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What is Brahmi?
Brahmi is a common name for two Ayurvedic herbs used to maintain and enhance brain function. Brahmi is used to mean Bacopa monnieri in South India and Centella asiatica in North India.8
This article will help you understand the differences between these two powerful herbs and how they work together to boost brain function and help keep the central nervous system (CNS) healthy.
Bacopa, also known as water hyssop and Herpestis monniera, is a creeping perennial plant with small leaves and purple flowers found in warm wetlands. It is native to South India, but commonly grows in the United States.
Contrary to most brain tonic agents, which stimulate and ultimately deplete brain neurons, bacopa has been shown to nourish the nervous system while boosting brain function, neuroprotection, and memory. The most well-studied constituents of bacopa are known as bacosides, a chemical compound that belongs to the triterpenoid saponin group.
Bacosides have been shown to boost cerebral blood flow. These brain antioxidants stimulate neurotransmitters, resulting in neuroprotection.1 While bacopa supports many brain mechanisms, it seems to stand out in supporting healthy cognitive function, memory, focus, clarity, mood, and learning.1
How Does Bacopa Work?
The brain carries high levels of iron, which is easily oxidized. This makes the brain susceptible to damage from oxidation, much like an iron car is prone to rust. Many of the body’s natural antioxidants cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, and thus cannot prevent oxidative brain damage. However, Bacosides have been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, supporting and shielding the brain from oxidizing agents.1
Bacopa has also been shown to help prevent oxidation of good fats (lipid oxidation) in the brain. This is important, as the brain is predominately made of cholesterol, which is very prone to oxidation damage.1
New research shows that brain cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) cleans toxins in the brain. These toxins are flushed into brain glymphatics (tiny lymph vessels) in the sagittal sinuses, located in a mohawk on top of the skull. In one study, toxins were injected into the CSF of test subjects. The group that supplemented with bacopa was protected from cognitive decline oxidative damage in the brain and CNS.9
Bacopa has also been shown to support healthy cerebral blood flow, which is important for numerous reasons. CSF is produced by blood vessels in the base of the brain called the choroid plexus. Here, brain lymph fluid or CSF oozes out and rinses brain ventricles, systematically washing the brain of toxins. It is here that bacopa and its numerous constituents cross the blood-brain barrier.
In one study, rats were exposed to high levels of cigarette smoke and then measured for brain antioxidants with and without bacopa supplementation. In the brains of the bacopa-supplemented group, researchers found significantly higher levels of the following anti-oxidizing agents: glutathione; superoxide dismutase; and vitamins C, E, and A.7
Bacopa is one of just a handful of agents recently identified to increase natural production of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNFs), which support genesis of new neurons. This means bacopa helps us replenish or replace old worn–out brain cells with new ones.
Bacopa was used in conjunction with centella in ancient times to help memorize lengthy Vedic hymns and chants as a part of their tradition.1 Today’s science helps us understand why these two herbs may be better together than apart.
Centella asiatica: Brahmi
Centella asiatica, also known as Hydrocotyle asiatica, gotu kola, or brahmi in North India, is a small creeping plant with delicate leaves and small white flowers that bear fruit. Centella is generally thought to be more cooling than bacopa, but both are considered good for all three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha). Centella can be grown in tropical climates or in the higher cooler elevations of India and China.
Both herbs have similar active ingredients, but there are distinct differences. Centella, like bacopa, contains triterpenoid saponin members, but they are unique compounds, including: asiaticosides, brahmosides, brahminosides, and centellosides. These compounds give centella more diverse properties than the bacosides in bacopa. It supports not only the brain, but also the lymph and skin.
At LifeSpa, we use the term brahmi for Centella asiatica and bacopa for Bacopa monnieri. Below is some compelling evidence for the skin, lymph, and brain benefits of brahmi.
Brahmi for Lymph
Centellosides in centella/brahmi are responsible for skin health and microcirculation. In one study, centella was given to 66 flight passengers traveling economy for three to 12 hours. Subjects were given 60mg of centella extract (roughly equivalent to a 500mg whole herb capsule) two days before the flight, the day of the flight, and for two days after the flight. The results showed significant improvements in microcirculation function compared to the control group. Ankle swelling (common on flights) was lower in those who took the brahmi supplement.5
In another double-blind study, 94 patients who had venous circulation issues and limb heaviness were randomly selected to take 60mg of centella extract per day for three months. The centella group had a significant reduction in limb heaviness and venous circulation was greatly improved.5
Brahmi for Skin
For outer skin: One clinical trial evaluated 227 patients with scars or keloids, both caused by excess fibrous tissue buildup after surgery. One group were given centella for 18 months. In the centella group, 116 out of 139, or 82% of participants, experienced relief of their keloid and scar tissue-related symptoms.1
For inner skin: Centella was shown in one study to significantly increase gastric mucin and glycoprotein secretion, which both maintain structural integrity and function of the stomach lining. This study suggests the stomach lining was protected from harsh aspirin-induced irritation by supplemental Centella asiatica.5 Studies suggest it is the asiaticosides in centella that support the health of both inner and outer skin.
Brahmi for the Brain
Numerous studies suggest that brahmi’s brahmosides and brahminosides offer antioxidant, neurotransmitter-boosting, stress hormone-reducing effects. Thus, they detoxify the brain; scavenge free radicals; and support mood, cognitive function, and memory.6
Both brahmi and bacopa are non-stimulating brain tonics that support mental clarity, cognitive function, memory, mood, and focus. They are neuroprotective, antioxidant, and mood-stabilizing agents.4-6 Centella, however, has unique properties that support skin (inner and outer), lymph, and microcirculation channels.5,6
Both brahmi and bacopa have been shown to support optimal brain function, but brahmi decongests brain glymphatics, which drain some three pounds of toxins from the brain each year.
Bacopa increases cerebral circulation, which creates more CSF to wash the brain of toxins, while brahmi enhances glymphatic drainage of damaging brain toxins.4, 5, 6 In concert, they boost brain function, memory, and learning, causing them to share a common name.
If you are experiencing brain fog, memory issues or have a family history of cognitive concerns then I recommend 1-2 capsules of bacopa and Brahmi Brain with breakfast for sharper brain function and mental clarity and healthy nervous system. Brahmi Brain can also be taken before bed for deep sleep and to support healthy brain lymphatic drainage while you sleep.
We recommend "Sleep Solutions for Your Body Type": https://lifespa.com/sleep-solutions-for-your-body-type-sleep-deeply-wake-up-refreshed/