The Basics of Bacopa

The Basics of Bacopa
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Bacopa monnieri is a popular ingredient in many nootropic products and is used primarily for its ability to improve memory. An Ayurvedic herb native to India and Australia, bacopa seems to have been first written about over 1,400 years ago, where it was used to improve various aspects of cognition (1). In modern times, scientific studies have confirmed these pro-cognitive effects of bacopa in a variety of populations, ranging from health young students to the elderly.

Unlike some nootropics that have acute effects, bacopa is something that seems to work best when taken daily for several weeks, as we will see in the discussion of the studies below. The two most common bacopa extracts used in studies are Bacognize and Synapsa/KeenMind/CDRI-08 (these three are the same thing). Dosing for both of these extracts is typically 300mg/day, often split into two 150mg doses. One paper states that KeenMind is standardized for 55% bacosides, based on spectrophotometry (2), and another claims it’s a 25: 1 extract, while another claims 20:1, which would make the 300mg/day dose roughly equivalent to 6-7.5g of dried herb. Bacognize, on the other hand, is standardized for 45% bacosides using a UV spectrophotometer, and was found to have 11.38% of the four bacosides using HPLC (3). Elsewhere, a different studied extract with a 10:1 yield was found to have 5% bacosides (HPLC) (4). So if HPLC is ~1/4 of UV (based on Bacognize’s numbers), then the 55% from CDRI would be roughly 13% HPLC, give or take. And if that’s a 20-25:1 extract, that means you have roughly 0.5-0.65% bacosides in the dried herb. Compare that to the 10:1 extract with 5% HPLC, and you get 0.5% in the dried herb, which checks out.

Dosing:

300mg/day of an extract standardized for ~40-50% bacosides (UV-spectrophotomety) or ~10% bacosides (HPLC). Bacognize or Synapsa/KeenMind/CDRI-08 fit this bill and are well-studied extracts. If using an unstandardized extract, a dose equivalent to 6g of dried powders can be used, although a standardized extract is a better assurance of potency.

Time to Work:

Improvements in memory have been noted as early as 6 weeks in one study, while another study noted benefits at 12 weeks, but not 5 weeks, and a third noting benefits at 8 weeks but not 4, suggesting that the memory enhancing benefits of bacopa take several weeks to manifest. Elsewhere, there have been mixed results on whether bacopa has acute effects, but the consensus is that it is best taken daily for several weeks. Interestingly, one study noted that, after 12 weeks of daily use, benefits persisted 4 weeks after cessation of use.

Studies:

300mg/day Bacognize given to medical students for 6 weeks was able to improve neuropsychological measures of efficiency of attention, freedom from distractibility, and working memory (5).

300mg KeenMind given to adults (mean age 41.6 years) for 90 days was able to improve special working memory accuracy by 5.9%, compared to 2.4% with placebo, and improve working memory CDR factor scores by 3%, compared to 0.6% with placebo (6).

300-450mg KeenMind given to healthy adults (age 40-65 years) for 12 weeks was able to increase the number of pairs of words remembered after a delay by 1.44 pairs (164% increase), compared to 0.82 pairs (139% increase) with placebo (7).

300mg/day KeenMind given to healthy volunteers (aged 18-60) was found to improve information processing, verbal learning, and memory consolidation after 12 weeks, but not 5 weeks (8).

Acute BM supplementation (320 or 640mg KeenMind) produced some adaptogenic and nootropic effects (healthy individuals, age 18-44 years) (9), but apparently 300mg KeenMind didn’t have any acute effects on cognitive functioning in healthy people (age 18-60 years) (10).

References:

1: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746283/

2: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23958194/?i=5&from=/12404571/related

3: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5075615/#!po=26.7442

4: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3537209/#!po=18.7500

5: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5075615/

6: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18683852

7: https://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v27/n2/pdf/1395862a.pdf

8: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11498727/

9: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23788517

10: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12404571

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Also, I forgot to mention that bacopa has been shown to possess acetylcholinesterase inhibiting properties. This AChE-I effect is probably more well-known from things like huperzine, galantamine, and sage, but may also play a role in bacopa’s ability to improve cognition.

In healthy elderly volunteers, 300mg/day (10% yield, 5% total saponin content determined using HPLC) decreased AChE by slightly more than 10% at 4 weeks, approximately 35% at 8 weeks, and approximately 30% at 12 weeks, while 600mg/day decreased AChE by roughly 5-10% at weeks 4, 8, and 12. Additionally, AChE levels remained decreased even 4 weeks after cessation of bacopa after the 12 weeks of daily use.

In this study, both doses benefited working memory (reached significance at 8 and 12 weeks, but not 4 weeks), with 300mg seeming to be superior, and both studies still noted benefits 4 weeks after cessation of use.

Edit: brief and imperfect comparision of the AChE-I activity of bacopa to huperzine and galantamine. I say “imperfect” because (1) I’m comparing the effects of bacopa from one study to the results of huperzine and galantamine in another study, which is itself a bit flawed/imperfect, and (2) the huperzine/galantamine study was in young subjects, while the bacopa study was in elderly subjects, and we can’t inherently assume the magnitude of effects would be the same for these different populations. That said:

we saw that the 300mg/day bacopa decreased AChE activity to ~64% of pre-treatment levels (after 8 weeks of daily use), while 100 and 200 mcg huperzine-A decreased AChE to 83% and 72% of pre-treatment levels, and 4 and 8 mg galantamine decreased it to 85% and 75% of pre-treatment levels, but these were with a single dose (link to the info on AChE-Is below).

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@Caribou

Here you go, one brief write-up on bacopa. :slight_smile:

Thank you @muscleupcrohn

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Hell yeah, thanks fam!

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Another interesting read on bacopa. It focuses on the potential application of bacopa in cognitive decline, but, as we saw in multiple studies, bacopa has also been shown to improve memory in healthy non-elderly subjects, and studies have also shown that cognitive training can benefit healthy young subjects, so it is logical that the following study is also relevant to more than just the elderly and/or people with cognitive decline:

Cognitive training has been shown to improve performance in some cognitive domains; including memory, processing speed, executive function and attention in older adults. These cognitive changes are thought to be related to improvements in brain connectivity and neural circuitry. Bacopa monnieri has also been shown to improve specific domains of cognition, sensitive to age associated cognitive decline (particularly processing speed and memory). These Bacopa monnieri dependent improvements may be due to the increase in specific neuro-molecular mechanisms implicated in the enhancement of neural connections in the brain (i.e. synaptogenesis). In particular, a number of animal studies have shown Bacopa monnieri consumption upregulates calcium dependent kinases in the synapse and post-synaptic cell, crucial for strengthening and growing connections between neurons. These effects have been shown to occur in areas important for cognitive processes, such as the hippocampus. As Bacopa monnieri has shown neuro-molecular mechanisms that encourage synaptogenesis, while cognitive training enhances brain connectivity, Bacopa monnieri supplementation could theoretically enhance and strengthen synaptic changes acquired through cognitive training. Therefore, the current paper hypothesises that the combination of these two interventions could improve cognitive outcomes, over and above the effects of administrating these interventions independently, as an effective treatment to ameliorate age associated cognitive decline.

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