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Herb: Brahmi

Herb: Brahmi

Brahmi Bacopa monnieri 

3,000 years of medicinal use 

Brahmi has been treasured in India as a remarkably revitalising herb for almost 3000 years. Brahmi is a well-known nootropic herb and its uses in neurological and psychiatric disorders are well recognised. Its efficacy and safety is supported by research and thousands of years of knowledge and experience. Despite being such an old medicine used by Ayurvedic medical practitioners, brahmi’s myriad benefits are constantly being studied. Such studies show how brahmi helps boost brain function, treats ADHD symptoms and reduce stress and anxiety. Furthermore studies have further revealed that it could possess anticancer properties and reduce inflammation and blood pressure. Everyone would greatly benefit from using Brahmi in their life. 

“Rarely is it possible to come across a herb of such great worth.” Swami Sivananda  

Plant confused for gotu kola 

Brahmi, or Bacopa monnieri is a perennial, creeping herb native to the wetlands of southern and Eastern India, Europe, Africa, Asia and North and South America.  Its ability to thrive underwater makes it popular for aquarium use. The aerial parts, leaves and stalks are used medicinally. Brahmi is known by the common names water hyssop, thyme-leafed gratiola, herb of grace and Indian pennywort. Only the plant Bacopa monniera defined by this Latin name is the authentic Brahmi. It is often confused with Gotu Kola (Hydrocotyle asiatica) that is sometimes identified as brahmi in some places including Thailand but this a different plant.  

Ancient Vedic Treasure delivers 

Brahmi makes an appearance in the Sanskrit sacred texts around the 6th century AD; the Charaka Samhita, Atharva-Veda and Susrut-Samhita. Vedic scholars reputedly used the herb to memorise lengthy sacred hymns and scriptures. Brahmi is named after the Hindu God Brahma, who is associated with great intellect and responsible for all "creative forces" in the world. Brahmi means, "that which gives supreme knowledge" and interestingly, this herb has a long and enduring history as a specific herb to sharpen intellect and attenuate mental deficits. We can justifiably conclude that brahmi was included as a vital ingredient in “sacred soma” – the mythic elixir of immortality taken by the early Vedic mystics and rishis. Firstly, because brahmi is referenced in the Divine Vedic scriptures, secondly, because it grew around them in their domain and thirdly, because it offered the yogi all the desirable qualities to help catapult them into Self-realisation.   

The Ayurvedic sages, who were also great physicians, revealed Brahmi's role as one of the most “sattvic” or harmonising herbs in the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia. They bestowed an incredible wealth of extroardinary attibutes to this little bog herb in promoting intellectual power, longevity, rejuvenation, heart health, nerve replenishment, strength of mind, improving sleep, voice and complexion. Over the centuries, the role of brahmi was prolific in the treatment of physical afflictions  such as leprosy, skin disorders, pain, anemia, diabetes, blood disorders, cough, poison, edema and fever. This included an array of mental disorders, insanity and even such states of  inauspiciousness that attracted evil deeds or black magic! Today research on brahmi has confirmed what the ancients understood to be true, although it doesn’t extend to its more arcane protective benefits.  

A lot to offer the medical world 

Accordingly, brahmi has a lot to offer the modern medical world and indeed, it is still a staple plant in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Certain neurological disorders have limited therapeutic options in Western medicine and hospitals and research institutes across the globe are increasingly looking into Ayurvedic science for effective and safer alternatives. Ayurveda is the complete knowledge of life. Brahmi helps to achieve the primary goal of Ayurveda that is to prevent and treat illnesses and enhance lifespan by maintaining proper balance between the body, mind and the soul. Even though brahmi is mostly a cooling herb and a great to antidote the summer's heat, all body types can use it in all seasons. No side effects have been observed from benign brahmi and it can be given to infants safely. 

A class of powerful compounds called bacosides in Bacopa monnieri is responsible for its multiple benefits. These two saponins are designated as bacopaside II and I with additional phytochemicals betulinic acid, wogonin and oroxindin. Bacopa also has the flavonoids apigenin and luteolin. These powerful actives make brahmi an excellent blood purifier that strengthens the immune system, cleanses the kidneys, while calming and soothing the liver. Its use has extended to allaying excessive sexual desire and has proved beneficial in venereal diseases, including AIDS.  

Brahmi even calms the heart and helps guard against heart attacks because it relieves tension throughout all the body system and it also helps to ease constipation from stress, relaxes muscles and alleviates menstrual pain and disorders. It has a cooling effect on the urinary system and it cools the heat of cystitis and pain of dysuria by guiding pitta (heat) out of the system. 

Brahmi’s antioxidant super power 

Brahmi is a potent antioxidant that has a powerfully protective effect on cells, with significant super-oxide radical scavenging activity. This herb has also been shown to enhance antioxidant activity in organs such as the kidneys.  

Brahmi’s active compounds – the bacosides have been shown strong antioxidant effects on the brain. Antioxidants are substances that help protect against cell damage caused by potentially harmful molecules called free radicals. Research suggests that damage caused by free radicals is linked to many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Brahmi helps to strengthen the immune system by speeding up its response time to pathogens, viruses or bacterial infections. There is one particularly dangerous toxin - acrylamide that brahmi is highly effective against that is connected to various neurodegenerative diseases.  

Brahmi really helps people improve the quality of their skin, with its antioxidants and anti-aging properties that promote cell regeneration and collagen production. Brahmi is useful in skin conditions with underlying nervous imbalance. The herb has good wound healing qualities with antimicrobial activity against skin pathogens. According to Indian skin specialists it diminishes scar tissue by encouraging the early epithelisation period and decreasing myeloperoxidase and free radical generated tissue damage. Brahmi can also help in treating temporary baldness by boosting hair growth in areas where hair has thinned out or reduced. It also helps reduce hair loss by treating dandruff and reduces inflammation of the scalp; use an infusion of the herb as a hair rinse, its regular use will provides calm and soothing experience. 

Reduces inflammation 

To add to this exhaustive list of attributes brahmi also exhibits potent anti-inflammatory action and suppresses pro-inflammatory enzymes and cytokines - the molecules that stimulate an inflammatory immune response. Inflammation is our body’s natural response to help heal and fight disease, however, chronic, low-level inflammation is linked to many chronic conditions, including cancer, diabetes, heart and kidney disease. Brahmi appears to suppress the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Studies have revealed that brahmi has anti-inflammatory effects comparable to those of diclofenac and indomethacin; two non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs commonly used to treat inflammation.  

Brahmi boosts brain function 

This water-loving herb exceeds its reputation for improving memory, mental function and the ability to process visual information; all the while working to relieve anxiety and depression. Having an antioxidant and neuro-protective action, brahmi’s constituents interact with the neurotransmitters in the brain raising levels of serotonin, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and acetylcholine. This process affects and regulates the balance of the mind to be more favourable to our overall mood, memory and cognitive process. Brahmi has significantly enhances the retention of new information hastening the processing of visual information, spatial learning, learning rate and memory consolidation. Apparently it increases dendritic length and branching, which are parts of nerve cells in the brain closely linked to learning and memory.  

Treats all manner of Mental illness 

Brahmi aids in the recovery from exhaustion, stress and debility; it is used in Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, autism, insomnia, epilepsy and depression. It reveals its sattvic quality by helping people to give up bad habits and all types of addictions. It aids in recovery from alcoholism or drug abuse and also helps to kick the sugar habit. For this reason it is added to many Ayurvedic formulas as a nervine agent. 

The antioxidant compounds found in brahmi work by protecting against the neural oxidative stress associated with Alzheimer’s disease and stimulates the brain’s own chemicals that protect neural cells. Brahmi neutralises free radicals and prevents fat molecules from reacting with free radicals. When fat molecules react with free radicals, they undergo a process called lipid peroxidation. Lipid peroxidation is linked to several conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders. Brahmi helps prevent damage caused by this process. Since mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early phase Alzheimer’s disease occur due to cholinergic degeneration and oxidative stress, brahmi provides a benefit in terms of decreasing memory impairment in these two diseases and even in attention deficit disorder 

Benign boon for ADHD  

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by symptoms like hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness. Studies show how brahmi helps reduce ADHD symptoms, such as restlessness and improves self-control. One study in 31 children aged 6–12 years found that taking 225 mg of Bacopa monnieri extract daily for 6 months significantly reduced ADHD symptoms, such as restlessness, poor self-control, inattention, and impulsivity in 85% of the children.   

Yet another study in 120 children with ADHD observed that taking a herbal blend that contained 125 mg of Bacopa monnieri improved attention, cognition, and impulse control, compared with the placebo group. These findings are very promising, however more large-scale studies examining the effects of brahmi on ADHD are needed before the medical system will recommend it as a valid treatment. Going to an Ayurvedic doctor can move past this allopathic roadblock. 

The herbal answer to anti-anxiety drugs 

Brahmi is a classic adaptogenic herb, meaning that it increases our body’s resistance to stress. It is well known for reducing the stress hormone cortisol and for counteracting the effects of stress by regulating the hormones involved with the stress response. It can also decrease anxiety by improving the production of serotonin - the hormone that calms the mind and elevates our mood. Interestingly, its action is mediated via an increase of GABA receptors in the cerebral cortex. One study showed that Bacopa monnieri had anti-anxiety effects comparable to those of lorazepam (benzodiazepine), a prescription medication used to treat anxiety. 

Brahmi heals lungs and gut  

Add some brahmi to your lung herbal blend with mullein and elecampane, because it is useful in bronchia-constrictive and allergic conditions due to its relaxant effect on chemically induced bronchoconstriction, probably via inhibition of calcium influx into cell membranes. 

Studies have investigated the beneficial effect of brahmi extract on the gastrointestinal tract. It has demonstrated its direct antispasmodic activity on intestinal smooth muscles, via inhibition of calcium influx across cell membrane channels; this suggests its value to treat intestinal spasm such as irritable bowel syndrome. Brahmi also has a protective and curative effect on gastric ulcers, it significantly heals penetrating ulcers induced by acetic acid and strengthens the mucosal barrier and decreased mucosal exfoliation. An vitro study demonstrated its specific anti-microbial activity against Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium associated with chronic gastric ulcers

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