Brahmi – The Traditional Ayurvedic Brain Tonic

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By Dr Ruth Cilento ©Dementia Care International

Bacopa monniera, more commonly known as Brahmi, is well known in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It is a creeping plant found in damp, marshy regions throughout India. Of all Indian herbal therapies, Brahmi was, and still is, considered to be the premier herb for treating brain problems and age-related mental decline as well as for improving learning processes and memory.

The herb Brahmi is exceptional because it is non-toxic and suitable for all body types. In particular, Indian physicians found that the nervous system benefits most from the effects of Brahmi, and this was learnt through the success of ancient medical practices over the last three thousand years.

How it Works
Although Brahmi was established as a powerful nervine and brain tonic for thousands of years, it was not until the Central Drug Institute of India was established in 1951 that formal scientific studies determined exactly how this herb works. They discovered that Brahmi contains two main active ingredients, Bacosides A and B. In the brain, the effects of these substances were to increase cell metabolism and new protein synthesis, specifically for cells in the regions of the brain associated with long term recall where learning and memory are concentrated.

Who can Benefit From Brahmi?
The effects of Brahmi can be of benefit to anyone wishing to stimulate their powers of recall and concentration. Although Brahmi has been shown to be helpful in treating age-related mental deterioration and concentration difficulties due to stress, it may be also beneficial where there is no health condition, but only the desire to improve thinking power. An animal study in 1982 found that Brahmi improved the initial taking in of learned information as well as its retention. The study also showed that Brahmi delayed the length of time it took for the information to become “unlearned”.1 It is suitable for an elderly person hoping to regain memory.

Taking the Stress Out of Study and Work
Aside from increasing understanding and memory function, Brahmi induces a sense of calm and peace in its users so it is unique in its ability to reduce the effects of stress and nervous anxiety. Many people are able to live to strict standards, but lose some composure and self-confidence with stress.

So Brahmi helps soothe the restlessness, anxiety and distraction that nervousness causes, and is ideal for the elderly person faced with problems.

As a nervine tonic, Brahmi has been used to help those affected by ageing, memory loss, stroke, and poor circulation in the brain or exhaustion. It may also be of value in assisting those with epilepsy.2

Other Health Benefits
Traditional Ayurvedic practitioners also use the herb for a number of conditions. It is used as a blood cleanser and to treat fevers, inflammations, joint pain and a variety of skin problems, such as eczema, psoriasis, boils and ulcers.

It is also a good stimulus for hair, skin and nail growth.

A study conducted to evaluate the efficiency of Brahmi in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome found the herb particularly useful in forms of diarrhoea.3 Clinical studies have shown it to be well tolerated and safe from any untoward reaction or side-effects.4

Dosages in capsules or tablets range from 600 to 3,000 mgs with or without additives of ginkgo, lecithin and fish oil.


  1. Singh, H.K. and Dhawan, B.N. Effect of Brahmi monniera Linn.(Brahmi) extract on avoidance responses in rats. J Ethnopharmocol, (5): 204-214, March 1982.
  2. Bone, K. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs, Phytotherapy Press, Queensland, 102, 1996.
  3. Yadav, S.K. et al, Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Therapeutic evaluation of indigenous drugs, Indian Journal of Medical Research, (90): 496-503, December 1989.
  4. Indian Journal of Pharmocology, 28 (1): p37, 1996.