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How to Use Bacopa: Where Research meets Tradition

6 min read time Sep 17, 2020

Description

I recently wrote an article discussing Bacopa, the great ayurvedic nootropic and nerve tonic.  In the article, I go into depth about the:

  • History, usage, and properties of bacopa.
  • Understanding what a nootropic is and why bacopa fits so well into that specific category.
  • A wide range of research to show how effective bacopa really is.
  • Bacopa’s adaptogen-like qualities

Bacopa has stood the test of time and been shown to be very safe and effective for:

  • Supporting a healthy aging brain
  • Supporting the brain and nervous system during times of stress

Based on traditional Ayurvedic medicine, just about anyone can use bacopa and benefit from its brain nourishing qualities.  But with all of that said we come back to the primary question…

Can Bacopa help YOU, too?

If you look at the broad spectrum of research done using bacopa in various forms, (whole leaf, standardized and full spectrum) it has been concluded that bacopa is effective in supporting and restoring a wide range of nervous system functions.

Everyone who is aging in our society knows the scary pitfalls of brain and memory issues. I think if you were to take a survey, fear of losing your memory and cognitive function would be on the top of the list. Here are two fascinating studies that show the potential benefits for any age group that uses bacopa:

Protect your brain

The findings of this study indicated that bacopa possesses a neuroprotective effect against injury, related to improving cerebral energy metabolism and increasing antioxidant levels. (1)

Effects of Bacopa in healthy elderly volunteers on attention, cognitive processing, working memory and functionality of cholinergic and monoaminergic systems (A human trial): In this study, a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled design was utilized. This study consisted of 27 males and 37 females who received either an extract of bacopa (300 or 600 milligrams) or a placebo once daily for 12 weeks. The results suggested “B. monnieri can improve attention, cognitive processing, and working memory partly via the suppression of AChE which blocks the communication of neuron activity. (2) In simple terms, Bacopa helped to prevent AChE from blocking communication between neurons.

Why Bacopa works:

While it is important to understand the small details of how bacopa works, it is more important to understand why it works. All of these individual positive responses shown in the research are still looking at this herb from a reductionist point of view.

None of this information matters if you don’t know the why. Based on tradition, the bigger picture shows that bacopa primarily supports healthy cerebral blood flow (blood flow through the brain) and has adaptogen-like qualities to target a healthy stress response. Bacopa’s primary functions are what supports all of the secondary effects in the research. Therefore, bacopa is traditionally considered a nerve tonic with adaptogen-like qualities. To be clear, it is NOT a true adaptogen.    

What is the best age to use bacopa?

In my 18 plus years as a Master Herbalist, I  have learned a few interesting things about the relationship between bacopa and it effects on different age groups.

  1. Your age does not necessarily determine whether or not you should take bacopa.
  2. What matters most is the form in which the herb is consumed and what other herbs and foods it is consumed with.
  3. Finally, while dosage is important, more importantly, are the above factors when looking at potential benefits based on age.

In other words, someone in their early 20’s with a healthy brain can reap the benefits as much as someone in their 70’s with mild cognitive decline if they use bacopa in the right form and/or combine it with the right foods and herbs.

You can take this herb alone and it will still provide amazing results.

From all the people I have helped over the years who have had less than desired experiences and results, 98% of them were using the right herb but in the wrong form for their specific goals.

I can say with great confidence this is one of the main reasons why someone may not get the results they are looking for. This all comes down to using it in the correct form to target your approach.

How to Use Bacopa: Where Research Meets Tradition

Students- 200-300 mgs of an isolated extract standardized to 20-24% bacopasides

This is the most appropriate form and dose for those looking to get more bang for their buck when studying.

To support the effects, you can take bacopa with a cup of hot cacao made with pure cacao, coconut oil or cacao butter and almond milk. This is a great example of a specifically targeted approach. This is also a perfect example of when not to use bacopa in a whole leaf powder as it will do you little-to-no-good.   

Middle age/ prevention- Here, you have 2 choices:

  1. You can purchase a product which has both a full spectrum whole plant standardized extract and isolated whole plant standardized extract together. You want to find a product where around 70% of the total comes from the full spectrum portion. The dose would be 750 mgs once to twice daily.
  2. Organic whole leaf powder at 1-2 grams 1-2 times daily as a hot tea with coconut milk.

A beautiful pairing would be to use it with an adaptogen-like ashwagandha or rhodiola. Ashwagandha is a “calming adaptogen” and has wonderful research on its ability to support a healthy emotional state via supporting a healthy stress response. If you are looking for something more uplifting, then rhodiola is your go-to adaptogen. A third option would be eleuthero (siberian ginseng) due to its ability to support healthy blood flow. Because bacopa also has adaptogen-like qualities, matching it with a true adaptogen makes for a powerful synergistic blend.

Elderly/Cognitive decline

You can purchase a product which has both full spectrum whole plant standardized extract and isolated whole plant standardized extract together. You want to find a product close to a 50/50 mix. Take 750 mgs twice daily.

Two important herbs to pair with, in this situation:

  1. The same choices of adaptogens mentioned above
  2. Other nervines or nerve tonics. This comes down to how your stress-based condition manifests itself. If you manifest your stress via excitatory responses like twitching or convulsions, then skullcap is the nervine for you. If you manifest your stress as a chronic condition of the nervous system (caused by a chronic unhealthy inflammation response), then gotu kola is the nervine for you. Both of these nervines match extremely well with bacopa because both support healthy cerebral blood flow and a healthy brain inflammation response.       

Ayurvedic medicine is the oldest and most well-respected system of healthcare known to mankind. This time-tested and research-validated system carries beautiful tradition in nourishing and supporting the body’s ability to heal itself. In Ayurvedic medicine, bacopa is the jewel on the top of the crown (pun intended).

About Michael Stuchiner

Michael Stuchiner is an experienced Master Herbalist, the Head of Education for Z Natural Foods, a teacher, and an accomplished author. With an 18-year specialization in medicinal herbs, Mike also has a vast knowledge in tonic and adaptogenic herbalism. Mike has enjoyed a 25-year career as an elite-level competitive powerlifter where he learned to heal his ‘mind and body’ as an avid user of herbal remedies.

        As an “in-the-trenches” herbalist, Mike has done more than 85 speaking engagements, consulted with clients ranging from young to elderly, worked with athletes in virtually all sports and with clients who have “dis-ease” states of a wide variety. Mike also mentors student Master Herbalists and will continue to teach the next generation to grow a deeper wisdom of the human body through appropriate herbal remedies.

ZNF Mind and Body Restorative Program (Instant Download)

If you are new to the world of herbal remedies or want to sharpen your skills, Mike is the author of the ZNF Mind and Body Restorative Program. This 78-page, easy-to-read eBook is $9.99 (Immediate download). For more information visit the Z Natural Foods store, or click here to see a list of the important topics.

References

1) Liu X1, Yue R, Zhang J, Shan L, Wang R, Zhang W. 2013. “Neuroprotective effects of bacopaside I in ischemic brain injury”. Pubmed.gov. Accessed 3/15/18 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23160060

2) Carlo Calabrese, N.D., M.P.H.,1 William L. Gregory, Ph.D.,1 Michael Leo, Ph.D.,2 Dale Kraemer, Ph.D.,3 Kerry Bone, F.N.I.M.H., F.N.H.A.A.,4 and Barry Oken, M.D.5. 2008. “Effects of a Standardized Bacopa monnieri Extract on Cognitive Performance, Anxiety, and Depression in the Elderly: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial”.  Pubmed.gov. Accessed 3/15/18 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3153866/

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