Bacopa owes its Nootropic effect to boosting serotonin levels. You need to make a longer term commitment to it for true cognitive enhancement.
There are nearly a hundred human studies listed on Pubmed done on Bacopa, so it’s been studied thoroughly as an Adaptogen and is respected in eastern traditional medicine.
Bacopa monniera or Brahmi is another historical Nootropic which has been used for three millennia in India. It comes from the waterhyssop plant which is a creeping herb, so this herb grows like just outside of the windows of cute Indian girls and likes all their photos on Facebook — just kidding!
It’s a cornerstone of traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda means the knowledge of long life. If you’re curious about it check out this documentary.
It’s also found in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and southern part of the USA.
The primary value I see in Bacopa for Biohackers is that unlike other adaptogenic Nootropics it works on cognition. The other Adaptogens are good for energy, pep, mood, stress management and immunity but they are not quintessential smart drugs that will make you a whole lot better at solving complex problems or making better decisions.
An extensive double-blind placebo-controlled, study was done by Swinburne University, School of Biophysical Science in Victoria, Australia. It came to the conclusion that it consistently improves higher order cognitive processes:
- Improved speed of visual information processing
- Learning rates
- Memory consolidation
- Reducing state anxiety
From a 6 month study of 48 human subjects from Helfgott Research Institute:
“Controlling for baseline cognitive deficit using the Blessed Orientation-Memory-Concentration test, Bacopa participants had enhanced AVLT delayed word recall memory scores relative to placebo. Stroop results were similarly significant, with the Bacopa group improving and the placebo group unchanged. CESD-10 depression scores, combined state plus trait anxiety scores, and heart rate decreased over time for the Bacopa group… This study provides further evidence that B. monnieri has potential for safely enhancing cognitive performance in the aging.”
An Indian study of 66 human subjects found the same effects in otherwise healthy adults
“The current study attempted to determine the chronic effects of single daily dose of 450 mg of Brahmi extract on cognitive performance and anxiety in healthy adults. The results of the current study are not in agreement with findings of some of the earlier studies which have found improvement both on cognitive parameters and a reduction of anxiety scores.”
Interestingly a Swinburne University review compared Bacopa to Modafinil and Panax Ginseng as a cognitive performance enhancers and scored them by various measures of cognition. Bacopa most improved delayed word recall, which is a task where you memorize a sequence of words, distract yourself with something else, then come back and try to recall the sequence. So this would suggest that Bacopa will actually make you better at multi-tasking. The review concluded:
“These data confirm that neurocognitive enhancement from well characterized nutraceuticals can produce cognition enhancing effects of similar magnitude to those from pharmaceutical interventions.”
A self experimenter on Longecity reported:
“Bacopa is the finest herb to date that has such broad specturm nice depth producing effects in memory focus and building understanding of things, situations, concept and also holistic knowing!”
“In the first two weeks, the Bacopa was amazing, producing a whole range of positive benefits, including increased motivation, increased creativity, and much greater sensitivity to coffee… After two months, this initial rush of creativity and motivation has diminished, to be replaced with increased lucidity, and what seems to be more general resilience. All in all now I feel as if the Bacopa Monierii has created a subtle elevation of both my mood and general clarity, but without any of the initial focus and motivation.”
Calengineering noted its non-effect on brain training:
“Bacopa Monieri also did not help N-Back scores… which I was playing consistently everyday.”
Bacopa is a long term memory Biohack, so it’s not likely to help you much with exams next week but an abundance of high quality human studies indicate that it may help you with a long term memory challenge, like learning a new language. It can take up to 12 weeks to get the maximum mind power benefits from a Bacopa regimen.
Bacopa is one Nootropic that has been demonstrated to improve the memories and learning capacity of otherwise healthy people as opposed to improving the memory of those retarded by cognitive decline, stroke, etc. From a double-blind randomized, placebo controlled University of Wollongong study of 76 humans:
“The results show a significant effect of the Brahmi on a test for the retention of new information. Follow-up tests showed that the rate of learning was unaffected, suggeting that Brahmi decreases the rate of forgetting of newly acquired information.”
From another human study of 24 healthy volunteers:
“Standardized extracts of the traditional Ayurvedic medicine Bacopa monnieri (BM) (Brahmi) have been recently shown to have cognitive enhancing effects in chronic administration studies. Pre-clinical work has also identified a number of acute anxiolytic, nootropic, and cardiovascular effects… Change from baseline scores indicated that the 320 mg dose of Bacopa monnieri improved performance at the first, second, and fourth repetition post-dosing on the [Cognitive Demand Battery], and the treatments had no effect upon cardiovascular activity or in attenuating task-induced ratings of stress and fatigue.”
From another Australian study of 136 human subjects:
“Bacopa significantly improved memory acquisition and retention in healthy older Australians. This concurs with previous findings and traditional use.”
Yearningforyears on Longecity reported:
Bacopa does not have an instant effect. It takes several weeks before any memory improvement can be noticed (according to studies and my own experience). 5–12 weeks maybe with daily use (twice daily).
So Bacopa as a memory hack aids with effectively forming new memories underlying new skills, so it’s not like the fictional drug NZT-48 that allows you to effortlessly reach back 10, 15 or 20 years into your past. Piracetam is your best bet for that!
As a quintessential Adaptogen, it has a helpful effect on our stress management. It’s not likely to give you immediate stress relief and restore a tranquil state of mind like Phenibut, a stiff cocktail or meditation. It hacks how our genes respond to stress, specificially the HSP70 biomarker.
From a study out of Lucknow, India:
“As stress is linked to many diseases, research on an effective antistress agent (adaptogen) from plants has gained importance. We report the investigations on the adaptogenic property of a standardized extract of Bacopa monniera against acute (AS) and chronic stress… On the basis of our result, it is concluded that the standardized extract of B. monniera possesses a potent adaptogenic activity.”
I read through several dozen pages of user testimonials about Bacopa and there seems to be a spectrum of effect on sleep, some people find that it helps sleep and makes them drowsy whereas for others it disturbs or prevents sleep.
For a lot of people it maybe a viable alternative to red strains of Kratom; you can drink it as tea like Kratom and it produces a tranquilizing effect that will decompress you at the end of the day.
From a ALurker on Longecity:
“My subjective experience with bacopa is that it makes me sleepy and gives me beautiful dreams… Reducing stress might also explain some of the effects.”
It’s reported a couple places for potentiating Nootropics that it’s stacked with:
“I have found that it ridiculously potentates any stimulant I take. Anyone notice this as well? I can usually have a large cup of tea and feel nothing from it, but if I drink it after taking this supplement that it becomes incredibly stimulating.”
It’s a veritable anti-aging herb thanks to its effect reducing neural inflammation. Rat testing has also suggested that it, also reduces the onset of Alzheimer’s diseases.
From a 2007 study out of Texas A&M University:
“Bacopa monniera is described in the Ayurvedic Materia Medica, as a therapeutically useful herb for the treatment of cognitive impairment, thus supporting its possible anti-Alzheimer’s properties…
These data combined with our previous studies that have shown that BmE treatment reduces beta-amyloid levels in the brain of an Alzheimer’s disease doubly transgenic mouse model of rapid amyloid deposition (PSAPP mice) suggesting mechanisms of action relevant to the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Several animal studies demonstrated a helpful effect in preventing epileptic episodes. From a 2010 review from Cochin University in Kerala, India
“Bacopa monnieri is an outstanding nervine tonic used for raising the mental performance. It helps in concentration, comprehension, recall and alertness, Brahmi is particularly beneficial as it aids in categorizing information in brain and its subsequent expression. Bacopa is also called as a natural antioxidant which may give details its neuroprotective role seen in the memory centers of the brain. Epilepsy is neuronal disorder characterized by learning, cognitive and memory impairments. The present review summarizes information concerning botany, chemistry and beneficial effect of Bacopa monnieri on epilepsy associated behavioral deficits.”
I was a bit disappointed to find just this single ancedotal account of Bacopa helping someone with Epilepsy:
“I was diagnosed with possible temporal lobe epilepsy in 2004. In early 2008, after having read about Bacopa on this forum, I started taking it. About one year later, I had an EEG and the possible abnormalities that showed up in my 2004 EEG were absent…”
According to Adaptogens: It also relieves “brain fog” caused by the antiepilepsy drug phenytoin (Dilantin).
Meaningful data from animal studies indicates that it protects the brain from metal toxicity. Inadvertently you’re going to be a little poisoned by traces of aluminum in the food you eat at a restaurant or mercury in the water of the Airbnb apartment you stay in while on vacation. From a Jawaharlal Nehru University study:
“The objective of the present study was to investigate whether Bacopa monniera could potentially inhibit aluminium toxicity in the cerebral cortex… The potential of Bacopa monniera extract to prevent aluminium neurotoxicity was reflected at the microscopic level as well, indicative of its neuroprotective effects. These findings strongly implicate that Bacopa monniera has potential to protect brain from oxidative damage resulting from aluminium toxicity.”
Neural inflammation is actually a pretty scary thing, it can result from…
Being bitten by the wrong mosquito.
Or even staying in a dirty dorm room apparently. Yikes!
Consistent dosage of Bacopa can have a helpful effect on neural inflammation, but don’t expect immediate relief, the studies required as much as 3 months of dosing to demonstrate an effect.
So if you’re concerned at all about neural inflammation, it’s a good idea to include Bacopa in your adaptogenic stack. From a 2012 study from SASTRA University in Thanjavur, India
“Bacopa monnieri (L.) is a revered medicinal plant of traditional Indian system of medicine effective against cognitive impairment in ageing and SDAT. In our previous study, long term administration of bacosides was found to exhibit remarkable anti ageing effect…
the present study aims to investigate the neuroprotective effect of bacosides against age related chronic neuroinflammation…
Thus, the present results suggest that bacosides possess immense potential to act as a neuroprotective agent due to its pleiotropic action for the prevention of ageing complications…”
It has a relatively weak anti-anxiety effect. The conclusion from the research seems to be that it helps older people with anxiety problems but does nothing for younger, otherwise healthy people. As I advised some clients of mine recently; if you have anxiety issues Kratom, Aniracetam, Meditation or HRV training are a whole lot better options.
From a 2013 human study out of Bangalore, India:
“A number of studies have indicated positive effects of long-term administration (3 months) of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on various cognitive functions especially memory and anxiety. However, inconsistent results in literature may be linked to various methodological issues…
The current study attempted to determine the chronic effects of single daily dose of 450 mg of Brahmi extract on cognitive performance and anxiety in healthy adults. The results of the current study are not in agreement with findings of some of the earlier studies which have found improvement both on cognitive parameters and a reduction of anxiety scores.”
It can be a godsend for some:
“…my girlfriend has taken Bacopa several times since I posted this because she is very similar to me in the way of anxiety/focus/fatigue/etc. She reports that it helps her tremendously with being calm and content and not worrying excessively about unnecessary things…”
Mechanism of Action
Bacopa improves overall intelligence, reduces anxiety, ability to concentrate, memory, and since it’s a nuerotransmitter assister, motor learning plasticity.
- Dendritic proliferation — Bacopa is an enabler of Synaptogenesis; which is the formation of synapses between neurons. Essential to synthetic skill set development.
- Bacopa increases serotonin levels in the hippocampus.
- It has strong antioxidant properties which protect your memory centers and is also believed that it helps with neuronal synthesis.
- It also protects your brain from the neurotoxins in glutamate and is an acetylcholinesterase (a negative chemical that hinders the neurotransmitter acetylcholine) inhibitor.
- Bacopa also feeds your brain two important P450 enzymes, PROD and EROD which help you deal with stress.
- It may regulate dopamine. It’s theorized that it could work against compounds that cause a dopamine spike in the striatum, like Caffeine.
- A chemical ingredient, Bacosides protect the synaptic functions of the nerves in the hippocampus, which is regarded as the seat of memory.
If you’re a guy trying to make a baby you may not want to take a lot of Bacopa. Two animal studies indicated that it diminishes sperm potency, from the abstract of one of them:
“…Brahmi treatment causes reversible suppression of spermatogenesis and fertility,”
It doesn’t negatively or positively effect either libido or testosterone.
In India Bacopa is traditionally given to children. It’s safe for children in a dosage of about 350 milligrams according to a study of 40 elementary school children:
“These results show that the Brahmi treatment significantly improved discrimination learning, memory and cognitive functions in the subjects. These findings validate the potential use of Bacopa monniera in formulations to improve visual motor functions and immediate memory in children.”
Taste & Aesthetics
I prefer to consume Bacopa as a tea, I jump a few little spoonfuls of powdered Bacopa into hot water which I let sit for a few minutes and then drink.
Its taste is pretty decent compared to many powdered Nootropics which are frankly disgusting but compared to other adaptogenic Nootropics it’s very strong and will likely put a bit of scowl on your face.
It’s fat soluble so you do want to consume it with some form of fat.
Bacopa can be taken as a capsule supplement and is very affordable at $6-$12 for a monthly supply. However, there’s a good potential reason why you might NOT want to just buy it from the cheapest source on Amazon or where ever….
Researching Bacopa, I kept hearing about a potential issue with metal contamination. This can be avoided by consuming high quality pharmaceutical grade Bacopa, as opposed to the cheapo stuff sold on the shelves of your local grocery store or as an ostensible ingredient of those flashy Nootropic stack products.
According to Adaptogens: Safety Issues: Make sure that the bacopa used has been organically grown because commercially grown bacopa can absorb whatever pollutants (especially lead and nitrates) are in the water it grows in.
Since you have to consume Bacopa for at least several weeks and likely months for it to really benefit you, you’ll want to be sure you’re using a high quality supply.
My preferred herbal vendor Lost Empire Herbs, sells 30 grams of COA verified powdered Bacopa for $30, a 3-month supply.
Store it in a cool, dark place. It can go bad if exposed to too much light or heat. So maybe don’t leave it out on your desk in the sunshine or in your backpack.
Some report taking it in quite high dosages without issues:
“…personally bacopa in super high dose (1–2g two or three times a day) is really amazing for me!”
One day I mistakenly dumped about 2 grams Bacopa in my tea, which is quite a mega dose, it was not an outstandingly negative or positive effect.
It has a notable synergistic effect with…
…according to 2009 study out of University of Colorado:
“…the objective of combining multiple phytochemicals at low nontoxic doses to gain synergy among them… All components together, however, produced a strongly synergistic induction of around three- to ninefold in a dose-dependent manner, greatly exceeding the sum of the parts.”
Ginkgo — according to medicinal traditions it can really help with brain fog in combination with other herbs, from Adaptogens:
“It is used in ayurvedic medicine to relieve “mental fog” caused by chronic cannabis smoking. It can be combined with other cerebral stimulants such as rosemary, bacopa, and ginkgo to help people with menopausal cloudy thinking, poor memory, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and to speed up recovery from head trauma. “
Bacopa, St. John’s wort, Ginkgo, and Holy Basil can be a transformative cocktail for overcoming cognitive impairment. Consider this remarkable case documented in Adaptogens:
In one remarkable case from many years ago, I had an opportunity to use a similar formula with great success. A friend’s wife came down with bacterial meningitis. Luckily, they caught it early enough. She was rushed to the hospital and given intravenous antibiotics. Her life was saved and she was discharged from the hospital, but she still had severe cognitive problems. Her ability to hear, see, speak, and smell all were seriously impaired. She was unable to hold a conversation, work, or read; even food had a strange taste. Her doctors had done all they could do and advised her that these troubling symptoms would hopefully resolve after six to twelve months. I was asked to help at this point and recommended several nootropic and adaptogenic herbs. In two weeks, she reported significant improvement, and after a month on this formula, she stated that she was “back to normal, and maybe even better than that.” This case, although remarkable in its quick and total success, is not all that unusual and shows how herbs can offer significant benefits for many “untreatable conditions.” (p. 223)
Bacopa is regarded as being very safe.
For many it’s a downer. One Canadian biohacker reported insightfully:
“I’ve been using Bacopa… for 8 weeks with negative results…
Decreased Dopamine. Which results in decreased libido, lack of motivation, lack of energy, sleepiness, poor abstract thinking. Actually Bacopa decrease[s] significantly dopamine…”
Gastrointestinal — the one notable side effect observed is cramping.
The very mild side effects of a high dosage can include dry mouth, muscle fatigue, and nausea.
Conflicts: It’s not recommended to take Bacopa with chlorpromazine, a drug in the pharmaceutical family of perphenazine.
The benefits it offers, if used alone are not unique to it as a Nootropic; if you are looking for a memory and cognition enhancer that helps with anxiety there are a lot better options that work a whole lot faster than the few weeks to 3 months that Bacopa does. I think it’s worth attention as an anti-aging preventative measure for treating neural inflammation and as a neuroprotective agent but it will remain pretty far from the top of list of Nootropics that I recommend to young people. For otherwise healthy Biohackers Bacopa’s real value as a performance enhancer is in stacking it with other Nutraceuticals.