Brahmi, or Bacopa monnieri, is a therapeutic plant used in Ayurveda for many purposes. Modern research has even begun to evaluate Brahmi’s role against several neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and schizophrenia. Although we need to be clear that Brahmi isn’t a cure or treatment for any of these health issues, supplementation with the herb has been evaluated and the results are interesting discussion nonetheless.
Schizophrenia is marked by several defining characteristics and one is unstable chemicals in the brain. Brahmi has generated excitement as a potential therapy for schizophrenia because animal studies have reported that it stabilizes certain chemicals in the brain. The regulation of these chemicals may help some of the cognitive impairment common in persons with schizophrenia.  In one case study it was reported that a daily, 500-mg serving of Brahmi taken for one month led to a noticeable change in schizophrenia-related problems. 
2. Alzheimer’s Disease
Galantamine and rivastigmine are two Alzheimer’s drugs that are also plant extracts. They have been the catalyst for scientific investigations into other plants that have traditional use for memory and brain support. Brahmi is just one of the many plants being evaluated for a protective role in Alzheimer’s disease. 
Exactly why is Brahmi part of the discussion? Well, animal research has reported positive effects on cognitive function; an effect attributed to the plant’s antioxidant compounds.  As an antioxidant, Brahmi seems to work by protecting against the neural oxidative stress associated with Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s also believed to stimulate the brain’s own chemicals that protect neural cells.  Although the research isn’t yet conclusive, the possibility that person’s suffering from Alzheimer’s could potentially have a plant-based therapy is very exciting.
One of the active compounds in Brahmi, Bacoside A, has shown to combat the brain changes associated with epilepsy.  It also seems to protect areas of the brain responsible for serotonin uptake and helps balance of the neurotransmitter.  Additionally, Brahmi appears to support brain function and affect behavioral deficits in epileptic patients. 
None of us are getting any younger but cognitive decline doesn’t have to be part of growing old. Ayurveda has promoted Brahmi for centuries to support cognitive performance during aging. Studies have shown that long-term use may combat the impacts of aging on the brain.  A review of six studies, all at least 12 weeks in length and involving adults who supplemented with Brahmi, reported positive effects on memory.  In fact, one double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial consisting of fifty-four participants aged 65 years and older reported that Brahmi provided a noticeable boost in cognitive performance. 
As far as its traditional use is concerned, Brahmi is best known to support memory. One trial looked at sixty healthy elderly subjects who received either Brahmi or placebo on a daily basis for 12 weeks. Those taking the extract showed far better cognitive effects, including memory and attention. 
A study from Australia examined the effect Brahmi extract had on participants’ verbal learning, memory, and delayed recall and reported positive effects with only mild side effects (nausea and mild intestinal distress). 
6. Parkinson’s Disease
Brahmi’s track record with other brain issues has prompted researchers to take a look at how it affects persons with Parkinson’s disease. This disease affects the brain’s ability to produce adequate dopamine. Some research shows that Brahmi may help balance dopamine levels and discourage neural degeneration; however, research to date has been limited.  
One Final Thought…
Ayurvedic wisdom and conventional medicine are slowly joining forces, especially when it comes to Brahmi. It’s easy to get excited and look at Brahmi like it’s the next miracle substance but it’s important to remember that Brahmi is nutritional support for your brain, it’s not proven to cure or treat anything.
Have you ever heard of Brahmi, or have you ever used it as a supplement? Did you notice any beneficial effects? Let us know in the comments!
- Piyabhan P, Wetchateng T. Cognitive enhancement effects of Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi) on novel object recognition and VGLUT1 density in the prefrontal cortex, striatum, and hippocampus of sub-chronic phencyclidine rat model of schizophrenia. J Med Assoc Thai. 2013 May;96(5):625-32.
- Sarkar S, Mishra BR, Praharaj SK, Nizamie SH. Add-on effect of Brahmi in the management of schizophrenia. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2012 Oct;3(4):223-5. doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.104448.
- Howes MJ, Houghton PJ. Ethnobotanical treatment strategies against Alzheimer’s disease. Curr Alzheimer Res. 2012 Jan;9(1):67-85.
- Uabundit N, Wattanathorn J, Mucimapura S, Ingkaninan K. Cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective effects of Bacopa monnieri in Alzheimer’s disease model. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Jan 8;127(1):26-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.09.056.
- Limpeanchob N, Jaipan S, Rattanakaruna S, Phrompittayarat W, Ingkaninan K. Neuroprotective effect of Bacopa monnieri on beta-amyloid-induced cell death in primary cortical culture. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Oct 30;120(1):112-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2008.07.039.
- Zhang LN, Sun YJ, Pan S, Li JX, Qu YE, Li Y, Wang YL, Gao ZB. Na?-K?-ATPase, a potent neuroprotective modulator against Alzheimer disease. Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Feb;27(1):96-103. doi: 10.1111/fcp.12000. Epub 2012 Oct 3.
- Mathew J, Balakrishnan S, Antony S, Abraham PM, Paulose CS. Decreased GABA receptor in the cerebral cortex of epileptic rats: effect of Bacopa monnieri and Bacoside-A. Biomed Sci. 2012 Feb 24;19:25. doi: 10.1186/1423-0127-19-25.
- Krishnakumar A, Abraham PM, Paul J, Paulose CS. Down-regulation of cerebellar 5-HT(2C) receptors in pilocarpine-induced epilepsy in rats: therapeutic role ofBacopa monnieri extract. J Neurol Sci. 2009 Sep 15;284(1-2):124-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2009.04.032.
- Mathew J, Paul J, Nandhu MS, Paulose CS. Bacopa monnieri and Bacoside-A for ameliorating epilepsy associated behavioral deficits. Fitoterapia. 2010 Jul;81(5):315-22. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2009.11.005.
- Rastogi M, Ojha RP, Devi BP, Aggarwal A, Agrawal A, Dubey GP. Amelioration of age associated neuroinflammation on long term bacosides treatment. Neurochem Res. 2012 Apr;37(4):869-74. doi: 10.1007/s11064-011-0681-1.
- Pase MP, Kean J, Sarris J, Neale C, Scholey AB, Stough C. The cognitive-enhancing effects of Bacopa monnieri: a systematic review of randomized, controlled human clinical trials. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Jul;18(7):647-52. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0367.
- Calabrese C, Gregory WL, Leo M, Kraemer D, Bone K, Oken B. Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Jul;14(6):707-13. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0018.
- Peth-Nui T, Wattanathorn J, Muchimapura S, Tong-Un T, Piyavhatkul N, Rangseekajee P, Ingkaninan K, Vittaya-Areekul S. Effects of 12-Week Bacopa monnieri Consumption on Attention, Cognitive Processing, Working Memory, and Functions of Both Cholinergic and Monoaminergic Systems in Healthy Elderly Volunteers. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:606424. doi: 10.1155/2012/606424.
- Morgan A, Stevens J. Does Bacopa monnieri improve memory performance in older persons? Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Jul;16(7):753-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0342.
- Roodenrys S, Booth D, Bulzomi S, Phipps A, Micallef C, Smoker J. Chronic effects of Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) on human memory. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2002 Aug;27(2):279-81.
- Jadiya P, Khan A, Sammi SR, Kaur S, Mir SS, Nazir A. Anti-Parkinsonian effects of Bacopa monnieri: insights from transgenic and pharmacological Caenorhabditis elegans models of Parkinson’s disease.Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2011 Oct 7;413(4):605-10. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2011.09.010.