Bacopa monnieri, or brahmi, is a creeping, perennial herb that belongs to the Plantaginaceae family. The herb is known by other names including herb of grace, water hyssop, Indian pennywort, nirbrahmi, Hespestis monniera, baby’s tear, bacopa, thyme-leaved gratiola, Sambrani chettu, jalanimba, and jalnaveri, among other names.
The herb, which can grow to about six inches in height, contains several branches that creep horizontally and cover the ground. The plant has small, oval-shaped leaves that are relatively thick and succulent. The leaves alternately grow on the hairy, soft stem. For most of the year, brahmi produces purple-white flowers with four or five petals. The oval fruit is sharp at the apex.
Brahmi has been used since 5000 BCE in Ayurveda as a nerve tonic to improve intellect and memory, promote mental health, and promote longevity and youthful vitality. It has also been used for its tranquilizing, antioxidant, and adaptogenic properties.
The herb was named after Brahma, the Hindu god who created the universe and knowledge. Notably, the herb was used during infants’ consecration ceremonies, as the herb was believed to open up pathways of intelligence for the child.
Brahmi is native to the wetlands and marshlands of Australia, southern India, Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, and North America. The plants also grow under shade and sun and can also be grown in pots.
The plant can be propagated through soft herbaceous cuttings. To widely propagate it, the entire plant is divided into smaller parts, which are directly planted in the sunken beds. Cuttings that are five to six inches long, each with a few nodes and leaves, establish easily and are ideal. Flood irrigation should be provided right after planting.
The entire plant, which is edible, is used in a medicinal capacity. The plant is used to make oil or paste that is therapeutic to various medical conditions. Some of the active constituents of Bacopa monnieri that make it beneficial to health include saponins, sterols, alkaloids, stimastorol, betulic acid, betasitosterol, bacopasaponins, and bacoside.
Benefits of Brahmi
In Ayurveda, brahmi is used for its effect on blood circulation that promotes the proper functioning of the kidneys, lungs, and liver. Traditionally, the plant, which is used to stimulate skin cell growth and regeneration, is also used to treat skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, ulceration, and abscess. Scientific studies have also been conducted to prove the plant’s benefits on health.
Some of brahmi’s benefits include:
- Memory enhancer
- Brain tonic
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Asthma treatment
- Depression treatment
- Epilepsy treatment
- Stress reduction herb
- Physical and mental fatigue
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Increases sex drive
- Hoarseness and cough
- High cholesterol levels
- Inflammatory conditions
Memory enhancer A University of Wollongong, Australia study – to test brahmi’s chronic effects on human memory – suggested that brahmi enhanced the test subjects’ capacity to retain new information while maintaining learning capability.
Brain tonic The naturally occurring nitric oxide in Bacopa monnieri has positive effects on the activity of the brain. The bacosides release nitric oxide, which relaxes the veins and aorta. They enable blood flow to nourish the nerves and, thus, promote focus and mental clarity and improve cognitive capability.
Alzheimer’s disease In a 2009 study, Alzheimer’s disease was induced in rat subjects. Afterwards, the rats were given brahmi extract to determine the effects on Alzheimer’s. The study determined that rats given brahmi had improved cognitive ability. The extract also eased brain neuron reduction.
Epilepsy In a study involving rats, the animals were given pilocarpine for them to have epileptic episodes. The brahmi extract given afterwards exhibited a positive effect on the hippocampus. Epileptic rats’ depressive behavior was reversed when brahmi was administered, compared to the animals that were not given the extract.
Antioxidant A 2003 study suggested that brahmi has antioxidant properties; it neutralizes free radicals and protects DNA cleavage. Such study is valuable when it comes to treating diseases that are brought on by free radicals.
In Ayurveda, brahmi has a cooling energy and balances pitta and vata. Its taste is sweet, bitter, and astringent. Its main traditional action is anti-anxiety, medhya rasayana, and nervine.
In Ayurveda, Bacopa monnieri is used as a brain tonic as it reduces dullness, calms the mind, and enhances memory and intelligence. It also helps with depression and anxiety and relieves inflammation and pain. Aside from being used to enhance cognitive ability and treat many other medical conditions, brahmi is being studied currently for uses in non-traditional or Western medicine.