Bacopa Introduction

Bacopa is a creeping plant with oblong leaves and purple flowers. It is also referenced as Bacopa monnieri, Herpestis monniera, water hyssop, and Brahmi. Bacopa grows primarily in India and tropical areas, as it grows well in wet soil, or even shallow water and marshes. It also produces a fruit in the summer. [1]

Bacopa has been used for centuries in India as an Ayurvedic medicine. Traditionally, it has been used for memory enhancement, epilepsy, and as a sedative. This plant species is also widely used as a tonic for the cardiovascular, digestive, and respiratory systems.

Recently, Bacopa has been receiving much attention in the arenas of medical research, particularly for its purported memory enhancement effects. The majority of completed studies have supported its traditional uses in Ayurvedic medicine. To date, studies for epilepsy, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, digestive complaints, and respiratory disease have been carried out in animal models, though it has not been readily applied to humans. Research is currently being conducted on the antioxidant and possibly anti-cancer effects of Bacopa.

There are several different therapeutic constituents found in the Bacopa plant, including alkaloids, saponins, and sterols. The primary alkaloids are Brahmine and herpestine; the main saponins are d-mannitol and hersaponin; and the bacosides, especially A and B, are considered effective anti-oxidants. Betulinic acid and beta sitosterol are some of the more recently discovered constituents.

It is thought that the Bacosides A and B are primarily responsible for the cognitive effects exhibited by Bacopa. Being antioxidants, they may also exert an anti-cancer effect. The Bacosides are active in several areas of the brain and function as free radical scavengers. [2] There may be a potential use in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.

Bacopa Uses

Parts Used:

The leaf is the primary part of the plant used in most preparations. However,

the whole plant can be used as a therapeutic agent.

Bacopa Uses:

Bacopa may be most useful for memory enhancement. It has been shown to improve cognitive function and learning skills, especially concerning verbal learning and memory. The supplementation with Bacopa improved the speed of visual information processing as well as improvement of transfer of information into memory. [3] Bacopa has also been proven to decrease the forgetfulness of new information. [4]

It is important to note, that the cognitive enhancing effects of Bacopa have only been demonstrated with long term usage. One particular study measured the effect of a single dose of Bacopa before an examination. There was no improvement in cognitive function or memory in the sample group compared to placebo. [5]

The cognitive enhancing effects observed in adults may carry over to children. Bacopa has been shown to improve memory and learning in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). [6]

Bacopa is also considered an antioxidant. It has the capabilities to scavenge free radicals and may be helpful in numerous diseases. It has protective effects on DNA via its free radical scavenging activity.[7]

Bacopa may be indicated for use in peptic ulcer disease. A recent study found that it possesses anti-ulcer effects. [8] In study, Bacopa caused an increase in the production of mucin, which provides a protective barrier to the stomach lining. It was also shown to increase the lifespan of mucous cells and showed anti-H.pylori activity.

Bacopa has anti-fungal activity. A recent study determined that the constituents betulinic acid, wogonin and oroxindin are anti-fungal and anti-microbial in nature. [9] This is a promising discovery, as Bacopa could become a useful therapy for infections resulting from Candida, as well as Tinea spp.

In vitro studies have shown that Bacopa can stabilize mast cells. [10] This could enable Bacopa to be an effective treatment for allergic conditions such as eczema, urticaria, hay fever, and allergic asthma.

Bacopa is an effective therapy for anxiety. It has produced sedative effects in clinical studies, directly correlating with its traditional use in Ayurvedic medicine. Bacopa may reduce the level of anxiety as well as the overall symptoms of anxiety in some people. [11]

Other in vitro studies have found uses for Bacopa that result due to an spasmolytic action. Bacopa has been shown in vitro to decrease smooth muscle spasm in the intestinal and respiratory tract. [12, 13] These preliminary studies suggest that Bacopa may be useful for conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, asthma, and allergic conditions.

Bacopa Contraindications & Interactions

Bacopa Contraindications

There are no known contraindications for use. Because little information is known on the effect of Bacopa in pregnancy and lactation, use should be limited and a physician should be contacted before beginning treatment.

Bacopa Interactions

Bacopa may potentiate the activity of thyroid stimulating drugs or decrease the effects of anti-thyroid medications. In certain animal studies, Bacopa has demonstrated an increase in T4, the thyroid prohormone. [14] It does not, however, affect levels of T3; the biologically active thyroid hormone. It is important to note that these doses were very high, and this effect is not typically expected at the normal therapeutic dose for humans.

Bacopa may work to decrease the toxicity of several drugs. In animal models, it specifically decreased liver toxicity caused by morphine, and other opiate drugs. It has also been shown to reduce the decline in cognitive function associated with phenytoin, an anti-seizure medication. [15, 16]

Bacopa Dosages

Bacopa can be taken in many different forms. Below are the usual adult dosages for each preparation. In the case of use in children, dosages should be lowered accordingly.

  • 1:2 fluid extract: 5 - 12 milliliters (ml)/day
  • Standardized extract (20% bacosides): 200 - 400 milligrams (mg)/day
  • Powdered herb: 5-10 grams (g)/day
  • Infusion: 8-16 ml/day of infused powder (non-standardized)
  • Brahmi: 30 ml/day

Bacopa Toxicities and Deficiencies

There are no side effects associated with the use of Bacopa in the abovementioned therapeutic doses. Bacopa has been used safely as an Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years. A lethal dose was measured in animals to be 5 grams/kg of aqueous extract and 17 grams/kg of alcohol extract. [17]


[1] Bone K. Clinical applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese herbs: Monographs for the Western Herbal Practitioner. Warwick, Queensland: Phytotherapy Press; 1996.

[2] Chowdhuri DK, Parmar D, Kakkar P, et al. Anti-stress effects of bacosides of Bacopa monniera: modulation of Hsp70 expression, superoxide dismutase and cytochrome p450 activity in rat brain. Phytother Res. 2002; 16:639-645.

[3] Stough C et al. The chronic effects of an extract of bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2001 Aug; 156(4): 481-484.

[4] Roodenrys S et al. Chronic effects of Brahmi (Bacopa monniera) on human memory. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2002 Aug; 27(2): 279-281.

[5] Nathan PJ, Clarke J, Lloyd J, et al. The acute effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy normal subjects. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2001; 16: 345-351.

[6] Negi KS, Singh YD, Kushwaha KP, et al. Clinical evaluation of memory enhancing properties of Memory Plus in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Ind J Psychiatry. 2000; 42: Supplement.

[7] Russo A, Izzo AA, Borrelli F, Renis M, Vanella A. Free radical scavenging capacity and protective effect of Bacopa monniera on DNA damage. Phytother Res. 2003 Sep; 17(8): 870-875.

[8] Goel RK et al. In vitro evaluation of Bacopa monniera on anti- H.pylori activity and accumulation of prostaglandins. Phytomedicine. 2003; 10(6-7): 523-527.

[9] Chaudhuri PK, Srivastava R, Kumar S. Phytotoxic and anti-microbial constituents of Bacopa monniera and Holmskioldita sanguinea. Phytother Res. 2004 Feb; 18(2): 114-117.

[10] Samiulla DS, Prashanta D, Amit A. Mast cell stabilizing activity of Bacopa monniera. Fitoterapia. 2001 Mar; 72(3): 284-285.

[11] Singh RH, Singh L. Studies on the anti-anxiety effect of the Medyha Rasayana drug, Brahmi (Bacopa monniera)-Part 1. J Res Ayur Siddha. 1980; 1: 133-148.

[12] Dar A, Channa S. Calcium antagonistic activity of Bacopa monniera on vascular and intestinal smooth muscles of rabbit and guinea pig. J Ethnopharmocol. 1999; 66: 167-174.

[13] Dar A, Channa S. Relaxant effect of ethanol extract of Bacopa monniera on trachea, pulmonary artery, and aorta from rabbit and guinea pig. Phytother Res. 1997; 11: 323-325.

[14] Kar A, Panda S, Bharti S. Relative efficacy of three medicinal plant extracts in the alteration of thyroid hormone concentrations in male mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002; 81:281-285.

[15] Sumathy T, Subramanian S, Govindasamy S, et al. Protective role of bacopa monniera on morphine induced hepatotoxicity in rats. Phytotherapy Res. 2002; 15: 643-645.

[16] Vohora D, Pal SN, Pillai KK. Protection from phenytoin-induced cognitive deficit by bacopa monniera, a reputed Indian nootropic plant. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000; 71: 383-390.

[17] Martis G, Rao A. Neuropharmacological activity of herpestis monniera. Fitoterapia. 1992; 63:399-404.


Bacopa Ext (aerial parts)
Bacopa herpestis Products