Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Wisdom Wednesday: Bacopa
Bacopa, commonly known as water hyssop, is an Ayurvedic herb traditionally used as a tonic for nervous disorders, hoarseness, as a cardiac tonic, and for urinary incontinence especially in combination with constipation.
As with all saponin-containing herbs, it is considered an adrenal adaptogen but might irritate the digestive tract if taken on an empty stomach. However, because it is also fat soluble, it should be taken with a meal containing additional fat to add in absorption anyway.
I have used Bacopa for many years in formula that also contains Ashwaganda and Bladderwrack called Thyroid Complex. The Bacopa supports pineal and pituitary function, the Ashwaganda is a great adrenal adaptogen and the Bladderwrack is a good source of iodine for the thyroid. This supplement is my “go to” for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
More recently, I have been using Bacopa as a stand-alone herb. Primarily because of improvements in cognition and reduced anxiety reported in multiple double blind studies of this herb. These benefits are noted in both young and old patients putting Bacopa in the general classification as a nootropic herb.
Bacopa interacts with dopamine and serotonergic systems, but its main mechanism concerns promoting neuron communication. It does this by enhancing the rate at which the nervous system can communicate by increasing the growth of nerve endings, called dendrites. Bacopa also has some antioxidant activity.
The beneficial effects of Bacopa take time to truly be appreciated. Typically improvement is much more notable at 8-12 weeks then at 4-6 weeks. However, the anxiolytic effects may occur much more quickly and often are not sustained.
Brahmi oil is a combination of Bacopa, coconut oil and other medicinal plants used to strengthen memory and revive hair growth. It is also applied topically to reduce fevers. The coconut oil, a medium chain fatty acid, aids in the absorption of Bacopa.
There are no known contraindications for Bacopa and no adverse side effects expected during use in pregnancy or lactation. Again, taking it on an empty stomach can cause GI upset including nausea, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea.
I use a 50:1 extract from Bacopa monnieri 3.75 g to yield 75 mg. This contains bascosides as bacoside A 37.5 mg. The dose is typically 2 per day but can go as high as 4 per day.
I know that sounds very technical, but herbal quality is a real issue, especially in the United States. As I have noted in many previous blogs, I obtain all but a few of my herbs from Australia where they are produced to pharmaceutical standards by law. Approximately 80% of herbs commercially available in the U.S. either contain the wrong herb (herb substitution) or use the wrong part(s) of the plant. This is because the FDA standards for herbs are based on food quality rather than medicinal quality.
The Bottom Line:
Bacopa is good herb for improving cognition and reducing anxiety. It is one of about eighty herbs that have good double blind, placebo controlled research on its benefits. We also understand much of its effect on neurophysiology. Ask your nutritionist about Bacopa if you feel it may be of benefit for you.