Can Bacopa Monnieri Elevate Your Brain and Eliminate Stress?

Written by Andy Mobbs
featured image for article on bacopa monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is a popular plant in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s well-known for its memory-enhancing and anti-anxiety properties, making it a great addition to our Seneca Nootropic Complex. Scroll down to learn more about the health and cognitive benefits of this herbal nootropic.

What is Bacopa Monnieri used for?

Bacopa’s main claim to fame is as an adaptogen. An adaptogen helps with stress. They work by reducing cortisol levels and increasing GABA signaling. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps you feel relaxed and at peace.

On the flip side though, low cortisol levels will lead to a lack of energy and focus. But adaptogens like Bacopa can help increase cortisol, too. Essentially, they help ease our perception of stress or increase our energy when we are feeling low.

Bacopa contains saponin compounds called bacosides. These are the active compounds that help with memory and ease anxiety. Supplements containing Bacopa are standardized to contain a certain percentage of bacosides. The higher the percentage, the more active and higher quality the Bacopa supplement is. Seneca uses Bacopa leaf extract that is standardized to contain 50% bacosides.

Bacopa Monnieri Nootropic Highlights

  • It can increase brain levels of the ‘smart neurotransmitter’ Acetylcholine.
  • Bacopa helps to keep brain function at optimum levels when you’re under stress.
  • It stimulates antioxidant defense in the central nervous system and can improve blood flow to the brain.
bacopa monnieri in full bloom

Bacopa monnieri benefits: An overview of Bacopa studies

A lot of research has been done on Bacopa since it’s been used successfully for so long. Here are some of them:

1) Bacopa as a nootropic

There have been a number of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies (the gold standard for studies) into Bacopa.

These studies lasted for 12 weeks and used doses ranging from 300mg-450mg daily (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). The outcomes include improved attention, improved focus and memory, increased visual processing speed and learning rate, and reduced anxiety levels.

bottle of seneca nootropic complex
Bacopa monnieri is one of the ingredients in our Seneca Nootropic Complex

These results led to a further review paper by Matthew et al. They suggested that Bacopa could potentially be ‘clinically prescribed as a memory enhancer‘ (6).

A further double-blind placebo study by Peth-Nui et al, tested Bacopa at doses of 300mg and 600mg (7). They found that Bacopa at both doses improved four aspects of working memory, these being:

  • Power of attention
  • Continuity of attention
  • Quality of memory
  • Speed of memory

The study also found that Bacopa reduced the activity of the enzymes Acetylcholinesterase and Monoamine oxidase. Acetylcholinesterase break down Acetylcholine. On the other hand, Monoamine oxidase break down Dopamine, Noradrenaline, and Serotonin. Reducing these enzymes increase the amount of time before these neurotransmitters are broken down, allowing their levels to increase.

So, what do these neurotransmitters do?

Well, Acetylcholine is often called the smart neurotransmitter. It plays a role in transmitting signals associated with learning, processing, and memory.

Dopamine, Noradrenaline, and Serotonin are also needed for proper brain functioning. They play a key role in focus and making us feel good as well!

Interestingly, Peth-Nui’s study reported greater improvements in memory at 300mg/day rather than 600mg/day.

Related article: What are nootropics?

2) Bacopa Monnieri for stress reduction and mood improvement

A study at the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia found that Bacopa may help improve mood and reduce cortisol levels. These led to improved scores in stress reactivity tests (8).

Also, 3 animal studies found that Bacopa supplementation increased the number of GABA receptors in the brain (9, 10, 11). Unfortunately, it will be impossible to replicate these findings in humans. Looking for GABA receptors in the brain means dissecting it.

futuristic depiction of human on nootropics

3) Anti-aging, antioxidant protection, and neuronal growth effects

A study at the Bharathidasan University in India injected D-galactose into rats continuously for 8 weeks to induce aging. D-galactose is a concentrated sugar solution that simulates accelerated aging. Then they treated some of the rats with Bacopa.

Interestingly, the Bacopa-treated rats had increased expression of the antioxidant enzymes, Glutathione Peroxidase and Super Oxide Dismutase. They also had less advanced glycated end products in their blood; these are proteins damaged by sugars. The study reported that in addition to increased antioxidant defense, Bacopa may also help slow down brain aging (12).

Another study published in the journal Neurochemical Research gave rats a standard diet and treated some of them with Bacopa. On testing, they found a significant reduction in pro-inflammatory cytokines. These are immune system signaling molecules that cause decreased immune activity and inflammation.

They also found reduced iNOS (inducible nitric oxide synthase), which can lead to peroxynitrite. This is a very damaging and inflammatory molecule. Researchers also saw a reduction of nitrites and lipofuscin, both markers of increased aging (13).

4) Bacopa nootropic for neuronal growth and new synaptic connections

neuron anatomy

A study published in Anatomical Science International fed rats with a Bacopa supplement for 2, 4, or 6 weeks.

The rats treated with Bacopa for 4 and 6 weeks had a significant increase in the length of dendrites in their neurons. Also, they saw an increase in the number of connections these dendrites were making in the amygdala area of the brain.

Growth and more connections mean the brain is working more efficiently to pass on information. Emotional processing and anxiety response occur in the amygdala, so these results are great news for humans (14)!

5) Bacopa was able to protect rats against heavy metal and poison damage

Two studies on heavy metals, one on mercury and the other on aluminum, found that Bacopa can protect rat brains against damage from these toxic metals (15, 16).

A third study injected the toxic herbicide Paraquat into rat brains. The rats treated with Bacopa had fewer markers of oxidation. They also saw a reversal of mitochondrial dysfunction caused by Paraquat exposure. These results are promising to humans because mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to increased aging and various diseases (17).

A fourth study chronically exposed rats to cigarette smoke. This exposure depleted the zinc and selenium levels in the rats’ brains. Researchers found that Bacopa restored zinc and selenium levels to normal. They also saw an increase in antioxidant levels in the Bacopa-treated rats (18).

6) Bacopa can simulate cerebral blood flow

Kamkaew et al (19, 20) found that Bacopa can simulate cerebral blood flow (the more blood flow to the brain, the better it can work). Ginkgo Biloba (another ingredient in our Seneca Nootropic Complex), however, had a slight edge over Bacopa in terms of blood flow. Nevertheless, they also found that Bacopa increased the production of Nitric Oxide, allowing blood vessels to vasodilate or relax.

Studies on humans have ranged in dosing between 300mg and 450mg a day. They normally show better results as the studies progress (with studies normally running over a 12 week period). This suggests a gradual increasing response over a number of weeks.

In fact, one study that looked at the short-term effects of Bacopa found no improvement (21). So, we suggest continuing with Bacopa for at least 3 months, although you may start seeing results within 4-6 weeks.

Also, bacoside concentration in supplements varies widely from 10% to 50%. We would recommend looking for a product with 50% bacosides to get the best bang for your buck. At Intelligent Labs, we include Bacopa monnieri in our Seneca Nootropic Complex. Each serving of Seneca contains 300mg of Bacopa standardized to 50% bacosides, along with 17 other effective nootropic ingredients!

Learn more about Seneca here: Seneca Nootropic Complex 101: What Makes This Nootropic Stack So Good?


(1) Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Harshad C. Barbhaiya, Rajeshwari P. Desai… Year: 2008 | Volume: 3 | Issue: 6 | Page No.: 425-434

(2) Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, Carlo Calabrese, William L Gregory, Michael Leo, Dale Kraemer, Kerry Bone, Barry Oken, J Altern Complement Med . 2008 Jul;14(6):707-13.

(3) Does Bacopa monnieri improve memory performance in older persons? Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial, Annette Morgan, John Stevens, J Altern Complement Med . 2010 Jul;16(7):753-9.

(4) Chronic effects of Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) on human memory, Steven Roodenrys, Dianne Booth, Sonia Bulzomi, Andrew Phipps, Caroline Micallef, Jaclyn Smoker, Neuropsychopharmacology . 2002 Aug;27(2):279-81.

(5) The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects, C Stough, J Lloyd, J Clarke, L A Downey, C W Hutchison, T Rodgers, P J Nathan, Psychopharmacology (Berl) . 2001 Aug;156(4):481-4.

(6) The cognitive-enhancing effects of Bacopa monnieri: a systematic review of randomized, controlled human clinical trials, Matthew P Pase, James Kean, Jerome Sarris, Chris Neale, Andrew B Scholey, Con Stough, J Altern Complement Med . 2012 Jul;18(7):647-52.

(7) Effects of 12-Week Bacopa monnieri Consumption on Attention, Cognitive Processing, Working Memory, and Functions of Both Cholinergic and Monoaminergic Systems in Healthy Elderly Volunteers, Tatimah Peth-Nui, Jintanaporn Wattanathorn, Supaporn Muchimapura, Terdthai Tong-Un, Nawanant Piyavhatkul, Poonsri Rangseekajee, Kornkanok Ingkaninan, Sakchai Vittaya-Areekul, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med . 2012;2012:606424.

(8) 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, Sarah Benson, Luke A Downey, Con Stough, Mark Wetherell, Andrea Zangara, Andrew Scholey, Phytother Res . 2014 Apr;28(4):551-9.

(9) Behavioral deficit and decreased GABA receptor functional regulation in the hippocampus of epileptic rats: effect of Bacopa monnieri, Jobin Mathew, Gireesh Gangadharan, Korah P Kuruvilla, C S Paulose, Neurochem Res . 2011 Jan;36(1):7-16.

(10) Decreased GABA receptor in the striatum and spatial recognition memory deficit in epileptic rats: effect of Bacopa monnieri and bacoside-A, Jobin Mathew, Smijin Soman, Jayanarayanan Sadanandan, Cheramadathikudyil Skaria Paulose, J Ethnopharmacol . 2010 Jul 20;130(2):255-61.

(11) Decreased GABA receptor in the cerebral cortex of epileptic rats: effect of Bacopa monnieri and Bacoside-A, Jobin Mathew, Savitha Balakrishnan, Sherin Antony, Pretty Mary Abraham, C S Paulose, J Biomed Sci . 2012 Feb 24;19(1):25.

(12) Standardized extract of Bacopa monniera (BESEB CDRI-08) attenuates contextual associative learning deficits in the aging rat’s brain induced by D-galactose, Charles Prisila Dulcy, Hemant K Singh, Jayakumar Preethi, Koilmani Emmanuvel Rajan, J Neurosci Res . 2012 Oct;90(10):2053-64.

(13) Amelioration of age associated neuroinflammation on long term bacosides treatment, Manisha Rastogi, Rudra P Ojha, B Parimala Devi, Aabha Aggarwal, Aruna Agrawal, G P Dubey, Neurochem Res . 2012 Apr;37(4):869-74.

(14) Enhanced dendritic arborization of amygdala neurons during growth spurt periods in rats orally intubated with Bacopa monniera extract, Venkata Ramana Vollala, Subramanya Upadhya, Satheesha Nayak, Anat Sci Int . 2011 Dec;86(4):179-88.

(15) Protective effect of Bacopa monniera on methyl mercury-induced oxidative stress in cerebellum of rats, Thangarajan Sumathi, Chandrasekar Shobana, Johnson Christinal, Chandran Anusha, Cell Mol Neurobiol . 2012 Aug;32(6):979-87.

(16) Neuroprotective role of Bacopa monniera extract against aluminium-induced oxidative stress in the hippocampus of rat brain, Amar Jyoti, Deepak Sharma, Neurotoxicology . 2006 Jul;27(4):451-7.

(17) Standardized Bacopa monnieri extract ameliorates acute paraquat-induced oxidative stress, and neurotoxicity in prepubertal mice brain, Ravikumar Hosamani, Gokul Krishna, Muralidhara, Nutr Neurosci . 2016 Dec;19(10):434-446.

(18) Cigarette smoking induces heat shock protein 70 kDa expression and apoptosis in rat brain: Modulation by bacoside A, K Anbarasi, G Kathirvel, G Vani, G Jayaraman, C S Shyamala Devi, Neuroscience . 2006;138(4):1127-35.

(19) Bacopa monnieri increases cerebral blood flow in rat independent of blood pressure, Natakorn Kamkaew, C Norman Scholfield, Kornkanok Ingkaninan, Niwat Taepavarapruk, Krongkarn Chootip, Phytother Res . 2013 Jan;27(1):135-8.

(20) Bacopa monnieri and its constituents is hypotensive in anaesthetized rats and vasodilator in various artery types, Natakorn Kamkaew, C Norman Scholfield, Kornkanok Ingkaninan, Putcharawipa Maneesai, Helena C Parkington, Marianne Tare, Krongkarn Chootip, J Ethnopharmacol . 2011 Sep 1;137(1):790-5.

(21) The acute effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy normal subjects, P. J. Nathan, J. Clarke, J. Lloyd, C. W. Hutchison, L. Downey, C. Stough, Hum Psychopharmacol . 2001 Jun;16(4):345-351.