Bacopa Monierri, or Brahmi, in Sanskrit, is a rejuvenative tonic and sedative used in Ayurveda to strengthen the heart and nervous system.
Uses of Bacopa in Ayurveda
Bacopa is classified as Bitter and Hot in Ayurveda, yet it pacifies both Pitta and Kapha dosha. Normally hot herbs will aggravate Pitta, so this is a paradoxical effect based on its Pitta pacifying medicinal properties.
Bacopa Monnieri, known as Brahmi in Kerala Ayurveda, and Mandukaparani in North Indian Ayurveda, is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a heart and nervous system tonic, and also as an adaptogen and tranquilizer. It is an herb that is both calming and rejuvenating.
Bacopa is used in Ayurveda to treat mental health disorders like anxiety and ADD; as a tonic for students and scholars whose minds are taxed by study; and to prevent senility and loss of memory in the aged.
Brahmi is frequently combined with other Ayurvedic herbs like Gotu Kola (Centallia Asiatica) and Ashwagandha, which pacifies Vata dosha, especially when treating mental health disorders such as anxiety or ADD.
Bacopa: The Memory Herb for Students and Seniors
Because Bacopa has both rejuvenating and sedating effects, it can be used in the treatment of mental health and nervous system disorders, such as vertigo or even epilepsy. It is a a tonic for heart weakness, but also can be used to strengthen the kind of mental weakness that arises from exhaustion due to excessive thinking.
This applies to intellectuals and students, who are “overthinking” on purpose, and to people with anxiety and OCD, who have no control over their overthinking. Bacopa was also mentioned by the “Father of Ayurveda” Charaka in ancient times to prevent senility and the loss of memory that can accompany even normal aging.
Bacopa as Brahmi in Hinduism and Sanskrit Language
Bacopa is also Ayurveda’s number one herb to improve concentration and the ability to memorize. This is why it is starting to be used in the west for the treatment of ADD and ADHD, attention deficit disorder. Its no surprise that this herb is called Brahmi in South India, because its name relates to Brahma, the the formless creator deity associated with “universal consciousness” and Brahmin, the caste of people who historically most used their intellects and memorization abilities as scholars, philosophers, classical musicians, lawyers, and priests .
Bacopa as Brahmi
can be translated literally as “knowledge”, referring in this case to “spiritual knowledge.”
According to the Taittiriya Upanishad it is from knowledge that beings are born, by which we live, and that upon death we return to. This gives you a sense of the “spiritual” quality of this plant, or why it is used so much to improve the mind.
Bacopa is a Rejuvenative Herb, or Rasayana in Ayurveda
As a rejuvenative herb, or Rasayana, Bacopa has a wide application. At its root it is used to promote health and longevity in part because it improves blood circulation. In animal studies, as reported by Dr. Shailinder Sodhi of Ayush Herbs, Bacopa was found to elevate serotonin levels. It also has a diuretic effect.
Bacopa and Gotu Kola/Centellia Asiatica
Bacopa is used interchangeably in Ayurveda with Gotu Kola, called Indian Pennywort in English. The Vietnamese juice pennywort and drink it with sugar, water, and ice as a summer rejuvenative. Here is a recipe of mine for using Gotu Kola as a summer cool tea.
Summer is the time of year that stresses or elevates Pitta, and although both forms of Brahmi are Pitta pacifiers, Gotu Kola is cooling, and Bacopa is not. Pennywort is the one used fresh, but if you are making my tea you can use either. Add a little Cortas brand Rose water from Lebanon to enhance the cooling, Pitta pacifying effect.
What is interesting about Bacopa is that it pacifies both Pitta and Kapha. That makes sense since Pitta is elevated by excessive mental work, and Kapha is intrinsically slow mentally. Not unintelligent, but slow. And when Kapha is elevated the mind becomes sluggish. When Pitta is elevated the mind and nervous system becomes irritable or hot, and tense.
The Many Ways to Take and Use Bacopa
In Ayurvedic massage herbs are extracted in sesame or coconut oil. This is called Thaila. Bacopa is a very popular herb used in these Thaila both for weekly home use, and also during Panchakarma treatments such as Abyangha and Shirodhara. Taken by mouth Bacopa and is found in various forms to be taken orally, from capsules and tinctures, to jams, ghee extracts, and wines.
Long Term Use of Bacopa to Strengthen the Intellect and Prevent Memory Loss
Bacopa/Brahmi can be used in small amounts in its jam or ghee or wine extract form in small amounts over a long period of time to strengthen intellectual capacities. For this puprose it is generally taken singly, rather than combined with other herbs.
When taking a tonic herb over a long time its always good to take in a food form, as the presence of delicious things like ghee, honey, and spices like cardamon and ginger will stimulate Agni/digestive fire/digestive enzymes, and ensure good assimilation of the herb. And honey takes the essence of medicines to the deepest tissues.
If you have a strong Kapha elevation, do not take Bacopa with ghee, but use honey. If you have a strong Pitta elevation, use the ghee and spare the honey. This is because honey is warming and elevates Pitta, but pacifies Kapha. Ghee is cooling and elevates Kapha but pacifies Pitta.
Bacopa, Pitta, and Kapha
Bacopa is bitter, intense, and hot. Bitter tasting things pacify both Pitta and Kapha, but hot things should elevate Pitta. But there is a quality in Ayurveda whereby certain foods and herbs disregard the normal rules. This is why Lime Juice pacifies Pitta, even though its considered hot. Its the intense quality of Bacopa that enables it to pierce the mental fog of Kapha.