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.
Bacopa creates a polypharmacological extract; it affects multiple areas of our biology, but especially brain function. Just a few of its many properties…
- Reduces beta-amyloid, a protein linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Increases blood flow
- Promotes synaptogenesis
- Adaptogenic — a natural substance that helps the body adapt to stress
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.
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.
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.”)
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Introduction to this week's cognitive enhancer
This Week in Neuroscience: Pinpointing loneliness in the brain
The audience interaction section
Get Up: Why Your Chair Is Killing You
Water Fast Week 2016
The origin of Bacopa Monnieri
How is the plant used most commonly?
Bacopa's effects on cognition
Contraindications and the price/quality correlation
High quality Bacopa extract CDRI-08
What to look for in a Bacopa supplement and how best to take it
Why choose Bacopa over any other plant-based cognitive enhancers?
The possibility of complementary substances
Synaptogenesis vs neurogenesis
The complexity of natural substances
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