Bacopa monnieri

Bacopa monnieri

  • Vitamins & Supplements
  • Updated July 29, 2015

Bacopa monnieri (commonly called bacopa) is a perennial herb that has been used for centuries in Indian Ayurveda traditional medicine. Practitioners of Ayurveda claim varying benefits from bacopa, including improved cognitive function. Studies show that bacopa may slightly improve scores on cognitive tests in some people. Scientists are exploring other claims that it can protect against a variety of diseases, but the evidence so far is minimal.

Evidence

Many small clinical trials have looked at effects on cognition but no human studies— either clinical trials or observational studies—have looked at protection from cognitive decline. Our search identified:

• 2 meta-analyses on 6-9 exploratory clinical trials looking at effects on cognition
• 0 clinical trials or observational studies in humans looking at effects on cognitive decline or dementia risk
• Multiple preclinical studies in animals or test tubes have established a biological rationale for protective properties but these effects have not been confirmed in humans

Potential Benefit

Small clinical trials have confirmed that bacopa can improve some cognitive test scores [1][2]. However, the effects are modest and may not yield an improvement noticed by the individual in daily life. A clinical trial in Australia is currently testing whether 300 mg per day of bacopa for 12 months might benefit cognition, mood, cardiovascular health, safety, and biochemical measures of inflammation, oxidative stress, and telomere length in healthy elderly people [13]. As of June 2015, scientists were still recruiting subjects and results were anticipated at the end of 2016.

Bacopa has a long history of use in Ayurveda and preclinical research studies have identified biological mechanisms by which it might protect the brain from aging and perhaps Alzheimer’s disease [3-9]. However, no scientific studies in humans have confirmed that these biological benefits occur or that they can protect from cognitive decline or dementia.

For Dementia Patients

Bacopa has not been evaluated on its own as a treatment for dementia in randomized controlled trials. There are hints of potential benefit in other types of research that should be explored with more research.

Safety

Bacopa is a widely used supplement generally considered to be safe, though its risks have not been well-studied and likely vary by individual. In small clinical trials, bacopa was reported to be safe for healthy adults when used for three months [1]. According to the US Pharmacopeia material safety data sheet, heart problems and thyroid problems might be exacerbated by bacopa and chronic use of bacopa may lead to hypersensitization. People who take anti-depressants, thyroid drugs or drugs that affect cholinergic pathways (e.g., acetylcholinesterase inhibitors or cholinergic drugs) should be cautious. Bacopa may also reduce heart and lung function and heart rate [14].

Some sources of bacopa may be unsafe. Depending on where the plant is grown, its extracts could contain mercury, lead, and other heavy metals [10]. Consider choosing supplements whose content has been verified by a third party like the United States Pharmacopeia.

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive safety evaluation or complete list of potentially harmful drug interactions. It is important to discuss safety issues with your physician before taking any new supplement or medication.

How to Use

In clinical trials on cognitive function, bacopa extract is often administered at 300 mg/day, though doses have ranged from 250 to 600 mg/day [1]. Some bacopa supplements are standardized to contain a certain percentage of bacosides, the components of bacopa that are believed to be biologically active [11]. Without this standardization, the doses of bacosides might change unexpectedly in differently lots of supplements sold by the same company. However, no specific dose or formulation of bacosides has been shown to be particularly effective in clinical trials [1].

Learn More

Some scientific articles on bacopa are available for free online. To find, visit the PubMed website, search for bacopa, and filter by "Free full text."

Researchers at Swinburne University have studied a specific extract of bacopa.

References

  1. Kongkeaw C, Dilokthornsakul P, Thanarangsarit P et al. (2014) Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on cognitive effects of Bacopa monnieri extract. Journal of ethnopharmacology 151, 528-535.
  2. Pase MP, Kean J, Sarris J et al. (2012) The cognitive-enhancing effects of Bacopa monnieri: a systematic review of randomized, controlled human clinical trials. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine 18, 647-652.
  3. Holcomb LA, Dhanasekaran M, Hitt AR et al. (2006) Bacopa monniera extract reduces amyloid levels in PSAPP mice. Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD 9, 243-251.
  4. Limpeanchob N, Jaipan S, Rattanakaruna S et al. (2008) Neuroprotective effect of Bacopa monnieri on beta-amyloid-induced cell death in primary cortical culture. Journal of ethnopharmacology 120, 112-117.
  5. Rastogi M, Ojha RP, Prabu PC et al. (2012) Prevention of age-associated neurodegeneration and promotion of healthy brain ageing in female Wistar rats by long term use of bacosides. Biogerontology 13, 183-195.
  6. Singh M, Murthy V, Ramassamy C (2012) Standardized extracts of Bacopa monniera protect against MPP+- and paraquat-induced toxicity by modulating mitochondrial activities, proteasomal functions, and redox pathways. Toxicol Sci 125, 219-232.
  7. Dwivedi S, Nagarajan R, Hanif K et al. (2013) Standardized Extract of Bacopa monniera Attenuates Okadaic Acid Induced Memory Dysfunction in Rats: Effect on Nrf2 Pathway. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM 2013, 294501.
  8. Williams R, Munch G, Gyengesi E et al. (2014) Bacopa monnieri (L.) exerts anti-inflammatory effects on cells of the innate immune system in vitro. Food Funct 5, 517-520.
  9. Priyanka HP, Singh RV, Mishra M et al. (2013) Diverse age-related effects of Bacopa monnieri and donepezil in vitro on cytokine production, antioxidant enzyme activities, and intracellular targets in splenocytes of F344 male rats. Int Immunopharmacol 15, 260-274.
  10. Srikanth Lavu RV, Prasad MN, Pratti VL et al. (2013) Trace metals accumulation in Bacopa monnieri and their bioaccessibility. Planta medica 79, 1081-1083.
  11. Deepak M, Amit A (2013) 'Bacoside B'--the need remains for establishing identity. Fitoterapia 87, 7-10.
  12. Saper RB, Phillips RS, Sehgal A et al. (2008) Lead, mercury, and arsenic in US- and Indian-manufactured Ayurvedic medicines sold via the Internet. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association 300, 915-923.
  13. Stough CK, Pase MP, Cropley V, Myers S, Nolidin K, King R, Camfield D, Wesnes K, Pipingas A, Croft K, et al. A randomized controlled trial investigating the effect of Pycnogenol and BacopaCDRI08 herbal medicines on cognitive, cardiovascular, and biochemical functioning in cognitively healthy elderly people: the Australian Research Council Longevity Intervention (ARCLI) study protocol (ANZCTR12611000487910). Nutrition Journal Nutr J. 2012;11.
  14. Dementia [Internet]. Medical Reference Guide. University of Maryland Medical Center; [cited 2016Sep29].

Photo: Forest and Kim Starr