Bacopa health benefits and therapeutic value

Healthy bacopa with flowers and young leaves.

Native to South-East Asia and also India, bacopa is a perennial plant used for its historical health benefits. It grows on moist soil in tropical areas, like marshlands in China, Nepal, India and Sri-Lanka.

Further away from its native habitat, this sprawling plant also grows in Florida and can even be grown in peat bogs and ponds.

The larger portion of today’s global production still is collected in the wild in India, where it is called “brahmi” or “waterhyssop”.

Often considered to be a useless weed, bacopa is nonetheless quite familiar to traditional Indian medicine: its airborne parts are used by herbalists and scientists who can use its extracts to benefit the human body. What exactly is all this about? What are its properties and health benefits? How effective is bacopa in medicine? How should one use it wisely?

Here is what you need to know…

Bacopa, a short story

The Indian root wordbrahmi” for this marsh plant comes from the name of the god “Brahma”, who created all other gods in Hindu beliefs.

Indeed, Indian ayurveda medicine has been using waterhyssop for at least 3000 years.

This therapeutic use of the plant spread the world over, now being included in various pharmacopeias in Indonesia, China, Cuba and even other tropical and subtropical regions.

Growing bacopa

As part of the Scrophulariaceae family, bacopa is a plant that grows 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) tall and cannot withstand freezing. With thick, opposed and spatulated leaves, fleshy stems that are quite elegant and branch out, brahmi also bears small axillary flowers that are pale blue and white in color. They’re composed of 4 to 5 petals placed oppositely to the stem. As for the fruit of this perennial succulent, it is oval in shape and bears capsules.

As a plant that lives several years, the edible leaves of bacopa sparked the interest of scientists, phytotherapists and researchers in the West because of the health benefits and therapeutic properties it is reputed to have.

Bacopa health benefits and therapeutic properties

Since it has long been part of Ayurveda pharmacopeia, there is almost no end to the benefits that bacopa can share.

Active compounds found in bacopa

  • Flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin).
  • Jujubogenin
  • Cucurbitacin
  • Alkaloids
  • Triterpenoid saponin
  • Phosporus
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • A and B bacosides that have anti-oxidant properties.

According to research performed by scientists, the main benefits one can expect from this plant are related to its capacity to help “treat information faster and absorb more knowledge”. A complete memory booster and nervous tonic, bacopa enhances intellectual and cognitive faculties.

It is thus effective against memory and concentration disorders.

Brahmi, bacopa also is effective for

  • soothing and making the mental state better,
  • enhancing emotional well-being and physical endurance for a healthy immune system,
  • treating neurological disorders, neurasthenia (or mental tiredness), convulsions, anxiety, depression, sexual disorders (premature ejaculation, impotence),
  • soothes symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, gastro-intestinal or digestive disorders (ulcer, constipation, flatulence, indigestion).
  • treating infertility and respiratory ailments (bronchitis, asthma).

Similarly, it was revealed that waterhyssop also contains pain-killing properties. This is why it is recommended in case of treatments for joint pain (arthritis) and rheumatism.

Bacopa is also sought after for these ailments

  • reduce nervous disorders (neuralgia, sleeping disorders, epilepsy or mental diseases).
  • treat filariasis thanks to the diuretic and purgative properties it entails.

To dig a bit deeper still, note that the health benefits and therapeutic properties of bacopa mostly come from the leaves which are the part used in herbal medicine. These properties are also used for cosmetics.

Indeed, to fight against dandruff, hair loss and scalp itchiness, bacopa is also very effective. For that, homemade bacopa oil is recommended for hair care in the form of a fortifying mask and of ayurvedic massage.

And that’s not all!

Even in gastronomy, this perennial twining plant has its uses.

Usually, juice is extracted from the waterhyssop stems and leaves. Once the juice is dried, it is powdered and added as a base ingredient for bread spreads, refreshing drinks and syrups, even though it tastes a bit bitter.

Nota Bene: You’ll need to sweeten it before drinking it!

Health benefits and use of bacopa

Usage and dosage:

  • Infusion – Bring 8 fluid ounces (25 cl) water to boiling. Toss in 1 to 2 teaspoons of bacopa leaves and steep for about ten minutes. Drink in the morning, at lunch and in the evening.
  • Base tincture – it is recommended to take 1 to 2 teaspoons of tincture (as recommended by the specific treatment).
  • Syrup – 2 table spoons a day are enough.
  • Capsules – ⅓ oz (10 g) or half that amount of powder a day. Usually the recommended dose is 150 mg, twice a day.

To produce a fortifying capillary mask from bacopa, you must pour 1 teaspoon of bacopa powder in boiling water. Steep for 2 hours, and add 5 teaspoons of plant oil to the preparation. Mix. Filter, and heat on low for a time.

Transfer the liquid to a flask or bottle. Apply daily to your hair as a mask to fortify the hair.

Nota Bene: Whether taken as oil, extracts or powder, the daily dose to follow is 300 mg per day.

Advice and Smart tip about bacopa

Today, modern Western medicine and Ayurveda coexist thanks to the traditional remedies that ayurveda offers.
Without doubt, bacopa is known to treat intellectual, mental and epilepsy disorders.

However, it has been known to induce tiredness, nausea and drying of the mouth. Bacopa, if taken together with sedatives, may also increase risks of drowsiness, enhance effects of neuroleptics (phenothiazine) and interact with thyroid-related medicine.

However, the following are strongly discouraged from taking it:

  • pregnant women and nursing mothers.
  • persons suffering from urinary obstructions or emphysema and digestive tract congestion.

Good to know about bacopa

To get effective results best go for standardized and packaged bacopa preparations.

You may also try to make your own preparations at home.
In all cases, follow recommended dosages daily.

If in doubt, and in any case just to be sure, remember to ask your consulting physician or pharmacist about your treatment.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: Chilanga Cement