Bacopa Monnieri: Benefits and Side Effects

Last Updated: April 2022

Overview | The Best Bacopa Monnieri SupplementsHow it worksBenefits | Dosage | Side Effects | The Bottom Line

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Overview

Bacopa Monnieri is an ayurvedic herb native to Australia. It is commonly used for its medicinal properties which work by free radical scavenging and acetylcholine stimulation.

Supplementation can evidently improve longevity and cognition in humans. There is strong evidence that Bacopa possibly improves working memory function [1].

Bacopa supplementation offers neuroprotection from heavy metals, reduces fatty acid damage and improves biomarkers of inflammation [2].

The benefits of Bacopa are not limited to mental performance only, as ecdysterone found in Bacopa monnieri has been shown to be more effective at improving muscle mass and reducing body fat than many banned anabolic substances such as methadienone amongst others.

Bacopa is generally well tolerated but should be dosed according to the active ingredient (Bacoside A) levels which differ between brands.

The Best Bacopa Monnieri Supplements

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Bacopa Monnieri is one of the most promising nootropics for memory and reducing stress. This ayurvedic herb can form the basis of any nootropics stack for memory, strength and mood. In combination with other nootropics including ALCAR and Ashwagandha, it is useful for inattention and focus.

How it works

Bacopa monnieri works via a number of mechanisms, These include:

  • Antioxidant protection
  • beta-amyloid reduction
  • enhanced cerebral blood flow [2]
  • Neurotransmitter modulation

Furthermore, Bacopa inhibits acetylcholinesterase and activates acetyletransferase [3]. This results in an increased production of acetylcholine to boost cognition, reduce inflammation and prevent aging-related decline.

Bacopa Monnieri can boost our mood due to the stimulation of GABA/serotonin production in the hippocampus. The neurotransmitter GABA is responsible for stopping nerve impulses, which lowers stress. As an important neurotransmitter, serotonin regulates our mood and sleep. The hippocampus is the area of the brain responsbile for our emotions and memory, and bacopa monnieri is thought to affect this.

Benefits

Benefits of Bacopa monnieri include:

1. Prepares you for stressful situations

Bacopa monnieri dissolved in distilled water at doses of 20 to 40 mg/kg appeared to reduce activity of stress related enzymes and improve the expression of stress managing compounds such as Hsp70, P450 and SOD [4].

Superoxide dismutase (SOD) helps prevent damage to your cells and protect your brain by converting harmful toxins into harmless compounds. When stressed, you produce higher levels of Hsp70, a heat shock protein. Taking Bacopa beforehand can prime you to handle stressful events in the near future.

Aside from reducing stress and symptoms of depression, supplementing Bacopa monnieri may improve your mood by decreasing cortisol [5].

2. Fosters longevity

Aging reduces the efficiency of the brain to scavenge free radicals and severe oxidative damage is highly neurotoxic.

Supplementing Bacopa monnieri can be a simple intervention to ameliorate oxidative damage in the brain and age-related mental decline because when taken with fat source, bacopa is able to reach the brain [6].

In this way, Bacopa can slow the inevitable age-related neuroinflammation – by reducing oxidation [7].

3. Benefit memory

A study found a popular Bacopa monnieri supplement resulted in a significantly improved working memory.

Specifically, spatial working memory accuracy improvements were exhibited [8].

This type of memory is what you use when multitasking, or remembering multiple things.

The dosage used was 320mg daily for 90 days.

A study found that effects from Bacopa supplementation were observed in the 1-2 hours after consumption [6].

This is promising for those requiring an immediate boost.

In both groups, participants performance in a multitasting framework task improved significantly after taking 320 mg of Bacopa and 640 mg.

A meta-analysis of 9 studies and 518 subjects on the cognitive effects of Bacopa monnieri concluded that attention and memory function are possibly improved with supplementation [9]. However further research is needed.

4. Irregular cycles, Menopause and insomnia

Bacopa monnieri reduced blood pressure, prevented insomnia and reduced cholesterol in a trial of 25 post-menopausal women [10]

Post-menopause reductions in estrogen lead to gradual shrinking of the hippocampus region. Bacopa monnieri appears to have a brain-protective effect that prevents this shrinkage [11] [12].

5. Improves restlessness/ADHD symptoms

Cognitive function and impulse control were improved in 120 children with ADHD given Bacopa monnieri for four months [13]. Attention in children improved substantially.

Further studies have found that children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may have reduced restlessness [14]. 93% of children given a 225 mg extract daily reduced restlessness.

In children, Bacopa at dosages of 225 mg/daily is safe.

6. Lowers inflammation

Long-term Bacopa has been found to reduce interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor -alpha, both inflammatory cytokine that increase neuroinflammation as we age [12].

Further decreases in total nitrite and lipofuscin content were observed, suggesting that Bacopa may be a useful neuroprotective agent [12].

This reduction in inflammation may be responsbile for Bacopa’s role in helping reduce epilepsy symptoms [15]. Bacopa and Bacoside-A appear to reduce the impairment associated with epilepsy due to increased activity in the muscle and decreased acetylcholine esterase activity in the heart [16].

7. Stimulate Hair growth (requires more evidence)

In animal studies, Bacopa products containing oil extracts increased the size of hair follicles and the time hair spends growing.

Further research is required however [17] [18].

8. Stimulates Muscle Growth & Strength

Ecdysterone found in bacopa has been purported to increase protein synthesis rates without any adverse side effects.

A natural plant steroid, ecdysterone has been studied in strength training athletes and found to decrease body fat levels and increase muscle [19][20].

In one study, significantly higher increases in muscle protein synthesis were observed in participants dosed with ecdysterone in Bacopa. This also led to a significantly higher one-rep bench press performance with no increase in liver or kidney toxicity [21].

This has led some researchers to suggest the classification of ecdysterone into a prohibited substance due to its role as an anabolic agent.

In comparison to currently prohibited substances such as methadienone in rats, edysterone was superior to these compounds.

Dosage

Daily dosages of 225 mg are likely tolerated in children. This correlatees to around 2.5g in dry weight of Bacopa.

In adults, dosages of 625 mg are likely safe.

In rats, mega-dose of 500 mg/kg body weight produced no adverse events.

Long-term studies of toxicity in humans are yet to be produced.

Most studies focus on studying Bacoside A, although there exist further bacosides they are not understood.

The active ingredient in Bacopa monnieri (Bacosides A and B) are what determines the dose. Bacosides A is composed of saponins bacoside A3, bacopaside II and jujubogenin isomer of bacopasaponin C and should be taken with a fatty meal.

Side effects

The most common side effect is mild gastrointestinal discomfort although long-term use is not well understood.

The safety profile of Bacopa monnieri is unclear, but doses of around 200-500mg have been widely used with no side effect.

Who shouldn’t take Bacopa monnieri?

Pregnant women should avoid Bacopa as there is insufficient evidence surrounding its use in this demographic. This is because studies are often not available with pregnant subjects.

Bottom Line

Bacopa monnieri appears to improve working memory, mood and depression.

Bacopa is fat-soluble and should be taken with a healthy fat source.

There’s growing evidence that Bacopa monnieri supplementation can treat those suffering from impulsivity, memory issues and attention. For post menopause, Bacopa can prevent insomnia. For older adults, Bacopa has numerous benefits for longevity and cognition.

References:

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