When people think of nootropics, they often think of new and novel substances that were created in the laboratory within the past 100 years or so. But some of the best, safest, and most effective nootropics are actually thousands of years old. One of those nootropics is bacopa monnieri.
Bacopa is a plant-derived natural medicine that has been around for thousands of years. It has been widely used in traditional medicine to improve mental functioning. Bacopa has also been traditionally used to treat a number of physical conditions as well. Only recently has it started to gain popularity as a modern nootropic.
In this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look at bacopa monnieri, it’s benefits, safety, and more. But first, let’s take a look at what bacopa is.
What is bacopa monnieri?
Bacopa Monnieri (also known as water hyssop but usually simply referred to as bacopa) is a perennial herb that grows naturally all over the world. It’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to improve mental functioning and to treat a number of physical illnesses.
More recently, bacopa has been used to reduce anxiety, improve mood, increase memory, and as a general cognitive enhancer. It’s sold as a dietary supplement and is readily available online. Bacopa is considered to be an adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens help to normalize functions in the body.
Bacopa is known to affect the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These neurotransmitters are involved in memory, mood, anxiety, and more. Here’s a quick rundown of what each neurotransmitter does:
- Dopamine – focus, memory, reward, pleasure, and anxiety.
- Serotonin – mood, appetite, and sleep.
- Acetylcholine – memory and muscle function.
- GABA – anxiety, stress, relaxation, and sleep.
In addition to bacopa’s effect on several neurotransmitters, it has also been shown to promote communication between neurons (nerve/brain cells). It increases the growth of nerve endings, enhancing the rate that the nervous system can communicate.
Bacopa is also a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells – in this case, brain cells – from breaking down. Lastly, bacopa monnieri has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. In a scientific paper published in 2017, bacopa was found to reduce inflammation in the brain.
Benefits of bacopa
Bacopa monnieri has several potential nootropic benefits. Users often report that it improves their mood and memory, reduces their anxiety and stress, and acts as a general cognitive enhancer. Here are the nootropic benefits of bacopa:
- Improved mood
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved memory
- Promotes healthy neurotransmitter levels
- Increased Focus
- Overall improvement in cognitive performance
Given the way bacopa works in the body and brain, these benefits aren’t surprising. Between the way bacopa affects neurotransmitter levels and its powerful antioxidant properties, it’s not hard to link its mechanisms of action to its benefits.
How to take bacopa monnieri
Bacopa does not work instantly. It may take several weeks before you notice the full benefits of supplementing with bacopa monnieri. However, many people report an instant reduction in anxiety and/or improvement in mood after their first dose. But it can take several weeks before you notice bacopa’s full benefits.
Bacopa may be taken with or without food, but probably absorbs best when taken on an empty stomach. However, in some people, taking bacopa on an empty stomach can cause nausea and gastrointestinal discomfort. If you find that taking it on an empty stomach causes these side effects, try taking bacopa with a small meal. Most people find that doing so reduces or eliminates the nausea and upset stomach.
The recommended starting dosage of bacopa monnieri 300 milligrams a day. Many people find this dosage to be enough to experience bacopa’s benefits. However, a higher dosage might be needed. Studies have shown dosages of up to 640 mg a day to be safe. And again, to experience bacopa’s full range of benefits, make sure to take it everyday for at least a few weeks.
Bacopa side effects
Bacopa monnieri is extremely well tolerated. Most people who take bacopa monnieri don’t experience any negative effects. A meta-analysis published in 2014 concluded that most people who take bacopa never experience any side effects. However, they can occur, though they are often mild and go away as soon as supplementation is discontinued.
The most commonly-reported side effect of bacopa is upset stomach. This can usually be remedied by taking bacopa with food. Other side effects may include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and dry mouth.
If you are taking prescription antidepressants, especially any that are in a class of drugs known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), you should talk to your doctor before taking bacopa. An unlikely-yet-potentially-life-threatening interaction called serotonin syndrome could occur. No known cases of serotonin syndrome have ever been reported with bacopa. But since it increases serotonin in the brain, it is theoretically possible.