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Bacopa

What You Need to Know About Bacopa

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Updated June 27, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) is an herb long used in ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India). Although ayurvedic healers typically use bacopa to treat anxiety and memory disorders, bacopa is also touted as a natural remedy for hypothyroidism.

Benefits of Bacopa

To date, few studies have tested the health effects of bacopa. However, research suggests that the herb shows promise in treatment and/or prevention of the following health problems:

1) Memory Disorders

Several studies indicate that bacopa may help preserve memory and enhance cognitive function. In a 2001 study of healthy adults, for instance, participants who took 300 mg of bacopa for 12 weeks showed significant improvements in memory (in addition to learning and anxiety). And in a 2008 study of 48 dementia-free older adults (ages 65 and up), researchers found that 12 weeks of treatment with bacopa (at a dose of 300 mg per day) led to significant improvements in memory, depression, anxiety, and heart rate.

2) Alzheimer's Disease

Findings from animal studies and test-tube research suggest that bacopa may help fight Alzheimer's disease. In a 2008 study of brain cells in culture, for example, scientists discovered that antioxidants in bacopa helped suppress oxidative stress (a destructive process thought to contribute to Alzheimer's disease). And in a 2010 study on rats with an animal model of Alzheimer's disease, bacopa appeared to preserve memory and protect against loss of function in brain cells.

3) Stress

A 2002 study on rats shows that bacopa may help alter the activity of certain enzymes involved in the stress response, suggesting that bacopa could allow the brain "to be prepared to act under adverse conditions such as stress."

Bacopa Side Effects

Although bacopa is generally considered safe, it may cause side effects such as dry mouth, nausea, and muscle fatigue.

Using Bacopa for Health

Given the lack of evidence, the herb cannot be recommended as a principal standard treatment for any condition. If you're considering the use of bacopa, make sure to consult your physician before you begin taking the herb.

Sources:

Calabrese C, Gregory WL, Leo M, Kraemer D, Bone K, Oken B. "Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." J Altern Complement Med. 2008 14(6):707-13.

Chowdhuri DK, Parmar D, Kakkar P, Shukla R, Seth PK, Srimal RC. "Antistress effects of bacosides of Bacopa monnieri: modulation of Hsp70 expression, superoxide dismutase and cytochrome P450 activity in rat brain." Phytother Res. 2002 16(7):639-45.

Limpeanchob N, Jaipan S, Rattanakaruna S, Phrompittayarat W, Ingkaninan K. "Neuroprotective effect of Bacopa monnieri on beta-amyloid-induced cell death in primary cortical culture." J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 30;120(1):112-7.

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 156(4):481-4.

Uabundit N, Wattanathorn J, Mucimapura S, Ingkaninan K. "Cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective effects of Bacopa monnieri in Alzheimer's disease model." J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 8;127(1):26-31.

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