Bacopa monnieri, commonly referred to as Bacopa, it’s a plant that has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. In India, it is also referred to as Brahmi. In the last two decades, many Ayurvedic plants, like Ashwagandha, Brahmi, and Gotu Kola, have been shown to be effective not only in Ayurveda classic books but also in scientific studies; the extract, in particular, has been shown to be as effective as some prescription medications.
Background and Benefits
Perhaps more than other top nootropics, Bacopa highlights the importance of the individual and the makeup of his biology on any given day. Although it reliably promotes enhanced memory and vivid dreaming, other effects are less consistent, often due to the large variety in potency between the different products on the market. Luckily, in the last few years, a standardized and pharmaceutical grade extract has been developed, named Bacognize®.
It is known to produce clarity or a slight fog, making you relaxed or slightly moody, with the potentiality of leading to mild physical symptoms (like muscle aches and intestinal bloating). In spite of all this critical talk, Bacopa is one of the most underestimated supplements, and this article will paint it as one with profound healing and nootropic abilities. Confused? Don’t worry; we got you covered!
Some of the benefits of Bacopa (according to both scientific research and anecdotal experiences) are:
- It is neuroprotective and significantly improves acquisition and retention of memories.
- It also increases acetylcholine synthesis and promotes neurogenesis by enhancing the activity of BDNF and NGF
- It has anxiolytic, antidepressant and anti-stress effects.
- It is an antioxidant and increases lifespan in animal studies.
- It is anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective.
- Bacopa may also help people with epilepsy, as well as children with ADHD.
The sedative effect of Bacopa is almost always in the foreground, though anecdotal reports show that this effect happens most strongly at the beginning and tends to disappear after a month (or two) of consistent use. In fact, studies have shown that Bacopa’s peak nootropic effect is seen after two months, and keeps on getting stronger as time passes, while the anxiolytic effects are usually felt right from the first dose.
Before we get into the specifics of Bacopa, let’s have a look at some of the anecdotal experiences in the nootropics community to get a better understanding of how it works in healthy individuals outside the lab.
From Reddit user Nedzilla55 —
[…] My first nootropic experience, and it was a good one. I noticed acute effects of lowered anxiety, and over the course of a few months noticed increased memory. This amazing herb is subtle enough that I feel normal, but noticeable enough that I felt less stress and anxiety. I didn’t even realize how great it was until I got off of it, and started experiencing my usual increased anxiety. It wasn’t like an acute “Wow, I feel so calm” feeling, more like a background calm. Like turning down the volume of anxiety a couple of notches. Looking back at it, the 6-7 months I used it I was in a much better place mentally. […]
From Reddit user YoungRedPiller —
So I’ve been taking Bacopa Monnieri for about a month at this point. […] I’ll try to explain my experience with it so far.
I’ve heard that the memory effects take at least 8 weeks to show effect but I’ve been feeling some quite significant changes in my ability to recall events that have happened in the past month. It’s also improved the quality of these memories. This is a very nice effect that is very appreciated because I feel if i stick it out for another month my memory will improve noticeably.
One other effect that it’s had that I didn’t really expect it to have was that it made me completely apathetic. To everything. Studying, reading, music, doing anything at all. I’m completely careless to everything and my motivation to do things is very little. But when I start doing things, I don’t want to stop. It’s had a profound effect on my attention. I don’t know if the attention is because of the apathy or something but attention is another aspect that I like about Bacopa. Also due to the apathy, my anxiety is also very minimal in any situation. I completely have a fuck it attitude. Very appreciated as I used to be quite hyperactive.
It’s made me very calm, serene and genuinely carefree. […]
From Reddit user Tester12311 —
The first month: Contrary to anecdotal reports, I could definitely feel the bacopa kicking in. It acted almost as a mild downer and a definite anxiolytic. I felt calm, chilled out, and careless. […] Many initial reports include drowsiness and upset stomach. Though Bacopa did make me drowsy at first, I can only think of very specific instances with stomach upset which could easily have been as a result of what I ate that day. Besides these mild effects, there was not much else for Bacopa within the first month.
The second month and now: Throughout this entire period of taking Bacopa, I would constantly test my memory to see if it was improving. […] To be completely honest, it is very difficult to measure how much I can and cannot remember. But I can say that when people ask me if I remember something they said the week previous, I am more likely to respond positively. I am also more lucid with conversation topics as I can tie together the flow of a conversation from one topic to another. One can assume that my immediate working memory has greatly improved. […] Bacopa’s anxiolytics effects have also had a nice influence on my life. I am less nervous about social interactions especially with women or job interviews. It has gotten to the point where I really just do not care what people I don’t know think of me. […]
One of the most gratifying and prominent effects that I feel from Bacopa is the attention boost. I have a have a very strong grip on whatever I am doing. It has made reading and studying easier. I can sit and become enamored by a book. I hated reading before Bacopa. I love it now. […]
Learning and Memory
Bacopa is perhaps most notable for its ability to enhance memory and cognitive performance in mice. In humans, this translates most clearly to improved consolidation of memories into long-term memory. In these respects, bacopa has received a comparable amount of attention (in academic journals) as more mainstream and publicized herbal cognitive enhancers, such as ginkgo.
Later sections will expound on neurotransmitters, serotonin and acetylcholine in particular, which have, respectively anti-stress and pro-cognitive effects. Like other herbal nootropics, its mechanism also relies on adaptogenic properties or lowering stress (this is touched on below, from the perspective of “cytokines,” the body’s natural inflammatory agents).
While not as pronounced as the effect on long-term memory, Bacopa may also be useful for short-term memory, concentration, focus, motivation, and the likes. Clinical studies have found it effective against ADHD. Another study has drawn the same conclusions. This is especially encouraging for those who want to stay away from Adderall, Ritalin, and other pharmaceutical choices, and into other choices which may be more sustainable and less taxing on the psyche.
Inflammation, like oxidation, is too often presented in the press, and almost never in a light which sheds true insight on its value; gradually the public loses interest in the hype and falls into more conservative waters. Despite any skepticism, bacopa has real and impressive anti-inflammatory properties. These anti-inflammatory properties are closely related to its anti-dementia effects, which are as potent as curcumin, and like curcumin may open the avenues in Alzheimer’s research for more potent semi-synthetic derivatives.
Cytokines are compounds which the body releases in response to stress or infection, and although they help to control certain illness, they can quickly lead to runaway inflammation. Many herbal nootropics work in part by regulating this runaway, negative feedback “loop.” Although it is perhaps not as strong as curcumin, there are a few studies and books summarizing bacopa’s effects on inflammation.
It has been shown in multiple studies to be as effective as common antiepileptic meds. This is likely related to its effect as a modulator of GABA, although a direct modulation of glutamate cannot be ruled out as a contributing factor.
The anti-stress effect may be directly related to the antioxidant capacity, as suggested by evidence. Although antioxidants are beaten to death in the media, it is important in the absence of rigorous ORAC testing (free radical savaging capacity) to recognize when a particular food or supplement shows promising activity. Ginkgo, bacopa, turmeric and ginger all show potential here. You can look up the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ratings for turmeric and ginger to get a rough idea of their potency.
Serotonin and BDNF
Besides its broad antioxidant properties, perhaps the most studied mechanisms of Bacopa have been centered on serotonin. It has been shown to upregulate the serotonin transporter (SERT) and to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in an animal model of depression. The magnitude of the BDNF effect is supported by studies investigating bacopa’s ability to substantially improve the growth and survival of dendrites and axons: the fragile, spindly structures allowing for communication between neurons.
Dopamine and glutamate
Although bacopa is known to restore dopamine function, and as mentioned above, glutamate function as well, it is still not clear the extent to which these factors play into its nootropic qualities. The acetylcholine, serotonin, antioxidant and (as we will touch on later) the cardiovascular properties all likely outshine dopamine and glutamate in this respect.
Bacopa Monnieri has been implicated in increasing specifically cerebral blood flow independent of overall blood pressure it can also decrease blood pressure (both systolic and diastolic) independent of heart rate by releasing nitric oxide — a molecule that helps cells communicate with each other — from the endothelium.
Bacopa is also cardioprotective, and in research has been showed to protect from several cardiotoxic substances, such as isoprotenerol. and may likely have a protective effect for everyday cardiotoxic activities like smoking. drinking, and taking stimulants.
Although it has primarily been studied on opiate (morphine) related kidney damage (where it was found to be effective), it may serve in the otherwise healthy as a general tonifying agent in the kidneys.
Due to its cholinergic activity, those with a known mood disorder should approach bacopa extremely cautiously. High acetylcholine levels have even been used in lab mice to simulate bipolar and borderline features.
Bacopa has a potent stimulatory effect on the thyroids. Persons with known thyroid conditions are accordingly advised to consult a healthcare professional before considering bacopa.
As said before, it is known to accumulate heavy metals. Nowadays, most nootropic suppliers have certificates of analysis, and this is not raised as a concern.
Although bacopa’s initial sedative effect may be partially balanced out by natural energizers, such as ginseng, cocoa or royal jelly, we are recommending you consult a healthcare professional before beginning such an aggressive regimen. It is instead more strongly recommended to simply lower the dose, particularly when using the 50% extract which some people may find too intense.
By the way, you can buy Bacognize capsules and powder at Nootropics Depot. Or, if you’re on a tight budget, check out Powder City’s bulk 50% extract and 20% extract capsules. I personally recommend the capsules as the powder has an unpleasant taste. The dosage depends on the type of extract you have, typically a 50% extract like Bacognize is taken 300 mg once or twice a daily, while a 20% extract is taken at 500-650 mg two to three times a day. It is typically taken with food.
The good news is that much of bacopa’s nootropic effect is cumulative. Although it does take up to four to six months to see full effects, modest effects can still be observed from switching to the lower dose after a mere two months. This is especially true when it is paired off in the long-term with other highly effective and synergistic supplements. You could even take it just one summer, completely remove it from your stack after that point, and still theoretically retain some of its nootropic qualities.
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