Traditional uses of Bacopa: Contemporary relevance

Brahmi has been used in ayurvedic formulations for conditions ranging from catarrhal complaints, gastrointestinal disturbances due to excessive tobacco use, habitual abortions and high blood sugar due to anxiety disorders and epilepsy. In certain parts of India, Brahmi is believed to be an aphrodisiac. In Sri Lanka, under the name of Loonooweela, Brahmi is prescribed for fevers. In the Philippines, it is used as a diuretic.

The traditional use of the plant, of particular relevance to contemporary medicine, is its validated efficacy in promoting memory functions and providing relief to patients with anxiety neurosis. In Ayurveda, Brahmi is described as “Medhya Rasayana” or brain tonic with the ability to promote mental functioning along with providing general rejuvenating effects as discussed below:

  • 8 ml of plant juice or 1/2 gm of plant powder once a day has been traditionally used to increase the speed of learning and extent of memory power
  • It is also useful in increasing the sharpness of perception by the sense organs
  • Brahmi is believed to be particularly useful for the promotion of memory in children
  • In addition, Brahmi was found to be useful in the prevention and alleviation of convulsions
  • In adults, it helps to relieve insomnia

Brahmi has a bitter taste. Traditionally, the fleshy leaves and stems were made into a paste or pressed for juice extraction. Sugar, jaggery or honey was added to make it more palatable. Some of the known preparations with Brahmi are Brahmi Ghrita (in clarified butter), Sarasvatarishta (a decoction used as a brain tonic), Brahmi Rasayana (a rejuvenating formulation with other herbs), Brahmi Taila (medicated oil), and Brahmi Sarbat (a cooling drink).

In recent years, “Memory Plus”, a product that contains the standardized extract of bacosides from Brahmi, has been marketed in India. Under the definition of herbal drugs in the guidelines of herbal medicines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1991, an herbal product that has been used traditionally without demonstrable harm does not require specific regulatory action unless new evidence demands a revised risk/benefit analysis. Subsequently, several formulations containing Bacopa monnieri extracts standardized for bacosides content, have appeared in the global market.