Bacopa Monnieri: The Herb For Biohacking Cognition And Memory Function

This article (and the accompanying podcast episode above on the Bio Alchemy podcast if you’d rather listen) is all about one simple herbal biohack that you can use to improve your memory function, recall skills, and even how fast your brain can process information. And let’s face it –  whether you are someone who has to solve complex mathematical problems in your daily life, or just a human who shovels dirt for a living, you need your brain for all these tasks, regardless of how complex or seemingly insignificant they are.

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By upgrading your brain function, you’ll be upgrading all areas of your life, from your creative skills, to how well and how fast you get things done at work, and so much more.

The herb or plant that is the focus of this post that’s going to help your kick more cognitive ass is called Bacopa Monnieri, which has been shown to afford a ton of benefits to the human brain, and how we perform mentally. But before I go into all of that, where to get it, and the recommended dosage, I want to get into a few little disclosures about taking this as a quick fix, as opposed to having an already optimised mind.

First of all, no nootropic, pill, herb, or magic potion given to you by a witch is going to have as strong effect on your brain function as doing things like optimising your sleep, eating routines, or getting some exercise will do to your brain. So if you’re thinking you can just take a pill each day and it’s going to solve all your memory or cognition problems, you’d be wrong.

Exercise, good sleep, and not putting a whole lot of processed, bullshit food into your mouth are going to have a much more significant difference on the way your mind works than almost anything else you can do. I’ve spoken especially about sleep a lot in previous episodes of the Bio Alchemy podcast, and although I’m not going to do that again, in my opinion optimising your sleep is the number one thing you can do to ensure your squishy thinking meat is operating the way it should.

It won’t be a focus of this post, but whatever science I’m going to explain to you in terms of the benefits Bacopa Monnieri will bring you in terms of brain health, trust me when I say that food, sleep, and exercise all have a much more profound effect. And if you’re doing all those things right – and probably adding a little meditation into the mix as well – you’ve likely already got a fairly solid mental foundation, and a mind that kicks more ass than Bruce Lee after 7 cups of coffee.

So my recommendation is always to sort these things out first, before bringing herbal remedies or pills into the mix. However, if you’ve already biohacked your way to epic mental health, or just want the easy way out, let’s discover some more about this hardcore brain-stimulating herb that you’ve probably not ever heard about.

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You may not know Bacopa Monnieri by its Latin name, but you may have heard it referred to by itss traditional Ayurvedic name brahmi, as water hyssop, or simply as bacopa. All acceptable names for this mental biohacking plant.

You might be thinking that bacopa is some rare herb that you need to go on a spirit quest halfway up some remote mountain to find, but one thing that makes it so accessible is where it’s found. The plant grows on literally every continent on the planet, except of course Antarctica, where it’s too cold to grow absolutely anything. 

Bacopa has been used in the Indian traditional medicine system of Ayurveda for several thousand years. So even though you may not have heard about it, it’s no stranger to being known as a powerful compound for assisting with brain function and the rejuvenating properties it has on our mind. And while it’s been something in the lexicon of healing tools for more than a little while, modern science has now got some truly solid data on how it is helping us, as well as the dosage we should be taking for best results.

So, let’s get into some of the reasons why you should be considering integrating bacopa into your daily routine for better brain health.

Most of the information and research I’m about to go into is coming from two studies via the American National Institutes of Health. The first study I’m going to refer to was one conducted in India – the home of Ayurveda –  to uncover the facts behind the cognitive benefits of bacopa. And for accuracy, I will say this was a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, which as I’m sure you may know, is generally the gold standard for ensuring accuracy of results.

In this study, a group of sixty healthy students were given either a dose of Bacopa Monnieri extract, or a placebo. The students were initially observed over a period of 45 days, with reviews happening three times at the 15, 30, and 45 day marks. At each 15 day mark, the students were given a ton of performance tests of the mind, including testing reaction times, memory recall, and learning.

Of the ten tests, students of the group given bacopa showed an improvement in almost every test, with improvements in some cases of up to 50% higher than before taking bacopa. For example, in one test where students were asked to recall meaningless sounds that they couldn’t easily associate with something in real life, they showed a 52% increased ability to recall these sounds.

When compared to the placebo group who were not given the bacopa, most test results stayed relatively the same as when they were first tested, though many actually showed worse results than the first time people were tested.  This is a clear indication that not only can bacopa help with fundamental cognitive tasks like memory recall, and the reaction time of your mind, but it’s a clear winner over those test subjects given a placebo.

One thing to take into consideration with this test is that although the test subjects were all relatively varied in terms of general age, sex, and overall intelligence, they were all relatively healthy individuals, with no known illnesses or disease. So as I mentioned at the start of this episode, this likely shows the positive effect bacopa can have on helping you study, remember things, and process information in your brain, but only if you’re already relatively healthy and take at least reasonable care of yourself.

In total, the study I just referenced was carried out over a period of six weeks. And now we’re going to double that time and look at a study on bacopa in subjects over twelve weeks, which showed some additional benefits as well.

In this next study, 46 healthy test subjects between 18 and 80 years old were given either 300mg of bacopa per day, or a placebo – again, this trial was double-blind, with none of the participants knowing exactly what they’d taken.

After 12 weeks, like in the initial 6 week study I mentioned, the results were significant enough to show bacopa as a compound that can clearly assist with brain function.

In almost every test conducted on subjects at the 12 week mark, those given bacopa had a considerable edge over those given the placebo. These people in both groups were given a total of 15 tests encompassing things like learning rate, reaction time, and memory speed, with the tests at the start, and again at the five and 12 week marks.

At the end of twelve weeks, those given bacopa showed an overall cognitive performance increase of around 18-20% better than those given a placebo. And while that may not sound like a huge jump, if I could perform cognitively overall by on average 20% when compared to the person next to me just by taking one simple and natural herbal supplement a day, I’m going to take it.

In short, bacopa is likely to help you biohack your brain to think better, remember more, have a faster reaction time, and learn more quickly, regardless of who you are and what you do on a daily basis. And there’s likely not a single person reading this who wouldn’t want that in their life.

We believe the reason why bacopa is having this effect on the brain is due to enhanced neuron communication – quite simply, it helps your brain communicate at a faster rate, because bacopa is having the effect of actually growing more dendrites – which are basically nerve endings in your nervous system that transmit information between parts of the system.

In both the studies I referenced above, bacopa was given in an extract form of 300mg per day. In the first study it was split between two daily doses of 150mg, and in the second it was given in its entirety once per day. So based on this science, 300mg is what I would generally recommend to anyone looking to experience the brain boosting effects of bacopa.

However, you can’t just take the bacopa leaf on its own at 300mg. The 300mg per day of bacopa extract was equivalent to taking around 3 grams of the herb itself, which is something to take into consideration. And regardless of whether you want to just ingest the leaf, or take an extract, there are a bunch of options out there.

The thing to consider is that the active ingredient in bacopa that’s giving us all these benefits are called bacosides, which are a triterpenoids, the compounds in plants that generally have positive effects on the human body. These bacosides can vary significantly in a bacopa product depending on the quality of the product, so if you’re buying something cheap, keep in mind you may be getting a lower bacoside content, and less benefit to your body and brain.

But apart from everything else discussed here, the good news about the power of bacopa is by far not over.

Firstly, bacopa is an adaptogen, meaning it can help your body fight against the general stress of daily life. I’ve spoken a lot about adaptogens I use in my daily life – and even did a full podcast episode on ashwagandha, which is something I take every day – so seek that out if you’re looking to learn more on adaptogens and what they can do in terms of helping you fight stress and anxiety.

On top of this, Bacopa has been shown to have quite significant properties as an antioxidant compound, and as a neuroprotective agent. This means that overall, it has been shown to have effects on protecting our brain and preventing it from damage overall. This is especially important for the long-term care of the human brain, as regardless of the level of care you take of your brain, or how great you are from a genetic standpoint, neural degeneration is something that will happen to every single one of us throughout life as we age. And the more we can do to protect those miniscule cells that make up our thinking meat, the better our minds will perform later on in life. Ion top of these mind protecting qualities, bacopa has also shown to have hepatoprotective benefits – which means it can protect or prevent damage to the liver. And while that’s a nice little added benefit, it doesn’t have a ton of relevance to all the cognitive stuff we’re discussing in this episode.

Finally, and something that likely relates to the neuroprotective qualities I just touched on, the plant has been shown to possibly have an effect on reducing the harshness of symptoms of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and even assist with reducing the frequency and severity of seizures in those with epilepsy. And although there’s not as much evidence to support these benefits as there are with other effects this compound has on the brain as yet, there is enough of an indication for people in the science community – as well as myself – to be hopeful of more confirmation of this in the future. 

For me, these studies and scientific pieces of evidence that back up the power of bacopa are just another great marker for showing how powerful natural plant compounds can be on the human body. And while it’s only been up until the last few decades that science has been able to show us that many plant compounds can have as much of a positive effect on the human body as modern pharmaceutical medication – and in some cases more of an effect – research like this on bacopa is coming to light more and more as we understand more about the fleshy meat suits we all inhabit.

And for me, this is good news. Not to sound like a hippie that only wants to eat weird herbal drinks or do woo-woo crystal touching rituals to heal myself, but as a biohacker who wants the absolute best for my body with as little unnatural input, I’d rather take a natural herbal compound any day, over some lab-created pharmaceutical that is likely to have a host more adverse side effects.

More content like this can be found via the Bio Alchemy podcast on iTunes, Google, Spotify, and just about everywhere else.

Leon Hill