What Is Bacopa?

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Bacopa (Bacopa monniera) is an herb used in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. It is also called:

  • Andri
  • Bacopa monnieri
  • Herb of grace
  • Herpestis herb
  • Herpestis monniera
  • Indian pennywort
  • Water hyssop

Bacopa is widely promoted as a treatment for a number of medical problems, including:

Not all these benefits are supported by scientific evidence.

This article looks at the purported uses of bacopa and its known side effects.

Bacopa monnieri

Subrata Dutta / Getty Images

What Is Bacopa Used For?

Bacopa may have antioxidant properties. It contains saponin compounds such as bacosides and bacopasides. These compounds may enhance cognition, learning, and memory. They may also inhibit inflammation in the brain.

To date, however, few studies have tested the health effects of bacopa. The research that has been done has focused on the treatment and/or prevention of several health problems.

Bacopa should not be confused with gotu kola. Gotu kola and bacopa are both sometimes called brahmi.

Memory and Brain Function

Several studies suggest that bacopa may help preserve memory and enhance cognitive function.

A 2014 meta-analysis looked at nine previously published studies assessing the effect of bacopa on cognitive function. Researchers concluded that bacopa could potentially improve cognition. They also said, however, that large, well-designed trials comparing the supplement to medication are needed.

An earlier review also looked at previously published studies on bacopa for cognitive performance. It found evidence suggesting the herb extract may improve memory during free-recall tests.

Similarly, in a 2016 study researchers gave 60 medical students either 300 mg of bacopa per day or a placebo for six weeks. They found that the students who took the bacopa had improvements in cognitive function.

Anxiety

Other studies suggest bacopa may help alter the activity of certain enzymes involved in the stress response. This means bacopa may help the brain function better when under stress.

In one small 2014 study, researchers looked at the effects of a bacopa extract in healthy participants engaging in multiple tasks. They found positive cognitive effects, some positive mood effects, and a reduction in cortisol levels in those taking bacopa. Cortisol is a hormone that is associated with stress.

Selection and Preparation

Bacopa is available in capsule or tablet form. You can find bacopa in your local vitamin store or online.

Currently, there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for this supplement. Doses typically depend on several factors including:

  • Current health status
  • Age
  • Sex

If you're thinking of trying bacopa, consult your healthcare provider. They can help you determine if bacopa would be safe for you and what dose may be appropriate.

Possible Side Effects of Bacopa

Bacopa may cause side effects such as:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased bowel movements
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue

Bacopa may also increase calcium levels in the blood. It could also affect levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. Neurotransmitters transmit messages between neurons and between neurons and muscles. 

Interactions and Contraindications

There's little research into bacopa's interactions with medications. This includes medications that act on neurotransmitters. That said, interactions may occur with:

At present, there are no known interactions between bacopa and foods, other herbs, or supplements.

Keep in mind that the safety of supplements in nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions has not been established. Pregnant women shouldn't take bacopa. This is because there are no studies about safe use in pregnancy. Animal studies suggest bacopa may reduce fertility.

Bacopa Product Concerns

Supplements haven't been tested for safety. Because they are largely unregulated, the content of some products may be different than what is listed on the product label.

For example, one study analyzed 12 samples of bacopa formulations. If found lead, calcium, and chromium in all of them, but at levels below the allowed limit. Another study found elevated levels of cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc. The authors of that study warned that bacopa needs to be tested for metal content before it's used in herbal supplements.

Summary

Bacopa has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. Evidence for its health effects and benefits are limited, though. Some studies have found that it helps cognition and memory. It may also be helpful in reducing stress.

Before taking bacopa, talk to your healthcare provider. The safe dosage isn't known and may depend on factors like your age and health. Bacopa may also cause side effects like nausea and diarrhea, and it may interact with certain drugs. 

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Kumar N, Abichandani LG, Thawani V, Gharpure KJ, Naidu MU, Venkat Ramana G. Efficacy of standardized extract of Bacopa monnieri (Bacognize®) on cognitive functions of medical students: a six-week, randomized placebo-controlled trial. Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2016;2016.

  4. Benson S, Downey LA, Stough C, Wetherell M, Zangara A, Scholey A. An acute, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled cross‐over study of 320 mg and 640 mg doses of Bacopa monnieri (CDRI 08) on multitasking stress reactivity and mood. Phytother Res. 2014;28(4):551-9. doi:10.1002/ptr.5029

  5. Chaudhari KS, Tiwari NR, Tiwari RR, Sharma RS. Neurocognitive effect of nootropic drug Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) in Alzheimer's disease. Ann Neurosci. 2017;24(2):111-22. doi:10.1159/000475900

  6. Mishra A, Mishra AK, Tiwari OP, Jha S. Studies on metals and pesticide content in some Ayurvedic formulations containing Bacopa monnieri L. J Integr Med. 2016;14(1):44-50. doi:10.1016/S2095-4964(16)60241-8

  7. Lavu RV, Prasad MN, Pratti VL, et al. Trace metals accumulation in Bacopa monnieri and their bioaccessibility. Planta Med. 2013;79(12):1081-3. doi:10.1055/s-0032-1328713

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.