For thousands of years, Bacopa monniera has been known as the herb of the mind and spirit. Its uses date back to the very beginnings of herbal medicine. It was first used by the ancient Hindus as a brain and nerve tonic. This use continues to this day by the practitioners of the school of Ayurvedic medicine. Bacopa monnieri has always been included within the “Brahmi” category of herbs, which are those herbs that benefit both the mind and spirit and improve the intellect and consciousness. The word Ayurveda can be roughly translated to mean the “science of life”, and is arguably Man’s earliest attempts at applying “cause and effect” to the study of medicine. One of the most interesting aspects of the Ayurvedic approach to healing is found in the premise that dates back nearly 3000 years and is radically different from the early western approaches to medicine. The Ayurvedic approach to healing focuses on exercise, yoga, meditation, massage, as well as the use of natural medicinal herbs and compounds as the primary aspects of overall therapies. The premises that were laid down nearly 3000 years ago still exist today and are utilized in many teaching hospitals around the world. This approach emphasizes that the mind, the body, the sprit as well as the consciousness must be addressed in part, and as a whole, in order to achieve a positive outcome.
Science and Theory of Bacopa monnieraFrom a functional point of view Bacopa monniera can be considered as a Nootropic (Noos being the Greek word for mind and tropic meaning toward). These are substances that are sometimes referred to as “smart drugs, or cognitive and memory enhancers”. In the stricter sense, Bacopa monniera is not a drug at all, but an herbal, supplemental, or Functional Food. It is considered one of the primary herbs under study that have a direct connection to brain and nerve rejuvenation and function. There are many bioactive compounds associated with this herb but the primary compounds at the forefront of the studies are the steroidal saponins, and the bacosides A&B. These constituents and perhaps a few additional phyto-chemicals are thought to stimulate particular cellular functions within brain cells by altering the availability of neurochemicals (neurotransmitters enzymes and hormones) that regulate and improve the brains oxygen supply or by stimulating nerve growth. The overall result could account for the reported increase in intelligence, longevity and memory. However the difficulty in quantifying traits such as cognition and intelligence makes a conclusive determination difficult and further study and research is need into this science. Even though the exact biochemical mechanisms are difficult to pinpoint, we do know that these compounds do exert a tranquilizing effect on our overall behavior. However, unlike drug sedatives which will generally dull our mind and senses, Bacopa monnieri has repeatedly been shown to improve mental clarity, reduce anxiety, reduce stress and restlessness. The results of these physiological actions manifest themselves in enhancing academic performance by improving our ability to concentrate and focus on learning. It is also used to improve mental alertness, as well as sharpen our memory and situational awareness.
Traditional and Modern uses
- Mood enhancement
- Increased alertness and awareness to one’s surroundings
- An aid in learning skills
- Improved concentration and focus during work and study activities
- Cognitive improvement, such as clear and quick thinking
- Improved memory for numbers, names, places, and events.
- Stress and anxiety control