Benefits of Bacopa: Here’s What This Nootropic Can Do For Your Brain
If you’re looking for long-term support to ward off free radical damage and and fight inflammation of the brain, you might turn to curcumin, the powerful active constituent of turmeric. But if you’re looking for fast-acting and extended memory support you’d be wise to consider adding bacopa to your regimen.
Bacopa monnieri, an herb native to India, has a very long history of medicinal and therapeutic uses. Traditionally, the flowering herb was used to treat everything from depression and anxiety to inflammation and general pain, but what it is best known for these days is its ability to act as an impressive neural tonic and powerful memory enhancer.
In fact, it is believed that ancient scholars even used the herb to help them memorize long, complicated, sacred hymns and scriptures. And thanks to its reputation for being able to sharpen intellect and attenuate mental deficits, it’s now considered a pretty impressive nootropic.
Do you often experience backaches, joint pain, weak bones, memory problems or other “age-related” health issues? You’re not alone.
Many of these common health burdens are simply due to a vitamin deficiency experienced by a whopping 75% of adults in the U.S. The good news is that this deficiency can be corrected quickly, easily and inexpensively.
But First, What Exactly is a Nootropic?
Nootropics are drugs, supplements, or other substances that may improve cognitive functions like memory, creativity, or motivation. They work in a variety of ways to enhance brain health and cognitive performance. Typically nootropics are characterized by the activation of brain mechanisms associated with higher vigilance and nerve activity.
Helping Bacopa reach this level of clinical recognition are its impressive constituents:
- A multitude of therapeutic compounds such as saponins known as bacosides, which have been found to have neuroprotective benefits. [1-3]
- A neuroprotectant called hersaponin.
- A healing sugar known to support cardiovascular health called d-mannitol.
- Apigenin, a compound shown to support neurogenesis. 
- Cucurbitacin, a compound with potential anti-cancer properties. [5-7]
So, as you can see, the wide spectrum of brain health benefits offered by Bacopa is perhaps second to none. (Though curcumin gives it a solid run for first place – in fact, the two complement each other rather nicely!)
Your Brain on Bacopa: 5 Reasons to Take Bacopa for a Sharper Brain
Bacopa has powerful adaptogenic activity, which can help the body cope with the damaging effects associated with both mental and physical stresses. This is done by modulating the production and release of brain neurotransmitters and is especially important when it comes to memory preservation in older adults.
And one thing rings clear with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant research—Bacopa has powerful implications for overall brain health. In fact, the herb has even been studied for everything from ADHD and memory to Alzheimer’s disease and appears to be equally effective for people at all ends of the age spectrum.
We list some of the most important brain benefits Bacopa can offer:
1. Bacopa Boosts BDNF Levels
BDNF or brain derived neurotrophic factor is responsible for the growth, maintenance and survival of neurons, and the creation of new neural connections. Scientific research has shown that higher levels of BDNF are linked to better memory function and learning, overall cognitive performance, and long-term brain health.
Bacosides, the active compounds in Bacopa, are among the few substances that can easily cross the blood-brain barrier to bind to receptor sites in the brain and promote neuron communication, boosting BDNF levels.
In a recent study published in the journal Neurology, people with higher levels of BDNF had a 40% slower rate of memory loss and cognitive function decline as they aged compared to those who had the lowest levels.
While in another study, researchers at Stanford University wanted to see what effect BDNF levels had on the performance of airplane pilots. In the study, they selected 144 pilots to undergo tests in a flight simulator. The researchers found that the pilots with the highest levels of BDNF scored better on the simulator tests than those with lower levels! Their brains were sharper than the pilots with lower BDNF levels, and their reactions were quicker, too!
In yet another study, University of Pittsburgh researcher and psychologist, Dr. Kirk Erickson, looked at the BDNF levels of 120 seniors. Over the course of this year-long study, Dr. Erickson gave half of the participants a BDNF-boosting daily exercise routine. And the results were nothing short of remarkable.
In the study, Dr. Erickson found that increased levels of BDNF had amazing effects on the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for both short and long-term memory). Dr. Erickson found that by simply boosting BDNF levels, the hippocampus increased in size by at least 2%. Now, that may not sound like much until you consider that the average person over 60 loses roughly 1% in size of the hippocampus every year. And that’s not all — the study showed that people with higher BDNF levels were able to increase their vocabulary 20% faster than people with lower levels!
2. Bacopa Reduces Brain Damaging Inflammation
According to a study published in 2014, Bacopa monnieri has been found to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties as well.  Researchers observed Bacopa inhibited the release of the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme and down-regulated the tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), another common inflammation marker. Bacopa was also shown to reduce chronic inflammation and oxidative stresses.
A study from 2011 had similar results. In this trial, researchers discovered that two particular compounds found in Bacopa—triterpenoid (a saponin) and bacoside—inhibited two inflammation biomarkers, namely TNF-alpha and interleukin-6 (IL-6). 
Finally, an animal study published in 2006 found the same effect, though it was discovered that Bacopa specifically reduced prostaglandin E(2)-induced inflammation.  This led researchers to conclude, “It may be inferred that B. monnieri possesses significant anti-inflammatory activity that may well be relevant for its effectiveness in the healing of various inflammatory conditions in traditional medicine.”
3. Bacopa Shields the Brain from Free-Radicals
Bacopa is a potent antioxidant and particularly helpful when it comes to brain health. Higher antioxidant activity helps reduce oxidative stress in the brain, which can lead to cognitive impairments and may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
One study published in 2014, looked at Bacopa’s ability to protect rats from lead-induced oxidative stress in their brains.  The rats were divided into five groups and after seven days, the rats’ brains were then examined.
The rats who were exposed to lead had significant increases in three different oxidative stress biomarkers. However, rats treated with Bacopa were shown to have had lower levels of these oxidative markers.
Another animal study looked at the effect of Bacopa on rats exposed to cigarette smoke.  Researchers exposed these test rats to both cigarette smoke and Bacoside A, which was extracted from Bacopa, for 12 weeks. They also measured levels of several antioxidants and antioxidant markers as well. When the study concluded researchers discovered that Bacoside A, “protects the brain from the oxidative damage through its antioxidant potential.”
4. Bacopa Can Help Improve Attention ADHD
In one study published in 2014, researchers looked at the effect of Bacopa monnieri extract on the management of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.  They gave 225 mg of Bacopa a day to 31 children (ages 6-12) for six months and used the Parent Rating Scale, in order to assess ADHD symptom scores at the start of the trial and again after the six months.
The research results determined that Bacopa significantly reduced all measures of ADHD symptoms, except for social problems.
The results directly found a 93 percent reduction in restlessness, 89 percent improvement in self-control, 85 percent reduction in attention-deficit symptoms, 78 percent reduction in learning problems, 67 percent reduction in impulsivity and 52 percent reduction in psychiatric problems.
Researches concluded, “B monnieri was found to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of ADHD and was well-tolerated by the children.”
5. Bacopa Promotes Clearer Thinking and Better Memory
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers looked at the effect of Bacopa on memory, attention, cognitive processing and neurotransmitter function in healthy older adults (average age of 62 years). 
After 12 weeks, researchers determined that those in both Bacopa groups over the placebo, enjoyed improved working memory, cognitive processing, and attention, concluding, “Bacopa can improve attention, cognitive processing, and working memory.”
Over and over again studies continue to prove the brain-boosting effects of Bacopa within just 12 weeks of Bacopa use. This is especially true when it comes to memory preservation and recollection in older adults.
- In one study, 98 healthy people over the age of 55 took 300 mg of Bacopa daily for 12 weeks and experienced improvements in verbal memory, memory acquisition, and retention.
- Another trial involved elderly individuals who took a daily 450 mg dose of Bacopa and at the end of 12 weeks, results showed the herb had improved cognitive function, attention, and verbal memory.
- And when researchers provided 250 mg of Bacopa to people with age-related memory impairment for three months, the subjects showed significant improvement on mental control, logical memory and paired associated learning.
- Thomas RB, et al. Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2013 Nov;33(8):1065-74.
- Bhattacharya SK, et al. Phytother Rex. 2000;14:174-9.Anbarasi K, et al. Life Sci. 2006;78:1378-84.
- Taupin P. Expert Opin Ther Pat. 2009 Apr;19(4):523-7.
- Kapoor S. Cancer Biother Radiopharm. 2013 Jan 25. [Epub ahead of print.]
- Ishii T, et al. Tumour Biol. 2013 Feb;34(1):285-91.
- Lui VW, et al. Carcinogenesis. 2009 Dec;30(12):2085-94.
- Williams R, et al. Food Funct. 2014 Mar;5(3):517-20.
- Viji V and Helen A. Inflammopharmacology. 2011 Oct;19(5):283-91.
- Channa S, et al. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Mar 8;104(1-2):286-9.
- Velaga MK, et al. Drug Chem Toxicol. 2014 Jul;37(3):357-64.
- Dave UP, et al. Adv Mind Body Med. 2014 Spring;28(2):10-5.
- Peth-Nui T, et al. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:606424.
- Uabundit N, et al. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Jan 8;127(1):26-31.
- Aguiar S, et al. Neuropharmacological Review of the Nootropic Herb Bacopa monnieri. Rejuvenation Res.
- 2013 Aug; 16(4): 313–326.Giurgea, C.E.: The nootropic concept and its prospective implications. Dev. Res.
- 2:441–446, 1982.
- Morgan A, et al. Does Bacopa monnieri improve memory performance in older persons? Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Jul;16(7):753-9.Barbhaiya HC, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of BacoMind®on memory improvement in elderly participants—a double blind placebo controlled study. Pharmacology and Toxicology.
- 2008;3:425–434.Raghav S, et al. Randomized controlled trial of standardized Bacopa monniera extract in age-associated memory impairment. Indian J Psychiatry.
- 2006 Oct;48(4):238-42.Lansdown, R.V., Knees, S.G. & Patzelt, A. 2013. Bacopa monnieri. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T164168A17722668. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T164168A17722668.en. Downloaded on 24 September 2018..
- Brain Aging: Models, Methods, and Mechanisms. Riddle DR, editor. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2007.Neurology 2016;86(8):735-41.
- Transl Psychiatry 2011;1(10):e51.
- Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011;108(7):3017-3022.