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Dealing with bouts of sadness, anxiety, “senior moments,” and kids having difficulty staying on task at school has become a way of life for many Americans. While there are many factors that may be at the root of these problems, there is one herb that has recently emerged as a super-herb for the mind.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 16 million American adults are affected by major depressive disorders each year. (1) Not only that, but generalized anxiety disorders affect about 6.8 million American adults in any given year. (2)
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Health Resources and Services Administration reported that up to 11% of young people under 18 years old have received an ADHD diagnosis – this is about 6.4 million children per year. (3,4)
Read on for some amazing research on an herb used for thousands of years to support mood, focus, and memory.
This super-herb is called Bacopa monnieri. It is understood to be the most potent and effective nerve and brain tonic in Ayurvedic medicine. As we will see, it has been traditionally used to treat mental health imbalances, mood issues, and support memory, focus, and various cognitive functions. Today, science supports these applications. (5)
1. Bacopa Supports Memory
A 2002 study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that using Bacopa monnieri for three months may bolster natural memory functions. When 76 participants were tested on retention of new information, the placebo group forgot the information more quickly than the group taking Bacopa. (5)
2. Bacopa Supports Learning
According to a 2008 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, elderly participants who took 300 mg per day of Bacopa monnieri showed improvement in certain mental functions compared to a placebo group. The tests that examined attention and the ability to learn auditory verbal information showed the most improvement, leading the researchers to conclude that the herb might be used to reduce natural cognitive decline in aging populations. (6)
3. Bacopa Supports Mood
If you experience energy, focus, or mood concerns, taking Bacopa may help. The University of Michigan Health System website states that Bacopa monnieri supports the effects of certain neurotransmitters, including serotonin and acetylcholine. (7) This effect on neurotransmitters is what enables Bacopa to support stable mood. Recent animal studies of Bacopa monnieri’s effectiveness in supporting spatial memory have produced positive results. (8)
4. Bacopa Fights Stress
In addition to the reduced cognitive decline reported by a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, participants taking Bacopa monnieri also showed more stable mood, and their heart rates under stress decreased over time. (6)
The Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported a study done on rats, where the brains of animals that were pre-treated with Bacopa monnieri were less affected by stress, and the animals were physically better able to cope with stress. (9)
5. Bacopa Supports Healthy Digestion
Stress can impact and irritate the mucus membrane lining of the gut. The result is intestinal dryness, bowel sluggishness, or an excess production of reactive mucus that can affect the function of the intestinal villi to both assimilate nutrition and detoxify. Bacopa is one of the herbs I use to help sever that relationship between emotional stress and the gut, and support healthy functioning of the digestive tract.
6. Bacopa Supports Respiratory Health
Probably the best indicator of how we deal with stress is how we breathe. When the body is stressed, breathing becomes rapid and shallow, which triggers stress receptors located in the upper lobes of the lungs. Over time, this stress response can compromise the inner skin lining of the respiratory tract. Bacopa supports the relaxation of the bronchioles during respiratory distress induced by stress and anxiousness. Bacopa also supports the relaxation of the blood vessel muscles around the respiratory airway passages. (7)
In my practice, I do my best to track down and treat the cause of what is ailing my patients, not just the symptoms. Stress – be it mental, physical or emotional – depletes the body and leaves it vulnerable to a host of ailments, a few of which I have mentioned in this article.
While Bacopa monnieri has excited the scientific community with its psycho-physiological potential, it must be said that there is never a magic bullet. The hallmark of Ayurveda is living a healthy lifestyle in harmony with the environment and the cycles of nature. While I have witnessed incredible benefits using Bacopa, it is always a combination of the right herbs with the correct lifestyle adjustment that will fully restore balance.
How has Bacopa monnieri supported you in your health, mood, and memory?