By Sarena-Rae Santos, Natural Health Blogger
What is Brahmi
Brahmi, sometimes called Herb of Grace, Indian pennywort, Water Hyssop, or its scientific name Bacopa monnieri, comes from the Plantaginaceae family. Brahmi is a perennial succulent native to North India and can be identified by its low-growing structure that reaches about 6 inches in height (1). Brahmi has relatively thick succulent leaves arranged oppositely on a hairy stem (2). Connected to the stems are small white and purple flowers with 4-5 petals that bloom in the warmer months (3).
Health Benefits of Brahmi
Brahmi is a very popular herb in Ayurvedic medicine used for an array of health benefits such as:
Antioxidants can help fight damage from harmful free radicals. The buildup of free radicals has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease (4). Studies have found Brahmi has bacosides, an active compound that neutralizes free radicals and functions as a natural antioxidant (5). Some studies have found bacosides react with free radicals that typically trigger neurodegeneration, which helps prevent neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (6,7).
Thanks to its antioxidant compounds, Brahmi can reduce inflammation, especially from free radical damage. Chronic inflammation has been linked with many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (8). In several test-tube studies, Brahmi suppressed inflammatory cytokines (9,10). Inflammatory cytokines are part of the immunoregulatory response to help invade pathogens while stimulating, recruiting, and multiplying immune cells (11). Additionally, animal studies have found brahmi’s anti-inflammatory effects were comparable to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like diclofenac and indomethacin (12,13).
May Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Evidence suggests that acute and chronic stress is associated with increased inflammatory activity and how someone focuses on negative thoughts or events (14). If this is not taken care of, long-term and chronic inflammation can lead to many health complications, such as cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, heart disease, periodontitis, and much more (15). Of course, stress and anxiety usually go hand-in-hand.
Brahmi’s adaptogenic properties may help reduce stress and anxiety (16). If you read How Adaptogens Ease Your Stress (and What Ones To Use), you know adaptogens enhance and support the body’s ability to deal with stress from anxiety, fatigue, trauma, infection, and so on (17). Animal studies compared Brahmi’s anti-anxiety effects on mice to pharmaceutical medications like lorazepam (18). In human studies, Brahmi lowered cortisol levels, stress, and anxiety (19). No wonder other human studies found Brahmi supplementation significantly reduced anxiety and depression scores in adults (20,21).
May Support Heart Health
Unfortunately, heart disease is the world’s number one cause of death (22). Due to the incredibly complex determinants of heart disease and various possible contributions, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact way to prevent it. Still, you can at least take steps to lower your overall risk. That’s where Brahmi may come into play.
Brahmi releases nitric oxide in the body (23). Nitric oxide improves blood flow and reduces the risk of plaque growth in the arteries, posing positive effects on heart health (24). It’s no wonder various studies demonstrate Brahmi’s ability to dilate blood vessels, improve blood flow, and lower blood pressure levels in animals with hypertension (25,26,27).
May Improve Brain Functionality
Brain functionality includes speech, judgment, thinking and reasoning, problem solving, emotions, and learning, amongst many other functions (28). Thankfully, Brahmi’s robust antioxidant properties protect against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, which can accelerate aging, including brain function.
Many studies support the use of Brahmi for cognitive and brain enhancement, even for neurological diseases (29,30). In animal studies, Brahmi supplementation improved mice’s spatial learning and information retention in mice (31). In human studies, Brahmi supplementation improved visual information processing speed, learning rate, and memory in healthy adults (32). In another human study, Brahmi supplementation improved attention, memory, and information processing in older adults (33).
May Improve Mental Clarity, Focus, & Attention
Difficulties with mental clarity, focus, and attention are common, especially in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders diagnosed in childhood and lasting through adulthood (34). ADHD often results in hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattentiveness, and trouble focusing, affecting learning abilities (35). Thankfully Brahmi may help with these symptoms.
Several studies have found Brahmi beneficial for improving memory learning skills, especially in those struggling with ADHD (36,37). For instance, one study found six months of daily Brahmi supplementation significantly reduced ADHD-related symptoms like poor self-control, restlessness, concentration, distractions, and impulsivity in 85% of child participants (38). Another study found an herbal blend containing 125 mg of Brahmi greatly improved attention, cognition, and impulse control in children with ADHD (39).
In the United States, cancer is responsible for 600,00 deaths annually, 1 in 3 people will have cancer in their lifetime, and 1.7 million people are diagnosed annually (40). But what if these numbers didn’t have to keep growing, and a simple supplement may be the key? That’s where Brahmi may be beneficial.
As discussed earlier, Brahmi contains an active compound known as bacosides, which neutralizes free radicals and functions as a natural antioxidant (5). Brahmi’s antioxidant and free radical-neutralizing properties are responsible for its cancer-fighting properties (41). In test-tube studies, Brahmi kills and inhibits the growth of brain tumors and breast and colon cancer (41,42,43). In animal studies, Brahmi significantly reduced the values of DMBA-induced skin cancer in mice (44).
Mainstream sources recommend avoiding Brahmi when pregnant or breastfeeding because there isn’t enough reliable information to know if it’s safe during those life stages. Additionally, they claim Brahmi may worsen gastrointestinal tract blockages, urinary tract blockages, stomach ulcers, and lung conditions and even decrease heart rate (45).
Contrarily, trusted herbalist Richard Whelan states Brahmi is regarded as an extremely safe herb and can be confidently given to children and older people. There are no adverse reports of toxicity from Bacopa in the medical literature and no reason to think it would be unsafe for pregnancy or breastfeeding. The only caution for Brahmi that is noted is drug interactions with anticholinergic and thyroid medications (46).
How to Use Brahmi
You can find Brahmi in dried bulk, pills, powders, extracts, or tinctures. Tinctures always contain the most concentrated amount of herbs. Teas and soups are also options, especially when following Ayurvedic medicine recipes. If you’re a DIY person, you can make water-soluble extractions/tinctures to extract the benefits of Brahmi. Check out our blogs, How to Make a Water Extraction (With Almost Any Herb), or How to Make a Glycerin Extraction (With Almost Any Herb), to learn more.
Follow the recommendations of any supplement; some of my recommendations include:
- Earthley’s Calm and Clarity can help promote an even mood and a clearer mind. It can help your kiddo make it through the school day and help you make it through your work day. We include nourishing herbs high in natural vitamins and minerals and promote mental focus. Symptoms of anxiety and attention disorders may be reduced by taking Calm and Clarity. Feel more focused and have a sense of calm without pharmaceuticals!
- Earthley’s Thyroid Support is an herbal formula for thyroid support and total body wellness. The herbs include ashwagandha, amla berry, licorice root, Brahmi leaf, and milk thistle seed. It also supports a healthy liver and stress response and is rich in vitamin C.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything. If you have questions, please do your own research or seek advice from a health professional.