There’s an herb that’s not very well know in the United States, but in India, this plant is so revered that they use it in their ritual to consecrate newborn babies.
They believe it opens the gateways to knowledge… and this little flower’s brain-boosting power shows they’re right.
Bacopa is one of the prettiest and most healthful herbs I have growing at my home in South Florida…
It’s called bacopa. I’m lucky that it grows in a few of the sunnier places around the large pond in my backyard. It’s a perennial, so I can always see a few purplish-white flowers poking out here and there along the edge of the water.
I like to take a thick leaf or two in my hand and snap it open between my fingers and crush it a little… it has a nice lemon scent to it.
And with a nickname like the “Herb of Grace” you can imagine it has a few good things going for it.
Bacopa has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine in India. There, they use the entire plant to treat breathing ailments like asthma and rheumatic fever. They also use the crushed leaves on cuts and burns because of its anti-inflammatory action.
But the latest research shows that bacopa protects your brain. And, more importantly, can improve thinking, concentration and memory. And it can help you learn faster.
In one study they gave a group of people just 300 mg a day of bacopa. After only 12 weeks, the people taking bacopa had:
- Better word recall
- Better attention
- Better memory scores
- A greater ability to focus when learning
The bacopa group also had less anxiety and lower heart rates. The people in the study not taking bacopa had higher heart rates.1
Another study gave people 300 mg of bacopa extract daily. This time, it only took 90 days for the people to show significantly improved 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
Bacopa’s protection even shows up on a microscopic level. It prevents a buildup of toxins between brain cells. And it stops damage to the hippocampus, an important seat of learning, memory, and thinking power.4
Bacopa’s two unique active components are bacosides A and B. They improve the transmission of impulses between nerve cells in the brain. These molecules from this incredible plant can also do something you may have thought wasn’t possible. They can regenerate and rebuild damaged brain cells.
In other words, as you get older, bacopa helps you to learn and remember new things much more easily.
It’s easy to add this ancient herb to what you eat, or take it as a supplement.
Also, if you would like to grow your own, it’s easy to do. There are up to 100 species of bacopa, but bacopa monnieri is the one used in Ayurvedic medicine.
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 bacopa in the ground where it will 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.
My favorite way to use bacopa is in a simple tea.
It’s best to 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.
I also sometimes add bacopa leaves to salads and soups. The slightly tangy taste jazzes up the flavor.
Bacopa is also available as a supplement. It usually comes in a standardized formula of 20 percent bacosides A and B. You can find it at many health-food stores, and you can get capsules in many sizes. But studies show at least 300 mg of bacopa extract is effective. I recommend taking 150 mg in the morning and at night.
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. 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. 2008;22(12):1629-34
3. Jansson E. “Aluminum Exposure and Alzheimer’s Disease.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 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