You’re in the waiting room of the dentist’s office, nervously tapping your foot on the patterned carpet and grinding your teeth until they finally call your name. You didn’t floss enough. You didn’t take care of that molar sensitivity when it first popped up three months ago. And you definitely didn’t schedule this cleaning a prompt six months after the last one. In short, you’re anxious.
Stress comes in many forms, and paths to relief are equally varied. Between the dizzying sound of the drill, you notice a fish tank: bubbles from the filter, fish floating through plastic pirate ships, swaying underwater plants. Interestingly, the simple sight of a fish tank can be a form of stress relief (maybe that’s why so many doctors’ and dentists’ offices have them). Hypnotic aquatic environments can lower your blood pressure and produce a state of relaxation.1 But if you really need extra tension relief, you may be better off reaching into the tank, pulling out the greenery, and feeding it through your chattering teeth.
Bacopa monnieri (buh-COH-puh moh-nee-AIR-ee) is an aquatic creeping perennial plant commonly sold to decorate fish tanks, but it can be used for much more than just underwater interior design. It can have a significant effect on cognitive function.
Let’s discuss how this powerful little plant can reduce anxiety and depression while enhancing memory and attention.
Before diving into the benefits, it’s best to know a bit more about why this herb has been used in medicine for centuries.
Bacopa: The Herb of Many Names
Native to the lush wetlands of South Asia, East Asia, and Australia, Bacopa monnieri has been an essential herb in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It joins a family of common medicines, Rasayanas, known for their youthful and rejuvenating enhancements, which is why they’ve primarily been prescribed to the elderly community.
However, Bacopa monnieri is also part of the coveted Medhya Rasayana group along with another notorious nootropic, Ashwagandha. The prefix, “medha”, means “mind.” Thus, Medhya Rasayanas are prescribed to people of all age groups needing a mental boost. The list ranges from those recovering old memories to those recovering from brain injuries.
Ayurvedic physicians in India have used Bacopa monnieri in combination with other herbs to treat conditions of the mind, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and dementia. The herb has also been used for inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and ulcers.
Bacopa monnieri goes by many names. If you’re buying it in a shop, you can ask for the classic carpeting varieties: moneywort or water hyssop. If you’re researching its extracts, search for bacosides. If you’re talking to an Ayurvedic physician about it, try asking about Brahmi—a nickname based on the Hindu creator god, Brahma. Or if you’re looking for the form of Bacopa monnieri extract, try changing a single letter: Bacopa monniera.
You won’t have to remember all those names to get through this article. But if you wanted to, you should consider taking a dose of Bacopa monnieri to help.
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Bacopa Monnieri Mental Benefits
From memory to anxiety, supplementing with Bacopa monnieri can be a powerful tool for the mind.
The Herb You Can’t Forget
It’ll take more than just a single dose to feel the full effects, but research has shown that regularly taking Bacopa monnieri for eight to twelve weeks can improve your memory.
Human studies have found that supplementing with Bacopa monnieri can greatly increase your chances of acquiring and remembering new information.A 2001 double-blind study on healthy adults found that subjects increased their learning rates after Bacopa monnieri supplementation. While the results were evident in as little as five weeks, the most significant improvements were noted after the full twelve-week course.
Not only was the information acquired more easily, but it was accessed from long-term memory more effortlessly.
A 2002 study echoed these findings after testing Brahmi’s memory capabilities in middle-aged adults.
Testing showed that Brahmi had significant effects on decreasing the rate of forgetting newly acquired information.
Even after experiencing short delays to refocus the mind on other tasks, participants of all ages were able to recall new information more readily and fully after supplementing with Bacopa monnieri, including verbal processing. A 2012 meta-analyses of six memory intervention studies found that Bacopa monnieri can improve free memory recall. Imagine being able to actually remember the name of the road your maps app told you to take before your phone died. Or even just the name of that really cool plant you saw in a nature documentary last night. It could have been Bacopa monnieri.
Elderly participants even found Bacopa monnieri to be a very effective treatment for the unavoidable age-associated memory impairment (AAMI), enjoying increased memory procurement and retention. Grandma probably won’t stop confusing you with your sibling by taking Bacopa monnieri, but she will be more likely to remember the details of your life over time.
Commit this to memory: Bacopa monnieri can help the process of converting your short-term memories into long-term memories, known as memory consolidation.
Every time you studied for a test, you engaged in this process. There’s a reason cramming the night before isn’t as efficient as studying over the period of a couple weeks. Your brain hasn’t had a chance to repeatedly fire this information on a pathway in your brain. The more frequently you study something, the stronger the pathways between the synapses in your brain become. That’s why mnemonic devices and other repetitive practices are suggested to help you rapidly store facts and figures. When it’s test time, strong pathways will allow you to more readily access information as needed.
If you’re ready to spice up your daily routine a little, try testing your spatial memory in your current environment. Take a mental picture of your surroundings, close your eyes, and challenge yourself with questions: how many plants are on the window sill? What color is the book on the end table? Are the stripes on the area rug running vertically or horizontally? Then, open your eyes and see how you did. Supplementing with Bacopa monnieri could drastically improve your spotting skills because it boosts your spatial working memory. Working memory is about as straightforward as it sounds—it’s the part of your short term memory working to immediately process information. Add the spatial component, and you get an enhanced ability to remember things inhabiting space around you.
We can train many parts of our bodies, but Bacopa monnieri can help us focus on a soft spot: our eyeballs. Evidence supports that this herb can improve rapid visual information processing and speed of information processing. Translation? You can concentrate on what you’re seeing and comprehend it more quickly.
If faster processing didn’t get your attention, this will: elderly subjects also performed better on the infamous Stroop Test when taking the plant extract.7,15 You may have taken this tricky test yourself at some point. In it, participants are required to say the color of a word rather than reading the word itself. Easy, right? But all the words are colors…and the word does not match its hue. For instance, if the word “BLUE” is boldly scrawled in the color red, the subject should say ‘red.’ The test was developed to convey that embedded information about our environment strongly influences how we interact with it.
Doing well on the Stroop test assesses a few key things: cognitive processing speed, cognitive control, and attentional capacity, all of which were improved with Bacopa monnieri as an aide.
These promising improvements are in line with the traditional Ayurvedic uses for the plant, further demonstrating why it’s been used as a memory aid for such a long time.
If you’ve been missing out on your memory’s potential, HVMN paired Bacopa monnieri with calming Ashwagandha and defensive Citicholine in rising. Rise is a nootropic stack for long-term health benefits, including increased memory, adapting to chronic stress in order to reduce it, and building cognitive resiliency. The only thing you have to remember is to take two pills every day. In as little as two weeks of consistent supplementation, you could begin to see an increase in memory, stamina, and cognitive task efficiency.