Did you know that ‘Brahmi’ (Bacopa monnieri), a traditional Indian Ayurvedic herbal medicine, has been used for centuries as a neurological tonic and memory enhancer? The Brahmi plant typically grows in humid, marshy areas. The whole plant, plant extracts as well as isolated bioactive compounds known as bacosides have been traditionally used for their cognitive health benefits.
In our modern era, these traditional beliefs are slowly but surely being tested through a handful of randomized, controlled human clinical trials. A systematic review carried out in 2012 examined the available scientific evidence to determine whether Brahmi can indeed enhance cognitive performance in humans.
The review looked at randomized controlled trials on adult humans without dementia and having no significant cognitive impairment, in which Brahmi was given as long-term supplementation. Multiple databases were systematically searched and relevant trials were objectively assessed for methodological quality.
Six studies met the inclusion standards and were included in the results of the review. Each of these trials was conducted over 12 weeks. Three different Brahmi extracts were used at dosages of 300-450 mg daily.
All the reviewed trials examined the effects of Brahmi on memory; however, other cognitive functions were not as well studied. Across all six studies, Brahmi was seen to improve performance on 9 of 17 tests in the domain of free recall.
Free recall is a simple memory assessment test in which participants first study a list of items and then have to recall the items in any order, hence the name ‘free’ recall. In the standard test, the recall period starts immediately after the final list item, known as Immediate Free Recall (IFR). In Delayed Free Recall (DFR), there is a short delay between the final list item and the start of the recall period.
In brief, the limited but consistent evidence available so far suggests that Brahmi supplementation can improve free recall. So far, research into the memory enhancing effects of Brahmi is in its early stages - but the outlook is very promising indeed.