Bacopa Monnieri or Brahmi, Why It’s a Top Ayurvedic Herb

Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is a creeping perennial with thick succulent oblong green leaves and white or pale purple flowers.

As a water-loving species, also called water hyssop among other names, it grows in many tropical and semi-tropical locations often in marsh-like habitats around the world. It is believed to be native to India and Sri Lanka.

Its special capacity to live submerged underwater is a feature that has made it a favored home aquarium plant. However, this is not just an ornamental species. The leaves and stems have some very unique herbal properties that have made it a top prized herb utilized in one of the oldest healthcare systems in the world, the traditional Indian medicine of Ayurveda.

Table of Contents

Intro | Top 4 Benefits | How to Use | Precautions | Shop

Bacopa is one of two Ayurvedic varieties that go by the name "brahmi". The other is gotu kola which has similar but different properties.

Brahmi is associated with the Hindu god Brahma and derived from the term Brahman which means "energy of universal consciousness."

Like Mucuna pruriens, bacopa also frequently goes by its species name Bacopa monnieri as well as bacopa or brahmi.

It is available as a powder, dried herb, and powdered or liquid extract.

Bacopa leaves and stems will turn brown when dried and will typically pigment a cup of tea an orange-brown to dark brown color depending on how much you use.

We personally love the unique taste of bacopa made by hot water infusing either the herb or powder. It has a mild fruity black tea-like aroma and flavor that is slightly bitter with some sweetness.

It is one of those herbs that is known to absorb possible pollutants from its environment, so it's important to purchase high-quality certified organic bacopa/brahmi herb or extracts especially if you intend it for regular use.

Mountain Rose Herbs, Lost Empire Herbs and Banyan Botanicals are three of our favorite suppliers of organic bacopa herbal products.

Here is more on the famed benefits of this classic Ayurvedic herbal favorite.

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Top 4 Bacopa Monnieri Benefits in Ayurveda

1) Rasayana or Rejuvenative Tonic
2) Use as an Herbal Nootropic
3) Pacifying to All Doshas
4) Utilized for Meditation Practices

1) Nervous System Rasayana or Rejuvenative Tonic

As with many adaptogenic Ayurvedic and Chinese herbs, bacopa is rich in saponin content collectively known as BACOSIDES. This group of bacopa-specific dammarane-type triterpenoid saponins are some main components thought to be responsible for this herb’s healthful properties.

Saponin-rich herbs like bacopa are classified as rasayanas. From an Ayurvedic perspective, rasayanas are considered "rejuvenating tonics" that help to restore or revitalize.

Bacopa is chiefly known to supportively nourish the nervous system, encouraging a calming influence over everyday stress and anxiety.

Teas and extracts, however, are best used over a period of time to actualized these benefits.

This is our favorite quote by Thich Nhat Hanh regarding stress:

"It is very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying, it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems."

Bacopa can be a useful botanical partner for encouraging greater peace in the moments of daily life.

While the dried herb can be infused in hot water for a cup of bacopa tea, powders or extracts can also be used in beverages or, as in East Indian tradition, prepared in ghee, warm milk or honey.

In herbal formulations, it can be used with other top Ayurvedic rasayanas like ashwagandha, holy basil, gokshura and shatavari for added advantages and/or specific health goals.

Another way to use brahmi is as a medicated oil that can be applied topically for its relaxing attributes. This is typically achieved DIY style by infusing the dried herb in sesame oil in the sun for several weeks.

2) Ayurvedic Use as an Herbal Nootropic

Bacopa monnieri is a rather humble-looking plant, but don't let appearances fool you. It has been one of the topmost valued herbs utilized in Ayurveda for centuries.

Initially documented in ancient texts like the Charaka Samhita as a rasayana herb for sharpening the intellect and mental functions, it has a long history in Ayurvedic traditions for such purposes.

Often called a brain tonic or an "herbal nootropic", it is legendary for its neuroprotective potentials supportive for memory, learning and concentration skills.

It is frequently found in preparations, often with other mind-supporting varieties like gotu kola and ginkgo.

Again, long-term use was found in some research to have greater potential in this regard. Many reviews point to a trial on a group of medical students that took bacopa monnieri extract for six weeks and showed improvement in cognitive functions.

Some of the constituents responsible for this nootropic influence are the group of bacosides as well as bacopasides, alkaloids and many other secondary metabolites that can likewise foster an antioxidative and anti-inflammatory impact.

Although bacopa has demonstrated potential as a nootropic herb in some research, more long-term studies are needed for science to match up with Vedic herbal traditions.

Interestingly, bacopa is on the list of botanical adjuncts possibly helpful for certain neurological disorders (*)  like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. (*)  However, evidence still remains inconclusive and warrants further study.

3) Considered Pacifying to All Doshas

Another great benefit of bacopa monnieri is that it works to balance the three different body constitutions or conditions, Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

It is considered to be energetically cooling to the body, making it good for heat-related issues or Pitta imbalance.

In Western herbalism terms, it is also considered a nervine and antispasmodic. This aspect can be very helpful for Vata conditions like nerve-related disorders especially when used with warming spices like clove, ginger or cardamom.

4) Utilized for Meditation Practices

One of the age-old uses for bacopa monnieri is to support one's meditation practice. This is because of its mind clarifying qualities and calming influence. A cup of bacopa tea taken with honey before meditation is known to help to quiet mental chatter.

According to Yoga International, it is one of five herbs that can assist in meditation.

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How to Use

In India, the fresh green plant is consumed as a vegetable either raw or cooked.

When using it as an herbal supplement, it is often recommended to take bacopa before, after or with or a meal to reduce chances of potential stomach upset.

Bacopa monnieri powder is traditionally mixed into honey, warm milk or ghee.

The herb blends well with ashwagandha when making an ashwagandha milk recipe to benefit a good night's sleep.

Bacopa Tea

The herb or powder can be steeped into hot water and makes a delicious tasting tea and a suitable alternative if you're taking a break from coffee or caffeinated tea.

The average herb to tea ratio is usually about 2-4 teaspoons per cup or 8 ounces of hot water. Being the aerial part of the plant, it is typically infused rather than decocted or boiled. Suggested use for the herbal powder is commonly 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon added to hot tea or water.

Brahmi Oil

Another classic way to prepare brahmi or bacopa monnieri is to infuse it in sesame oil. The medicated oil is applied topically for its skin-penetrating benefits.

Bacopa Supplement Extracts

Supplement extracts of bacopa are available in powder, capsule/tablet or liquid form.

Many bacopa supplements are concentrated extracts of the herb often standardized for the amount of bacosides. Others, like Lost Empire Herbs, offer a "real spectrum" extract which includes a more natural ratio of herbal components and other beneficial secondary compounds, saponins and alkaloids.

Precautions:

Consuming concentrated amounts of bacopa monnieri may cause gastrointestinal upset or nausea, especially if taken without food. It is usually not recommended for pregnant or nursing women. Consult your healthcare provider before taking brahmi/bacopa if you are taking medications or have a serious medical condition.

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