Losing my memory scares me. I continue to hope that I can avoid it no matter how long I live.
Most of my patients who I talk to about that express the same fear. So… I’ve been doing some research…
The latest research shows that the herb bacopa protects your brain and more importantly, can improve intellectual capacity, concentration and memory, as well as shorten learning time.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study – the gold standard in research – they divided people into two groups. One group got 300 mg a day of bacopa and the other got a placebo. After 12 weeks, the people taking bacopa had:
Better word recall
- Better attention
- Better memory scores
- A greater ability to ignore irrelevant information when learning
The bacopa group also had less anxiety and lower heart rates while taking the brain function tests. The stress levels and heart rates in the placebo group increased.1
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation gave 107 healthy people 300 mg of bacopa plant extract daily. After 90 days, the people had significantly improved their spatial memory, memory accuracy and their ability to process visual information.2
Research also has discovered that bacopa can protect you from toxins that are harmful to your brain, especially aluminum. Long-term exposure to aluminum can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 60 percent.3
In a study from India, researchers gave animals aluminum chloride. The animals treated with bacopa extract were protected from damage to the lipids and proteins in the brain. Bacopa’s protection even showed up on a microscopic level. It prevented a buildup of toxins between neurons, and stopped damage to the hippocampus, an important seat of learning, memory and thinking power.4
Another animal study showed bacopa reduced cellular damage in the part of the brain that controls movement and attention, and reversed the symptoms of muscular problems originating in the brain.5
Bacopa has a lot of beneficial components like saponins (that protect against infection) and flavonoids (plant antioxidants).
But bacopa also has two active components called bacosides A and B. They improve the transmission of impulses between nerve cells in the brain, they regenerate synapses and repair damaged neurons. It helps you to learn and remember new things much more easily.
Also, bacopa seems to stop a compound called AChE from terminating your memory and thought signals.6
And the good news is it’s easy to add this ancient herb to what you eat.
Bacopa monnieri is the species used in Ayurvedic medicine that helps your brain the most.
You can buy bacopa plants at garden centers all over the southern U.S. It’s often sold online as an “aquarium” plant because of the colorful flowers. You also can buy bacopa plants and seeds online. Two websites that will help you find retailers are myfolia.com and davesgarden.com.
You can plant them in the ground where they grow to about 6 inches tall, or in a basket where they’ll hang down. To grow them, you need sandy, acidic soil, and lots of sunlight. They don’t like cold, and need to stay moist, but otherwise, they’re pretty low maintenance.
I make tea from the bacopa plant I have growing in and around the pond in my backyard.
You can use the leaves, stems and (dried) roots, but the leaves themselves work fine, too. First boil some water, and add the leaves. Let steep up to 10 minutes, and strain off.
Here are three things to remember:
- Tear and bruise the leaves so the aromatic oils can be released into the water.
- You’ll need to use more fresh leaves than you would dried.
- Because it’s an herbal tea and has few tannins, you can steep bacopa for a long time and it won’t get more and more bitter like tea from regular tea leaves.
- The tea should be kept refrigerated and used within four days.
When I make tea, I like to add stevia leaves. This adds sweetness to the lime flavor of the bacopa.
I also sometimes add bacopa to salads and soups. The slightly tangy lime taste jazzes up the flavor.
As a supplement, bacopa usually comes in a standardized formula of 20 percent bacosides A and B. You need at least 300 mg of bacopa extract for it to be as effective as it is in the studies.
1. Calabrese, C. et al, “Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly…” J. Altern. Complement. Med. July 2008;14(6):707-13
2. Stough, C., et al, “Examining the nootropic effects of a special extract of Bacopa monniera on human cognitive functioning…” Phytother. Res. Dec. 2008;22(12):1629-34
3. Jansson, Erik T., “Aluminum Exposure and Alzheimer’s Disease,” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 3 2001: 541-549
4. Jyoti, A., Sharma, D., “Neuroprotective role of Bacopa monniera extract against aluminum-induced oxidative stress in the hippocampus of rat brain,” Neurotoxicology 2006;27(4):451-7
5. Tripathi, S., Mahdi, A.A., Hasan, M., et al, “Protective Potential of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi)…” Cell. Mol. Biol. Feb. 12, 2011;57(1):3-15
6. Peth-Nui T, et. al. “Effects of 12-Week Bacopa monnieri Consumption on Attention, Cognitive Processing, Working Memory, and Functions of Both Cholinergic and Monoaminergic Systems in Healthy Elderly Volunteers.” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:606424.