the plots and mixed thoroughly with top 10 cm soil and then the land is flooded. The cuttings are transplanted in wet soil at a spacing of 15 ×15 cm. Flood irrigation should be provided immediately after planting.

Irrigation immediately after the transplanting is essential for the successful establishment of the cuttings. Bacopa is a succulant and water loving plant. So irrigation should be given at 3-4 days intervals.

After the harvest the herb is cleaned with fresh water to separate herb from soil. One or two thorough cleanings are required. After cleaning, the herb is spread thinly on clean gunny bags in shade and allowed to dry. The material is turned over frequently to avoid fungal growth. About 8-10 days of shade drying is necessary at room temperature. There should not be any fungal growth and drying shed should be free from birds and rodents. The moisture content in the dried herb should be less than 10%. The dried material is packed in bags /boxes and stored in a cool dry room, away from the walls.

MAGICAL / MYTHICAL USES

Sorry guys - no matter how hard I search, I’ve found nothing on the magical / mythical issues for Bacopa. It’s just been used for so many thousands of years for brain power and general overall enhancement, and so recognized for such uses, that I guess people just never got around to having ‘fun’ with it? If you ever happen across a website referring to a magical or mythical use of this herb, please do email me, I’d find it interesting for sure. I find it fun to look at all the unusual ways people used herbs beyond cooking and healing.

WARNINGS

No significant side effects have been reported in published studies with humans. Women who are pregnant or nursing should first talk to their doctor before taking. The herb may have a slight sedative effect, so use caution when combining it with other known sedatives. Also, bacopa may intensify the activity of thyroid-stimulating drugs or inhibit the effectiveness of thyroid-suppressant drugs.

If you use horny goat weed (article coming soon), it’s suggested using the goat weed herb and the bacopa herb on separate days unless the dosages are low.

Bacopa can be used together with gotu kola (article coming soon), but in lower dosages.

Ah yes... and the legal disclaimer - don’t you hate these things? —> The information contained in this page is for educational purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. <– ok, that’s done, hope you find this article useful!!

You can click here to go to the primary file on herbs, that links to many other individual herb pages.

Or - if you’d like to view a categorized listing of my articles - you can go here:
My Hiding Spot

You are invited to visit either of my two primary websites:
Gail Ann's primary website
"If I Could ..." - Autobiography of an Abuse Victim (me)

Tags

Adhd, Alzeheimers, Antioxidant, Anxiety, Brain Power, Healing, Herbal Remedies, Herbs, Stress

Meet the author

author avatar Gail Ann
54 yr old mom/grandma. LPN, Reiki Master, Reflexologist. Experience in herbology, gardening, healing, farming, animals, natural medicine, & more. My website: http://www.SpiritGuidedHealer.com

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Comments

author avatar Jerry Walch
2nd Mar 2012 (#)

This is a very well-written, very interesting and very informative article. You definitely earned and deserve the gold star, Gail.

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author avatar Gail Ann
3rd Mar 2012 (#)

Thank you Jerry

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
3rd Mar 2012 (#)

Interesting, I was not very familiar with Bacopa before this. THanks

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author avatar Gail Ann
3rd Mar 2012 (#)

My brother introduced it to me. He's even more into herbs than I am and is always showing me something new, and sending me home with fun starts off his 'babies' - his basement has been turned into the most incredible greenhouse.

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author avatar Denise O
4th Mar 2012 (#)

Bacopa is a new one to me also. Very interesting page. I always learn something new when I go to your pages, I just love that. As always, thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Gail Ann
4th Mar 2012 (#)

Thanks - Ronnie (my big brother) introduced me to yet another new herb last week. Brought home some cuttings from his plant and they're doing amazing! Will be my next article tomorrow hopefully - and will post of photo of how my lovely cuttings are doing - this plant is wonderful for treating diabetes and more ..... very interesting page coming tomorrow........ :)

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