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Bacopa monnieriis a creeping perennial with white or blue flowers that grows throughout much of Southern Asia. It has been used traditionally to treat epilepsy , depression , insomnia , and schizophrenia . In the traditional medicine of India, Ayurveda , B. monnieriis considered to fall in the “brahmi” category of herbs, a group of substances said to assist the mind and enhance awareness. From this comes B. monnieri’scommon name of brahmi, despite the fact that many other herbs fall into the brahmi category as well.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for B. monnieri ?
Although several double-blind , placebo-controlled studies have evaluated the potential value of B. monnierifor enhancing mental function, the results are far from conclusive.
B. monnieriappears to have antioxidant properties in the brain, which could potentially lead to positive effects on mental function. 1 However, a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 76 individuals that tested the potential memory-enhancing benefits of B. monnierigenerally failed to find much evidence of benefit. 2 The only significant improvement seen among all the many measures used was in one that evaluated retention of new information. While this may sound at least somewhat promising, in fact it means almost nothing. Here’s why: When a study uses many different techniques to assess improvement, mere chance ensures that at least one of them will come up with results. Properly designed studies should focus on one test of benefit alone (the “primary outcome measure”) that is selected prior to running the trial. “Fishing” for results among multiple tests is a highly suspect method. Similarly, a randomized trial involving 48 healthy elderly subjects found some memory enhancing effects of B. monniericompared to placebo, but the outcomes measured were too numerous to be meaningful. 3 Nonetheless, if several independent studies use multiple tests of improvement, and the pattern of response is reliably maintained, then the results begin to appear more significant. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case with B. monnieri. In a previous double-blind, placebo-controlled study enrolling 46 individuals, use of B. monnieriover a 2-week period again produced benefits, but in an entirely different pattern. 4 In yet another double-blind, placebo-controlled study, this one involving 38 people, short-term use of B. monnierifailed to produce any measurable improvements in memory. 5 In addition, use of combined Ginkgo biloba(120 mg) and B. monnieri(300 mg) has also failed to improve mental function. 6 This type of inconsistency suggests that the limited benefits seen in some studies were due to chance.
Slightly more promising results have been seen in studies of a proprietary Ayurvedic mixture containing B. monnieriand about 30 other ingredients. 7 However, these studies are generally not up to modern scientific standards.
The proposed active ingredients in B. monnieriare substances called bacosides. A typical dose of B. monnieriused in the studies described above was 300-450 mg daily of a concentrated alcohol extract standardized to bacoside content, equivalent to about 6-9 g of whole dried herb.
- Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Kumar A, Ghosal S Antioxidant activity of Bacopa monniera in rat frontal cortex, striatum and hippocampus. Phytother Res. 2000;14:174-179.
- Roodenrys S, Booth D, Bulzomi S, et al. Chronic effects of B. monnieri ( Bacopa monnieri ) on human memory. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2002;27:279-281.
- Calabrese C, Gregory WL, Leo M, et al. Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Jul 8. [Epub ahead of print]
- Stough C, Lloyd J, Clarke J, et al. The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera ( B. monnieri ) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology. 2001;156:481-484.
- Nathan PJ, Clarke J, Lloyd J, et al. The acute effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera ( B. monnieri ) on cognitive function in healthy normal subjects. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2001;16:345-351.
- Nathan PJ, Tanner S, Lloyd J et al. Effects of a combined extract of Ginkgo biloba and Bacopa monniera on cognitive function in healthy humans. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2004;19:91-96.
- Agrawal A, Dubey M, Dubey G. Effects of Mentat on memory span, attention, galvanic skin resistance (GSR) and muscle action potential (EMG) among normal adults. Pharmacopsychoecologia. 1990;3:39-42.