Many different plants and plant extracts used in traditional medicine have been studied to determine if their purported effects are indeed real. Often, documented use of these plants dates back hundreds or even thousands of years, and many have been extensively used in developing countries. One such plant, Bacopa Monnieri (or Bacopa), of the Scrophulariaceae family has recently attracted attention from the scientific community, and is included in the popular nootropic Alpha Brain by Onnit Labs. Bacopa is usually found in wet areas such as marshes and wetlands.
Traditionally, Bacopa Monnieri has been used in India to improve memory and cognition. It is purported to relieve anxiety and improve concentration. Recently, it has been confirmed to be useful in the treatment of mental disease and epilepsy.
Many studies have been conducted to examine the effects and efficacy of Bacopa. It has been found to affect cognition and memory, and to manage convulsive disorders.
A study in rats found that Bacopa alcohol extract enhanced learning ability. This enhancement was determined to be due to bacosides A and B, active saponins in the extract. It has also been shown to ameliorate amnesia caused by scopolamine and electroshock stresses in healthy rats. While its mechanism for doing so remains unknown, it is thought that this effect arises due to Bacopa’s ability to increase protein kinase activity in the hippocampus.
In Alpha Brain, Bacopa is thought to promote clear thinking. Several studies have provided supporting evidence for this claim. Bacopa has been proven to be more effective in preventing anxiety than lorazepam (LPZ), a common anxiolytic. Bacopa is more suitable for treating anxiety than LPZ partly because it does not induce amnesia, like LPZ does.
Another possible use for Bacopa is to prevent convulsive actions. A study in mice and rats examined the effects of various doses of Bacopa extract on the central nervous system. Results showed that Bacopa exhibited analgesic effects and protected against electroshock-induced seizures. These effects were thought to be through Bacopa’s affects on GABA, as substances that affect the GABA-ergic system often possess anticonvulsive and sedative effects. Other studies have also suggested that Bacopa exerts antioxidant activity, relieves stress and inflammation, and may even protect against some forms of cancer.
Toxicological studies on Bacopa have determined that the extract is well tolerated and safe for use in humans. The LD50 (the minimum dose to cause death in half of a sample of subjects) of orally administered Bacopa in rats was found to be 17 g/kg. No adverse side effects have been reported in human trials.
Overall, many pre-clinical animal studies and some clinical studies have shown that Bacopa exhibits many beneficial effects, such as relieving pain and stress, improving memory and cognition, and preventing seizures. It is thought that Bacopa exerts these effects though its involvement in the GABA-ergic and cholinergic systems. In Alpha Brain, by Onnit Labs, it is purported to improve memory and cognition.