Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri
Bacopa monnieri
Image - Forest & Kim Starr - lic. under CC 3.0

Background & General Info

Bacopa monnieri is a perennial widely distributed throughout the marshy areas and along the stream and river margins of Asia and Australia, as well as in ponds and bog gardens of the United States under damp conditions, but is most teeming in India’s wet mountainous regions up to 1,200 m elevation. It famously goes by the English names water hyssop, thyme-leafed gratiola, and Indian pennywort but is referred to as Brahmi in Ayurvedic medicine. Among aquarists, Bacopa monnieri is known as moneywort and is a very precious background or middle-ground plant for different aquascaping designs due to its matchless foliage and vertical growth; it is relatively undemanding and easy to keep in low- to medium-light tanks.

Bacopa Monnieri - Botany

Bacopa monnieri is a copiously branched, succulent herbaceous plant characterized by a glabrous annual rooting at the nodes with ascending branches and decussate, ovate–oblong, punctate leaves. The plant is deep green color and bears pale blue, purple, or white flowers arranged on long, slender pedicles, with white corollas having violet and green bands. [1]

History & Traditional Use

Valued as an Ayurvedic botanical used in centuries-old medicinal systems to support brain health, in India, Bacopa monnieri is commonly utilized against mental illness and epilepsy and is more popularly known as “Brahmi,” derived from “Brahma,” who is revered as the supreme four-faced creator of the Hindu pantheon. Since ancient times (at least 6th century A.D.), Bacopa monnieri has ascertained a firm position as an important constituent of the Ayurvedic materia medica. [2] In Hinduism, the brain acts as the center for creative activity. Therefore, any agent that best improves this faculty of the brain was christened Brahmi. The plant is also referred to as “Bahuphene,” “Atiphena,” and “Phenavati” in Sanskrit. The term “Phena” actually translates to “foaming property” owing to the stable froth generated by the Bacopa plant when mixed with water because of its saponin content. [3]

The Ayurvedic treatise Charaka Samhita (100 A.D.) is the earliest account that mentions Brahmi in formulations suggested for the management of various mental conditions such as poor cognition, anxiety, and lack of concentration. According to the Charaka Samhita, Brahmi is a brain tonic that can enhance a person’s thinking and reason capacity. The Sushruta Samhita (200 A.D.), an ancient Sanskrit text on medicine and surgery and the most representative work of the Hindu medicinal system, associates Bacopa monnieri with efficiency in retaining intellectual acuity and memory. The Bhavaprakasha Nighantu (1500 A.D.), another Ayurvedic lexicon of medicinal plants, describes the plant as a brain tonic effective in maintaining vigor and intellect. [3]

Under the belief that Bacopa monnieri can beneficially improve the intelligence and memory of children, or in Hinduistic terms, “open the gate of Brahma,” newborns are traditionally anointed with Bacopa monnieri. This practice still prevails nowadays and schoolchildren are given with it for the same purpose. [2]

Bacopa Monnieri - Herbal Uses

Bacopa monnieri has an early origin but long history of usage in Ayurvedic medicine, utilized either alone or along with other herbs as a potent memory and learning enhancer, sedative, and antiepileptic. Recent works in drug development relates to Bacopa as a brain tonic, [4] and quite a few studies have described and verified its antiamnesic, antiepileptic, neuroprotective, and memory-enhancing effects. Its verified degrees of safety and efficacy have progressively attracted the interest of researchers, phytotherapists, and pharmacologists who are daunted by the strain that dementias and other severe cognitive dysfunctions pose to current medical management strategies. The leaves and stems of the plant are traditionally used for medicinal purposes. Under different brand names, Bacopa monnieri is marketed as a memory-enhancing agent in Western countries, but pharmaceutical companies from other countries such as India, New Zealand, and Australia also formulate Bacopa for clinical use.

Bacopa monnieri is often prescribed for poor concentration and memory, epilepsy, and psychiatric disorders such as mental breakdown, dementia, Alzheimer's, and neuralgia. It is also indicated for general inflammation due to its clinically evidenced anti-inflammatory property and for asthma or bronchitis because of its bronchodilating effect. It is also described as an emmenagogue and thus stimulates blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus, making it helpful in dysmenorrhea. Bacopa monnieri is historically used as well for biliousness, boils, diabetes, tumors, ulcers, dyspepsia, skin diseases such as leprosy and vitiligo, syphilis, and elephantiasis, but more studies have to attest to these therapeutic claims. The folk medicine usage of Bacopa monnieri entails it to be frequently mixed as a hair oil to restore and preserve the memory and to be consumed internally with ghee to assist its assimilation across the blood–brain barrier. [1]

Bacopa Monnieri - Constituents / Active Components

Numerous biochemical studies have demonstrated that there are several active constituents in Bacopa monnieri, including alkaloids (brahmine, nicotine, herpestine), saponins (monnierin, hersaponin), sterols (b-sitosterol, stigma-sterol), d-mannitol, acid A, and betulinic acid, [5] but the major constituents considered responsible for the distinctive neuropharmacological effects of the plant are bacoside A (64.28%) and bacoside B (27.11%), which are steroidal saponins derived from the leaves. These compounds appear to enhance nerve impulse transmission, thereby strengthening memory and general cognition, [2] and have been used as treatments of neurological disorders such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, psychosis, and stress.

Using gas chromatography–mass spectroscopy (GC–MS) analysis, 9,12-octadecadienonic acid (36.96%), 9,17-octadecadienal (26.65%,), and 9-octadecenoic acid (7.79%) had been identified in the in vivo whole plant, whereas the in vitro roots yielded 9,12-octadecadienonic acid (25.62%), 9-octadecenoic acid (23%), and 9,17-octadecadienal (16.08%). In vitro roots subjected to salicylic elicitation contained 1,3-dihydroxyacetone dimmer (15.69%), 1-hexadecene (7.74%), 1-tetradecene (6.78%), eicosane (6.57%), 1-octadecene (5.29%), 1-decene (4.60%), E-15-heptadecenal (4.45%), and heptacosane (3.45%). [6]

Bacopa Monnieri - Medicinal / Scientific Research

Over the recent years, scientific studies have accumulated data confirming the Ayurvedic claims of Bacopa monnieri, and the gradually increasing number of publications on Bacopa monnieri reflects the interest on this plant for the treatment of human conditions and ailments. [7]

Neural Tonic and Memory Enhancer:

Bacopa monnieri is well regarded as a traditional remedy for a variety of ailments and a number of animal and in vitro studies have established evidences on its potential beneficial properties, but what truly sets this medicinal Ayurvedic plant apart from other therapeutic herbs are its neural tonic and memory-enhancing attributes. Early animal studies offered convincing data that standardized Bacopa monnieri extract assists in acquisition, consolidation, and retention of newly acquired behavioral responses using three learning schedules [8] and reverses the amnesic effects of scopolamine, convulsive shock, and behavioral stress. [9]

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial comprising a placebo run-in of 6 weeks and a treatment period of 12 weeks showed that Bacopa monnieri can potentially and safely enhance cognitive performance in the elderly. This study involved fifty-four elderly participants without clinical signs of dementia and had intended to investigate the safety, tolerability, and effects of standardized dry extract derived from the Bacopa monnieri plant on cognitive function and affect. The study participants were assigned to either the experimental group orally receiving standardized Bacopa monnieri extract at a dose of 300 mg/day or the control group who are orally administered with similar placebo tablet for 12 weeks. The study findings demonstrated encouraging benefits on several measures of cognitive performance and affect resulting from Bacopa monnieri administration such as improved delayed recall memory and Stroop task reaction times throughout the study period in comparison with placebo recipients who remained stable on both. Slightly lower heart rates and a decrease in depression scores and combined state plus trait anxiety scores were also observed among Bacopa monnieri recipients, with the placebo recipients experiencing elevated heart rates and increasing on both scores. These favorable effects from Bacopa monnieri came with excellent tolerability to administered dose, with just few adverse events, principally stomach upset. [10] The double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study of Raghav et al. (2006) concluded that standardized Bacopa monnieri extract led to significant improvement in mental control, logical memory, and paired associated learning over the course of 12 weeks of therapy and is effective in dealing with age-associated memory impairment among >55-year-old study subjects suffering from memory loss in everyday activities. [11]

Another earlier study with a double-blind, placebo-controlled, independent-group design investigated the chronic effects of a Bacopa monnieri extract (KeenMind) on cognitive function in healthy human study participants who were randomized into either placebo group or experimental group administered with 300 mg of Bacopa monnieri. In this study, Bacopa monnieri considerably improved higher-order cognitive processes critically dependent on information input from the environment, such as learning and memory. Such is evidenced by the enhanced speed of visual information processing measured by the IT task, learning rate and memory consolidation measured by the Auditory-Verbal Learning Test (AVLT) (p<0.05), and state anxiety (p<0.001) compared with placebo, with maximal effects apparent after 12 weeks. [12] The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study by Roodenrys et al. (2002) reported the significant effect of Bacopa monnieri on a test for the retention of new information and suggested that it decreases the rate of forgetting recently obtained information among adults aged between 40 and 65 years enrolled in the study, although follow-up tests pointed out unchanged learning rate. Additionally, tasks that evaluated attention, verbal and visual short-term memory, and retrieval of preexperimental knowledge remained unaffected. [13]

A clinical trial by Morgan (2006) assessed the effects of 12-week administration of Bacopa monnieri (300mg/day) on memory performance in the elderly over 55 years old. Primary outcome measures were well-validated neuropsychological tests that objectively determined verbal and visual memory and a memory complaint questionnaire that gauged subjective memory complaints. The results demonstrated that Bacopa monnieri significantly improved memory acquisition and retention in older Australians, perhaps due to previously confirmed antioxidant and cholinergic effects of Bacopa monnieri on the central nervous system. [14]


Some purport that the antioxidant actions of Bacopa monnieri, such as increasing oxidative free radical scavenging activity and decreasing the oxidative stress in the ageing brain, may explain its beneficial cognition-related mechanisms. Bhattacharya, Bhattacharya, Kumar, and Ghosal (2000) reported the significant antioxidant effect of Bacopa monnieri in the frontal cortex, striatum, and hippocampus after subchronic administration. A standardized extract of Bacopa monnieri (bacoside A content, 82% +/− 0.5%) was administered orally at doses of 5 and 10 mg/kg, and following 14 and 21 days of administration, a dose-related increase in superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase activities was observed in all brain regions investigated in the rat models. [15] Tripathi et al. (1996) clarified the mechanism of action of Bacopa monnieri as a potent antioxidant. According to this study, Bacopa monnieri acts a metal chelator at the initiation level as well as chain breaker, with the alcohol fraction of Bacopa monnieri showing better protection against FeSO4- and cumene hydroperoxide-induced lipid peroxidation than its hexane fraction counterpart. The antioxidant response was dose dependent such that at lower doses (100 ìg/ml and below), Bacopa monnieri only somewhat protected the autooxidation and FeSO4-induced oxidation of reduced glutathione but enhanced the oxidation rate at higher concentrations. [16]

Epilepsy and Seizures:

In epileptic rat models, treatment using Bacopa monnieri and its active principle, bacoside A, has been shown to prevent the occurrence of repetitive seizures resulting from increased metabolism and excitability, thereby reducing peripheral nervous system impairment. [17] Paulose, Chathu, Khan, and Krishnakumar (2008) studied the neuroprotective role of Bacopa monnieri extract in epilepsy. A noteworthy downregulation of mGluR8 gene expression had been observed to occur during epileptic periods. Such downregulated mgluR8 gene expression was shown to be reversed and upregulated (p < 0.05) near control level after Bacopa monnieri treatment in epileptic rats, which is supported by Morris water maze experiment. [18]

The experimental results of Mathew et al. (2012) elucidated the antiepileptic role of Bacopa monnieri through its reversal of epilepsy-associated alterations in general GABA, GABAA, GABAB receptor binding, GABAA receptor subunits, and GAD and CREB gene expression that occur during epilepsy, leading to an increased GABA-mediated inhibition in the overstimulated cerebral cortex neurons. It should be noted that decreased GABA receptors and GAD activity in the cerebral cortex play vital roles in seizure initiation and mood disorders linked with epilepsy. Bacopa monnieri and bacoside A treatment was also found useful in managing memory-associated problems and mood disorders related to epilepsy. [19]

Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Systematic reviews on complementary and alternative medicines in attention-deficit–hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have recognized the value of Bacopa monnieri as a potential candidate in the symptom management of attentional and hyperkinetic disorders because of its cognitive-enhancing and sedative effects. Bhalerao, Munshi, Nesari, and Shah (2013) documented for the first time the effectiveness and safety of an Ayurvedic polyherbal formulation containing Bacopa moneri in 6- to 12-year-old children diagnosed with ADHD. During their 2-month pilot exploratory study, the ADHD subjects were administered daily on an empty stomach with two teaspoons of the formulation Brāhmī ghṛtam, which is composed of four “medhya” plants with affinity to and activity on the central nervous system, namely, Brāhmī (Bacopa monnieri), Vaca (Acorus calamus), Kuṣṭha (Saussurea lappa), and Śankhapuṣpī (Convolvulus pluricaulis), and processed in Goghṛtam (ghee prepared from cow’s milk). This occurred in the absolute absence of any form of psychotherapy. A 66% decrease in total ADHD score and a statistically significant improvement in inattention and impulsivity symptoms compared with baseline were observed during the pilot exploratory study. The Brāhmī ghṛtam-treated children exhibited 16% improvement and a steady decrease in the total ADHD score during the therapeutic confirmatory study. [20]

A 2014 open-label clinical trial afforded positive findings on the tolerability and efficacy of standardized Bacopa monnieri extract in alleviating the severity of ADHD symptoms in children. This study had thirty-one 6–12-year-old children as study participants who were diagnosed with ADHD before 7 years of age and who received 225 mg of standardized Bacopa monnieri extract for 6 months. Results from standardized Bacopa monnieri extract administration indicated a significant reduction in subtest scores of ADHD symptoms except for social problems; a decrease in symptom scores for restlessness in 93% of children; an improvement in self-control in 89% of the children; and a reduction in symptom scores for learning problems, impulsivity, and psychiatric problems in 78%, 67%, and 52% of children, respectively. [21]


An early animal study examined the anxiolytic property of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract with a bacoside A content of 25.5 ± 0.8%. At oral doses of 5, 10, and 20 mg/kg, the Bacopa monnieri extract produced a dose-related anxiolytic activity qualitatively similar to that of 0.5 mg/kg intraperitoneally injected lorazepam in all test parameters such as open-field, elevated plus maze, social interaction, and novelty-suppressed feeding latency tests in rats. Moreover, the oral administration of the extract did not result in any significant motor deficit at the aforementioned doses, as proven by the rotarod performance test. [22]


The ethanolic extract of the aerial parts of Bacopa monnieri has been reported by Ghosh, Maity, Sengupta, Dash, and Bose (2008) to exert antihyperglycemic activity, in vivo antioxidation, glycosylating effect on hemoglobin, and in vitro peripheral utilization of glucose. During the single-dose and multiple-dose experiments at the tested dose level, Bacopa monnieri ethanolic extract significantly reduced the blood glucose level in alloxan-induced hyperglycemic rats, an effect said to be comparable with that of glibenclamide, the standard antidiabetic drug, and reversed the diabetic rats’ weight loss. The administration of Bacopa monnieri ethanolic extract had also put off any rise in glycosylated hemoglobin in vitro (IC50 value, 11.25 µg/ml) and, along with glibenclamide, significantly reduced TBARS levels, increased GSH content, and increased SOD and CAT activities in the liver of diabetic rats. The extract increased the peripheral glucose utilization in the diabetic rats’ diaphragm in vitro, which is comparable with the action of insulin. [23]

Wound Healing:

The extract of Bacopa monnieri, especially its isolated constituent, bacoside A, has also been screened for wound healing activity. Murthy et al. (2013) conducted an in-depth study on the wound healing activities of orally provided 50% ethanol extract of Bacopa monnieri in incision, excision, and dead space wound models in rats. Given at a dose of 25 mg/kg once daily for 10 days (in incision and dead space wound models) or for 21 days or more (in excision wound model) in rats, the Bacopa monnieri extract, as indicated by the study results, displayed antimicrobial activity against skin pathogens and enhanced the healing process, as evidenced by the improvement in wound breaking strength (WBS), rate of contraction, skin collagen tissue formation, and early epithelization period with low scar area. The extract had been demonstrated to have also decreased the tissue damage produced by myeloperoxidase and free radicals and have promoted antioxidant status, faster collagen deposition, and connective tissue constituent formation. [24]


Bacopa monnieri and its extracts have been investigated as well for their anti-inflammatory, cardiotonic, sedative, and neuromuscular-blocking activities.

Bacopa Monnieri - Contraindications, Interactions, and Safety

In a safety evaluation conducted by Pravina et al. (2007) on BacoMind, a standardized extract of Bacopa monnieri, a detailed examination of clinical, hematological, biochemical, and electrocardiographic parameters during the pre- and post-treatment periods did not reveal any unpleasant effects in the treated subjects. This randomized, open-label, dose escalation study orally administered one single BacoMind capsule daily for 30 days (i.e., 300 mg for the first 15 days and 450 mg for the next 15 days) to 23 participants. Mild gastrointestinal adverse effects were also observed in the trial, which subsided eventually. [25]

These gastrointestinal side effects, particularly increased bowel movements, nausea, and abdominal cramping, are findings reported also by the study of Morgan (2008), which are possibly explained by the gastrointestinal irritation due to saponin constituents of the herb, or the cholinergic stimulation of autonomic and motor responses in the gastrointestinal tract, or a combination of both. [14]


[1] C. Robertson and R. Prasad, "Brahmi Bacopa monniera," Ayurveda Elements, 2010.

[2] P. Kidd, "A review of nutrients and botanicals in the integrative management of cognitive dysfunction," Alternative Medicine Review, vol. 4, no. 3, p. 144–161, 1999. (full text)

[3] "Bacopin," Sabinsa Corporation, 2001.

[4] S. Jain, "Ethnobotany and research on medicinal plants in India," Ciba Foundation Symposium, vol. 185, p. 153–164, 1994.

[5] K. Rajan, J. Preethi and H. K. Singh, "Molecular and functional characterization of Bacopa monniera: A retrospective review," Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, p. 945217, 2015.

[6] S. Malini and P. Eganathan, "GC-MS analysis of chemical composition of in vivo plant, in vitro and elicited roots of Bacopa monnieri (L.) Pennell," Analytical Chemistry Letters, vol. 3, no. 5–6, p. 380–388, 2013.

[7] C. Stough, H. Singh and A. Zangara, "Mechanisms, efficacy, and safety of Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi) for cognitive and brain enhancement," Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, p. 717605, 2015.

[8] H. Singh and B. Dhawan, "Neuropsychological effects of the ayurvedic nootropic Bacopa monniera Linn. (Brahmi)," Indian Journal of Pharmacology, vol. 29, p. 5359–5366, 1997.;year=1997;volume=29;issue=5;spage=359;epage=365;aulast=Singh;type=0

[9] S. Bhattacharya, A. Kumar and S. Ghoshal, "Effect of Bacopa monniera on animal models of Alzheimer's disease and perturbed central cholinergic markers of cognition in rats," in Molecular aspects of Asian medicine, D. Siva Sanks, Ed., New York, PJD Publications, 2000, p. 89–117.

[10] C. Calabrese, W. L. Gregory, M. Leo, D. Kraemer, K. Bone and B. Oken, "Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial," Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 14, no. 6, p. 707–713, 2008.

[11] S. Raghav, H. Singh, P. Dalal, J. Srivastava and O. Asthana, "Randomized controlled trial of standardized Bacopa monniera extract in age-associated memory impairment," Indian Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 48, no. 4, p. 238–242, 2006.

[12] C. Stough, J. Lloyd, et al., "The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects," Psychopharmacology (Berl) , vol. 156, no. 4, p. 481–484, 2001.

[13] S. Roodenrys, D. Booth, S. Bulzomi, A. Phipps, C. Micallef and J. Smoker, "Chronic effects of Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) on human memory, "Neuropsychopharmacology, vol. 27, no. 2, p. 279–281, 2002. (full text)

[14] A. Morgan, "Grey matters: does Bacopa monnieri improve memory performance in older persons?," Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW, 2006.

[15] S. Bhattacharya, A. Bhattacharya, A. Kumar and S. Ghosal, "Antioxidant activity of Bacopa monniera in rat frontal cortex, striatum and hippocampus, "Phytotherapy Research, vol. 14, no. 3, p. 174–179, 2000.

[16] Y. Tripathi, S. Chaurasia, E. Tripathi, A. Upadhyay and G. Dubey, "Bacopa monniera Linn. as an antioxidant: mechanism of action, "Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 34, no. 6, p. 523–526, 1996.

[17] J. Mathew, J. Paul, M. Nandhu and C. Paulose, "Increased excitability and metabolism in pilocarpine induced epileptic rats: effect of Bacopa monnieri, "Fitoterapia, vol. 81, no. 6, p. 546–551, 2010.

[18] C. Paulose, F. Chathu, S. Khan and A. Krishnakumar, "Neuroprotective role of Bacopa monnieri extract in epilepsy and effect of glucose supplementation during hypoxia: glutamate receptor gene expression, "Neurochemical Research, vol. 33, no. 9, p. 1663–1671, 2008.

[19] J. Mathew, S. Balakrishnan, S. Antony, P. Abraham and C. Paulose, "Decreased GABA receptor in the cerebral cortex of epileptic rats: effect of Bacopa monnieri and Bacoside-A, "Journal of Biomedical Science, vol. 19, no. 1, p. 25, 2012.

[20] S. Bhalerao, R. Munshi, T. Nesari and H. Shah, "Evaluation of Brāhmī ghṛtam in children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder," Ancient Science of Life, vol. 33, no. 2, p. 123–130, 2013.;year=2013;volume=33;issue=2;spage=123;epage=130;aulast=Bhalerao

[21] U. Dave, S. Dingankar, V. Saxena, J. Joseph, B. Bethapudi, A. Agarwal and V. Kudiganti, "An open-label study to elucidate the effects of standardized Bacopa monnieri extract in the management of symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, "Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, vol. 28, no. 2, p. 10–15, 2014.

[22] S. Bhattacharya and S. Ghosal, "Anxiolytic activity of a standardized extract of Bacopa monniera: an experimental study, "Phytomedicine, vol. 5, no. 2, p. 77–82, 1998.

[23] T. Ghosh, T. Maity, P. Sengupta, D. Dash and A. Bose, "Antidiabetic and in vivo antioxidant activity of ethanolic extract of Bacopa monnieri Linn. aerial parts: A possible mechanism of action, "Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, vol. 7, no. 1, p. 61–68, 2008.

[24] S. Murthy, M. Gautam, S. Goel, V. Purohit, H. Sharma and R. Goel, "Evaluation of in vivo wound healing activity of Bacopa monniera on different wound model in rats, "BioMed Research International, vol. 2013, p. 9, 2013.

[25] K. Pravina, K. Ravindra, K. Goudar, D. Vinod, A. Joshua, P. Wasim, K. Venkateshwarlu and V. Saxena, "Safety evaluation of BacoMind in healthy volunteers: a phase I study, "Phytomedicine, vol. 14, no. 5, p. 301–308, 2007.

Article researched and created by Dan Ablir .

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