Bacopa monnieri is the proper name for the water hyssop, a perennial creeper classified as an herb that grows throughout Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the southernmost parts of the United States. It figures prominently in Ayurveda, the traditional herbal medicine of India, and has been used for centuries in the treatment of cognitive deficiencies, emotional distress and gastrointestinal disorders, among other things.
Bacopa's primary use is to enhance cognitive function. According to studies performed by Drs. Singh and Dhawan in 1997, Bacopa contains the saponins bacoside A and B, which are believed to have an antioxidant effect on the hippocampus, frontal cortex and striatum of the brain. With the understanding that Alzheimer's patients suffer cognitive degradation due to loss of cholinergic neuronal activity in the hippocampus, a 12-week trial was conducted in which patients received daily 160 mg doses of bacosides A and B. The results showed significant improvement in memory, information processing speed and verbal learning capacity.
Though Bacopa has not yet been approved by the FDA for use, a study conducted by Drs. Bhattacharya and Ghosal in 1998 during which rats were administered a Bacopa extract containing 25 percent bacoside A showed neuroelectric activity similar to that of Lorazepam, a prescription anti-anxiety drug. The mild difference between bacoside A and Lorazepam is that Lorazepam temporarily depresses function of the hippocampus, which is responsible for short-term memory. Bacoside A enervates the hippocampus, meaning short-term memory is improved while still creating an anti-anxiety effect.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The alkaloid contained in Bacopa is known as brahmine and has been found to actively inhibit calcium influx across cell membranes in the lower intestine, effectively regulating spasms of the smooth wall muscles. In a double-blind study performed by Drs. Gupta, Tripathi, Jain and Yadav in 1989, psyllium husks, clidinium bromide, chlorodiazepoxide and brahmine were administered in daily 5 mg doses to a test group of 165 patients complaining of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It was found that psyllium husks and other prescription medications were more effective in treating IBS patients, except in the case of IBS characterized by diarrhea, where brahmine was most effective in regulating bowel activity.