Brain Health,
Nutrition,
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30 MINS

#126: Bacopa Monnieri With Professor Con Stough

April 29, 2016
MP3

In Episode 126, Professor Con Stough is back to talk about Bacopa monnieri, a powerful adaptogen.  Dr. Stough is a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, and the Director of the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, at Swinburne University in Australia.

What is Bacopa monnieri?

Also known as water hyssop, it’s an aquatic plant native to India and is the oldest known herbal medicine — it has been in use in India for at least 4,000 years!  Traditionally, it’s been used to treat many conditions, but especially as a cognitive enhancing compound — even among young people.

Benefits

Bacopa creates a polypharmacological extract; it affects multiple areas of our biology, but especially brain function.  Just a few of its many properties…

Better Memory

Regardless of your age, Bacopa can help to improve your memory and cognitive function.  It promotes synaptogenesis — the creation of new connections between neurons in the brain.  In one study, animals were given either placebo or Bacopa and then learned a new task.  The animals treated with Bacopa not only learned the new task faster, but had grown more synapses than the control group.

The herb’s benefits are also uniquely suited to preventing age-related cognitive decline.  It reduces levels of beta-amyloid plaques and lowers brain inflammation, both of which are strongly correlated with dementia.

Taking Bacopa

The recommended dosage will depend on the percentage of bacosides (the active compounds) in your supplement.  For reference, Professor Stough recommends a dose of around 300 mg for adults taking a supplement containing 55% bacosides.

Bacopa is generally very well tolerated.  The most common side effects are gastrointestinal issues that rarely last more than a few days.  To avoid any stomach upset, take it with food (preferably containing a little dietary fat) in the morning or early afternoon.  Taking Bacopa too close to bedtime may interfere with your sleep.

Before adding Bacopa to your cognitive stack, use a little caution.  Bacopa has roughly 50 active compounds, and not all have been studied.  Stacking it with other compounds may cancel out some of its benefits, or conversely, the effects may be duplicative with results you’re getting elsewhere.  Many more studies will need to be done before the complementary affects of Bacopa and other compounds are all known.  One combination that Professor Stough thought sounded good in theory was Bacopa and Rhodiola rosea(See our Rhodiola episode here.)

Not All Extracts Are Created Equal

There’s a tendency to think that anything natural is safe, and anything featuring the same name is the same thing.  Unfortunately, there’s a strong correlation between price and quality in Bacopa supplements, and buying cheap Bacopa can backfire.  If the extraction process used differs from what was done in the scientific studies showing good cognitive results…you can’t expect those results.  As a double whammy, low-quality extracts may contain high levels of impurities.

While these aren’t the only high quality extracts out there, but Professor Stough uses KeenMind Bacopa extract in his trials.  The equivalent stuff goes by the name Synapsa in the US marketplace.

Want more info on Bacopa?  Check out this study from Professor Stough comparing the cognitive benefits of Bacopa and Ginseng against Modafinil.  The Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) of India has also done a huge amount of research on Bacopa.  Click here to see CDRI studies.  (You’ll have to search for “Bacopa.”)

PS:  For more memory-enhancing tips, sign up for our Brain Breakfast — brain-boosting goodness delivered to your inbox every week.

Show Notes
  • 00:00:22

    Introduction to this week's cognitive enhancer

  • 00:01:22

    This Week in Neuroscience: Pinpointing loneliness in the brain

  • 00:04:38

    The audience interaction section

  • 00:05:20

    Get Up: Why Your Chair Is Killing You

  • 00:06:30

    Water Fast Week 2016

  • 00:07:40

    The origin of Bacopa Monnieri

  • 00:10:22

    How is the plant used most commonly?

  • 00:11:14

    Bacopa's effects on cognition

  • 00:13:29

    Contraindications and the price/quality correlation

  • 00:15:50

    High quality Bacopa extract CDRI-08

  • 00:16:45

    What to look for in a Bacopa supplement and how best to take it

  • 00:17:58

    Why choose Bacopa over any other plant-based cognitive enhancers?

  • 00:19:02

    The possibility of complementary substances

  • 00:20:25

    Synaptogenesis vs neurogenesis

  • 00:23:40

    The complexity of natural substances

  • 00:24:59

    Ruthless Listener-Retention Gimmick: Sustained aerobic exercise increases adult neurogenesis in brain

7 comments

  1. Damian says:

    When looking for a good bacopa supplement, I have found numerous articles discussing the prevalence of arsenic and other heavy metals in bacopa supplements (and, for that matter, in ashagawanda). How can consumers get high-quality supplements that don’t contain carcinogens and neurotoxins?

    1. Hannah Sabih says:

      Hey Damian, it’s true that there are plenty of substandard bacopa supplements out there (that can actually be harmful). Professor Stough recommends two brands that we linked to in the show notes: KeenMind: http://www.keenmind.info/ and Synapsa: http://www.plthealth.com/synapsa. Hope that helps!

    2. Michelle Silbernagel says:

      Hi Damian,
      I agree, I myself am often wary of purchasing ayurvedic herbal supplements, not knowing for certain of the purity of the product. The FDA requires “identity” testing of each ingredient in a substance, which is often done through chemical analysis via a third party lab. The FDA also requires testing for purity, strength and composition. However, for some ingredients there may not be a standard validated test for a particular ingredient — like a ground root (there may be no specific chemical marker for the root, so testing to ensure that the right amount of root is present is exempted). Also, manufacturers are allowed to use a practice called “skip lot testing,” which is essentially batch testing. So, you are right to be cautious and to do your research. Dr. Stough has recommended the two products listed in the post (and in the comments section) as bacopa supplements that he knows to be reliable. Another route to take is to actually contact the manufacturer and request a chemical analysis of the supplement. Some actually post this information on their websites. Best of luck!

  2. Richard says:

    Thanks for this great podcast! My teenage son has been struggling with ADHD/Inattentive so I’ve started him on Keenmind plus Nexus. In just a few days he’s already reporting back that he’s able to focus much better at school and he seems less anxious too. I’m so grateful for this podcast!

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      That’s GREAT to hear, Richard. Congrats to your son (and to you). Probably no surprise, but it really gives us warm fuzzies to get feedback like this. 🙂

  3. mike says:

    Any good USA brands of Bacopa? Both sites given require a $20 international fee surcharge.

    1. Michelle Silbernagel says:

      Hi Mike,

      I did some additional “sleuthing” around and here’s what I came up with.

      https://nootrobox.com/rise – This company was suggested by Dr. Con Stough, though to say he endorses them is a stretch. I am not sure of his affiliation, if any, with the organization. He just suggested them as a new and interesting group. They do reference Dr. Stough’s research on their website. Their website also indicates that they test the quality of their nootropic source products and will provide chemical analysis testing information. Their product, Rise, contains 50% bacosides content level, the highest potency available. They claim the actual bacoside content in RISE is equivalent to levels used in studies showing statistically significant improvements in memory.

      Dr. Stough does recommend the Keenmind product, which is manufactured by Prothera. Many U.S. health practitioners sell this line of supplements, so you can check with a local practitioner to see if they have it in stock. Alternatively, Prothera products may be purchased by patients from their website with an authorization code from a health practitioner. So, even if your practitioner does not carry the product, they can set up an account. They are under no obligation to purchase or carry the Prothera products, but having an account will allow them to provide you with an authorization code with which you can purchase the Keenmind product directly from the Prothera website.

      A search on Amazon will also reveal that you can purchase the Keenmind product on their website, as well, but it is sourced by a third party vendor. Prothera does not recommend purchasing from Amazon, as they cannot guarantee the product.

      Finally, Jesse said he asked Dr. Stough about NutriGold Bacopa GOLD (also found on Amazon) and Dr. Stough said to give it a try.

      So, hopefully, one of these options will work for you. Best of luck, and please report back — we’d love to know what supplement you settled on and your experience with it!

      Best of luck,
      Michelle

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