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Bacopa: The Brain-Boosting Alternative to Psychotropic Drugs

Bacopa or Bacopa Monnieri, also called Brahmi, water hyssop or moneywort, is used to treat a wide range of mind-related health issues, including memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy and a general tonic to fight stress. Bacopa has little or no side effects unlike the more potent psychotropic drugs often prescribed today.

Bacopa is commonly known as a “nootropic”, and for good reason. It has been shown to help repair neurons that have become damaged, improve brain function, improve neuron communication, and protect brain cells from harmful chemicals that are responsible for neurological diseases linked to cognition and memory loss.

Bacopa can also be used to treat backache, joint pain, and sexual performance problems in both men and women. Bacopa has even been shown to help regulate dopamine production up and down as needed. This plant is mostly seen as a decorative and flourishing piece of live real estate in aquariums, but make no mistake, bacopa is not just another pretty face. History and research has confirmed its dynamic abilities as a medicinal healer that might hold even more benefits to humans in the near future. Here are some proven benefits of Bacopa.

Improving memory

Bacopa is traditionally used for enhancing learning and memory. Bacopa extract had positive effects on learning and memory following 12 weeks administration. Another study showed memory enhancing effects following 4 weeks.  An Australian survey showed Bacopa to be one of the most popular aid for memory among 60-64 year old consumers. Bacopa improved memory-free recall in human subjects with dementia or significant cognitive impairment. Bacopa showed a significant effect on retention of new information and also decreased the rate of forgetting newly acquired information in humans. Bacopa significantly improved memory acquisition and retention in healthy older people and has memory- and learning-enhancing effects on long-term dosing in patients with anxiety neurosis.

Bacopa balances neurotransmitter levels

Another way bacopa brings you into balance is by regulating neurotransmitters, biochemicals that brain cells use to communicate with each other. Neurotransmitters regulate your mood, appetite, energy, libido, motivation, propensity to addictions, and more. They control your ability to focus, concentrate, learn, remember, and turn off your mind when you want to relax or go to sleep. Bacopa is a master neurotransmitter regulator that dials their production up or down as needed.

In this way, bacopa brings the levels of major neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and GABA into balance. Serotonin is the main brain chemical of happiness. Dopamine is essential for feeling productive and motivated. GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) calms the mind and puts the brakes on brain activity when needed. Bacopa also increases the level of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter of memory and learning.

Symptoms of low levels of acetylcholine are typical of what are considered “senior moments” — struggling to find the right word, constantly losing things, and not remembering what you’ve just read. Without adequate acetylcholine, your brain can’t turn short-term memories into long-term ones. Since Alzheimer’s patients typically have extremely low acetylcholine levels — usually around 10% of normal, it’s suspected that this brain chemical plays a significant role in Alzheimer’s.

Bacopa protects against memory loss caused by medications

Bacopa can offset the memory loss caused by medications that are anticholinergic. Anticholinergic drugs cause memory loss by blocking the action of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter of memory and learning. These drugs are surprisingly common and include many of those which start with “anti” such as antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, antibiotics, antispasmodics, or antihypertensives.

Protection against Neonatal Hypoglycemia

When it comes to newborn infants, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can result in serious and immediate brain damage, inducing future motor and cognitive impairment. Studies have found bacosides to be highly-active compounds that exhibit neuron-protecting effects in hypoglycemic infants. Therefore, many researchers believe that Bacopa extracts may be effective for protecting newborn brains against hypoglycemia-induced brain damage.

Promotes Liver Health

The brain is not the only organ that benefits from Bacopa’s health-promoting compounds. The liver is the body’s main detoxifying organ, and studies suggest Bacopa may be useful for encouraging liver function following toxin damage. With the daily onslaught of toxins in our environment and food, it’s no wonder so many seek safe, natural compounds that support proper liver function.

Encourages Normal Blood Pressure

Bacopa has been shown to increase the utilization of nitric oxide in the body and also appears to encourage vascular muscle function, two benefits that positively influence normal blood pressure. While promoting normal blood pressure is not one of Bacopa’s most well-known uses, the herb may still provide a valuable, natural approach to those seeking this benefit.

Bacopa increases brain plasticity

Brain plasticity is the brain’s ability to keep changing, growing, and forming new neural pathways throughout your lifetime. Bacopa enhances brain plasticity by increasing the formation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that encourages the formation of new brain cells.

Bacopa may help with Alzheimer’s disease

Beta amyloid plaque buildup in the brain is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Bacopa has been shown to reduce these plaques in the brains of mice by 60%. Additionally, bacopa corrects low levels of BDNF which has also been linked to Alzheimer’s.

Strong Antioxidant Activity

Antioxidants… can we get too many of them? Many researchers are evaluating natural plants, herbs, and foods for their antioxidant potential and findings indicate that Brahmi is a good one. It provides protection against oxidative damage, a type of cellular damage caused by free radicals. The herb has also been shown to enhance antioxidant activity in other organs, like the kidneys.

Anxiety

Early research suggests that taking 30 mL of Bacopa syrup daily for 4 weeks reduces symptoms of anxiety, including nervousness, racing heart, trouble sleeping, headaches, tiredness, difficulty concentrating, and stomach discomfort. Early research suggests that taking Bacopa extract for 5 months prevents seizures in some people with epilepsy.

Fights Systemic Inflammation

Virtually any disorder or condition, particularly those that affect the human immune system, can result in swelling and inflammation in the body. The most dangerous location for swelling of this type is the brain. Bacopa monnieri may help to fight swelling of this kind in the brain, as well as inflammation in its covering, which is referred to as meningitis.

Studies indicate that the use of bacopa monnieri for managing inflammation in the brain caused by systemic illnesses may be a viable option for those suffering from this condition. Most of the research is still taking place, but preliminary data suggests that the herb and some of its ingredients may eventually be looked at seriously as a therapy for the chronic discomfort that comes from systemic disorders and the dangers associated with brain inflammation.

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