Bacopa monnieri is a herb belonging to the Scrophulariaceae family. This plant grows in moist regions of southern India and South-east Asia, although it can also be found in Australia and both Americas. In India, it is known under the name of Brahmi or Jalanimba, and has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, where it was classified as Medhya Rasayanas- bringing rejuvenation, clarity, and peace of mind.1,2 According to Ćaraki, an ancient doctor and ayurvedic sage, Brahmi is an effective substance for enhancing brain activity, increasing one's thinking and concluding abilities, recommended as a panaceum for anxiety, cognitive impairment, and lack of concentration. Both the whole plant and its extracts, as well as its isolated steroidal saponins which are the main active substances contained in Bacopa monnieri, have been tested in many laboratories and numerous scientific papers have confirmed that Brahmi exhibits nootropic, neuroprotective and anxiolytic effects.1,3
Brahmi is a natural adaptogen, supporting the body's resistance to stress and trauma, and helping it adapt to adverse environmental conditions. The anxiolytic effects of Bacopa monnieri extracts have been confirmed by many independent research groups. Unlike many conventionally used anxiolytics, such as benzodiazepines (diazepam, lorazepam), Brahmi does not impair short-term memory and cognitive functions, and shows quite the opposite characteristics - a positive effect on cognitive abilities and memory.3
Studies on animals have shown that Bacopa monnieri extracts, through a series of complex molecular effects on the brain, including the induction of 5-HT and serotonin synthesis, cholinergic activation, has a positive effect on learning and memory.4 Long-term (at least 4 weeks) supplementation of Brahmi increases dendrite development in the nerve cells of the hippocampus- the structure responsible for creating long-term memory traces.5 Studies on healthy humans have shown that after a 12 week treatment, a significant improvement in the speed at which visual information was processed, in verbal learning, and in the memory of new information.3,6 Similar Results were obtained in studies on the elderly, who complained about memory impairment as a result of old age. The effectiveness of Brahmi was confirmed in therapies on people with attention and memory impairment, with hyperactivity and ADHD.1,2 This plant also exhibits anti-depressant effects comparable to trycyclic anti-depressant medication.8,9
Preparatons with Brahmi show anti-oxidative effect, which results from the presence of phenolic compounds and a triterpenoid fraction. These compounds neutralize free radicals, and simulatenously slow down the aging process. Additionally, they increase the activity present in enzyme cells, which are responsible for the protection against oxidative stress. Clinical trials have shown that alcoholic extracts of Bacopa monnieri reduce the toxic effects of aluminum compounds, which cause the deposit of amyloid proteins, in turn leading to neurodegenerative diseases.2,10 These extracts also inhibit the deposition of lipofuscin, which are aging markers responsible for, among other things, the appearance of liver spots on the skin.2 Studies on animal models of Alzheimer's disease have shown that, through the improvement of brain circulation, counteraction of oxidative stress, and the modulation of various neurotransmitters (including acetylcholine, serotonin, catecholamine, GABA and glutamate), Bacopa monnieri reduces memory dysfunction and protects hippocampal neurons against degeneration.11
Temporal lobe epilepsy is caused by abnormal activity of GABA-ergic interneuron degeneration, responsible for synthesizing GABA, and GABA receptor density decrease in the postsynaptic membrane within the hippocampus, which plays an important role in epileptogenesis.12 It was proven that bakozide A has a positive effect on the changes in expression of various subunits of GABA and glutamate receptors in the hippocampus, striatum and cortex, and together with the other glycosides contained in Brahmi protects GABAergic interneurons from degeneration.12–16
Laboratory studies on animal models of temporal lobe epilepsy have shown that, an increased activity of the GABA-ergic and glutamate systems in the striatum and hippocampus counteracts the spreading of sudden bioelectrical discharges from cortical areas to the structures deep within the brain. Additionally, changes in the expression of GABA receptors in the cerebral cortex reduce the frequency of formation of this discharge.12,15,16
Extracts of Bacopa monnieri reduce the synthesis of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, therefore exhibiting anti-inflammatory and antiallergic effects. Due to the diastolic effect on bronchi, Brahmi is also used for various ailments of the respiratory system in Hindu tradition.3
Additionally, it was confirmed that this plant has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and seems to have a preventive and therapeutic effect in cases of stomach ulcers caused by alcohol and the Heliobacter pylori bacteria.2,3,17
A typical dose of the standardized extract of 50% bakozides is 300 mg per day in a single dose or two doses of 150 mg. After 12 weeks of supplementation with extracts of Bacopa monnieri, it is recommended to take a several weeks break. Brahmi was consumed with ghi, a type of clarified butter, in Indian traditions. Because of the possibility of nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea it is not recommended to take an extract of Bacopa monnieri on an empty stomach.
Practically no side effects were noted in clinical trials using Bacopa monnieri extracts. This supplement is considered safe and well tolerated by humans. The most commonly reported side effects include an increased intestinal motility and ailments of the digestive system (nausea, diarrhea). Much less frequently reported were headaches and rashes.7,21
At a temperature of 40-60°C bakozides slowly degrade, while at 80°C bakozide content in the formulation decreases drastically. Extracts should be stored at a temperature not higher than 30°C, preferably in a dark and cool place.22
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