Botanically described as bacopa monnieri, brahmi is one of the most revered herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. It is classified as a rasayana or rejuvenative herb that has been in use for thousands of years, with some of the earliest references to its medicinal value appearing in the ancient Ayurvedic texts of Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita. These ancient sources alluded to the positive influence of brahmi on the central nervous system, recommending the main uses of brahmi plant as a brain tonic to support cognitive function and mental health. It was also used in the treatment of inflammatory disorders, including conditions like asthma and arthritis. Today, there is renewed interest in this ancient Ayurvedic medicinal herb because of modern studies that point to a wide range of brahmi benefits.
Uses of Brahmi
Supports Brain Function
One of the primary uses of brahmi in Ayurveda is as a brain tonic and this traditional use is also supported by some modern research, which suggests that the herb might enhance brain function (1). Supplementation with the herb may improve spatial learning, strengthen memory, improve the speed of processing visual information, and improve learning rate. The effectiveness of the herb at strengthening memory and focus has also attracted the interest of researchers, as it could have potential to protect against degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Relieves Anxiety And Stress
Brahmi is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stress and anxiety disorders, both in the form of supplements, as well as massage oils. There is plenty of evidence to support this recommendation as brahmi is an adaptogenic herb, which means that it improves the body’s ability to cope with stress. Research shows that the herb can help to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, improving your mood and relieving stress and anxiety (2).
Although inflammation is a part of your body’s immune response to fight off infections, chronic or low-grade inflammation is known to increase the risk of a number of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Natural anti-inflammatory ingredients can therefore play a protective role against such diseases. Brahmi is one such herb as studies show it to be effective at inhibiting the release of certain cytokines that are known to stimulate inflammation in the body (3).
Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension is one of the main risk factors for heart disease, which is a growing threat today. While lowering stress and anxiety levels with the help of brahmi should in itself help to control blood pressure, studies suggest that the herb may have a more direct role to play in blood pressure regulation (4). The herb is thought to exercise this effect through the release of nitric oxide, thereby dilating blood vessels to improve blood flow and circulation in the body.
May Protect Against Cancer
Although cancer protection is not one of the primary or traditional uses of brahmi, there is hope that it may help in the management or prevention of cancer due to potential anticancer properties. This is because the herb contains compounds that have been found to destroy or inhibit cancerous tumors in the brain, breast, and colon (5,6). This action is most likely also a result of the high antioxidant levels in brahmi.
Side Effects of Bacopa Monnieri
As a potent herb, brahmi can interact with other medications, making it important to check with your healthcare provider if you are already being treated for any preexisting condition. As a natural supplement, however, brahmi is generally considered to be safe for regular use and may only cause side effects in some individuals.
In most such cases, brahmi side effects are mild and include digestive symptoms like nausea, indigestion, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea (7). Aside from these side effects, you should exercise caution and avoid using brahmi supplements during pregnancy as there is inadequate research on safety during pregnancy. Individuals with low blood pressure should also avoid consuming brahmi as it can further slow down the heart rate.
In addition to the use of brahmi in oral formulations and supplements, the herb is also frequently used as a massage oil. Although largely regarded as safe when applied topically, there is not much research with regard to the use of brahmi oil on the scalp and skin.
How to Consume Brahmi
As mentioned before, bacopa monnieri uses can include both oral and topical applications. It is therefore available in the form of capsule supplements, in polyherbal formulations, in the form of powders, and oils. When considering brahmi uses in the form of an oral medication or supplement, the safe standard dosage can vary between 300 to 450 mg a day. The dosage recommendations can also vary depending on the specific product or brand, so it’s best to follow instructions on the package.
If you choose to use brahmi in the form of a powder, you can add it to boiling water to make a soothing herbal tea. In some Ayurvedic practices, it is also mixed with ghee and warm water to prepare a herbal tonic.
When using brahmi oil, make sure to look for a product that has brahmi listed as the primary ingredient, while it should also have an organic base, such as virgin coconut oil or almond oil. The oils can simply be massaged gently into your scalp or over any area of skin.