Bacopa monnieri is 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. monnieri is 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’s common name of brahmi, despite the fact that many other herbs fall into the brahmi category, as well.

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What is B. monnieri Used for Today?  

B. monnieri is widely marketed today as a “brain tonic” for enhancing memory and mental function. However, as discussed in the next section, the evidence that it works remains weak at best.

Even weaker evidence, far too preliminary to rely upon at all, hints that B. monnieri might have potential value for allergies , 1asthma , 2narcotic addiction , 3hypothyroidism , 4depression , 5 and ulcers.6 However, far more research is necessary before anyone could responsibly promote B. monnieri for these conditions.

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What Is the Scientific Evidence for B. monnieri ?  

There is conflicting evidence to support the use of B. monnieri to enhance mental function. Although some double-blind, placebo-controlled trials have have evaluated it's potential value, results remain inconclusive.

B. monnieri Alone  

B. monnieri appears to have antioxidant properties in the brain. These antioxidant properties could potentially lead to positive effects on mental function. 7

A double-blind, placebo-control trial, which lasted 12 weeks and involved 76 people, generally failed to find evidence that the B. monnieri could improve memory. 8 The researchers did find, though, that the people in the B. monnieri group had an improvement in their ability to retain new information. However, the problem is that numerous tests were used to assess different types of memory. When researchers use such a range of tests, they increase the likelihood that at least one of the tests will show positive results to support the herb merely by chance. Because of this study design, the results are not as meaningful. Similarly, a randomized trial involving 48 healthy elderly people found some memory enhancing effects of B. monnieri compared to placebo. But, again, the outcomes measured were too numerous to be meaningful. 15 Another small study looking at the possible short-term effects of B. monnieri also did not find promising results. 10 Thirty-eight healthy people were randomized to receive 300 mg of B. monnieri or placebo. When taken two hours before neuropsychological tests, B. monnieri appeared to have no effect on cognitive function.

In another study, however, 46 healthy people were randomized to receive B. monnieri (300 mg) or placebo over a 12-week period. 9 The results found that those in the B. monnieri group had an improvement in test scores, showing higher order cognitive processes, which are important to learning and memory, but not an improvement in memory per se. In a subsequent trial, 98 healthy older adults (aged 55 years and older) were randomized to one of two groups—300 mg of B. monnieri (a product called BacoMind) or placebo. 16 After 12 weeks, those taking B. monnieri experienced an improvement in their memory test scores (eg, verbal learning, memory acquisition, and delayed recall) compared to those in the placebo group.

B. monnieri Combined With Other Herbs  

Use of combined Ginkgo biloba (120 mg) and B. monnieri (300 mg) failed to improve mental function. 11,12 This suggests that the positive results seen in some of the above studies may have been due to chance.

Slightly more promising results have been seen in studies of a proprietary Ayurvedic mixture containing B. monnieri and about 30 other ingredients. 13,14 However, limitations in study design make these results less reilaible.

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Dosage  

The proposed active ingredients in B. monnieri are substances called bacosides. A typical dose of B. monnieri used 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.

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Safety Issues  

There are no well known significant side effects associated with the use of B. monnieri . However, comprehensive safety studies have not been reported. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.