Ayurvedic Herb Boosts Memory, Cognition, Multitasking, Treats Alzheimer's

Bacopa cognition, multi-tasking, memory
Photo by Pato Novoa
Nearly four million people in the U.S. have dementia at the moment, but this is expected to grow dramatically over the next two decades.

Doctors continue to scramble for ways to treat Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. More specifically, this means finding ways to boost memory and cognitive tasks for elderly persons.

Yet a particular treatment known to ancient medical practitioners continues to provide both the most promising and the most scientifically valid approach to disorders related to dementia and cognitive impairment.

That's right. A simple herb that grows from the ground is outsmarting billions of dollars of research by pharmaceutical companies - focused upon finding a way to stimulate an increase in memory and cognition known to deteriorate in Alzheimer's disease.

Not only is their approach wrong - toxic chemicals which can harm brain tissues further - but their ammo is simply too light.

Nature's ammo swamps pharmaceutical drugs, because herbs contain sometimes hundreds of constituents that work synergistically to heal.

One of these is an Ayurvedic herb called Brahmi – botanical name Bacopa monnieri - often called simply Bacopa. This herb has been used for thousands of years to boost memory and cognition. Now we find it may also treat dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory, attention span, cognitive processing all improved with Bacopa

In one study, scientists from Thailand’s Khon Kaen University Medical College studied 60 elderly adults, with an average age of 63 years old. The researchers gave the adults the Ayurvedic herb bacopa or a placebo for three months.

As I explained in a previous article on this topic, before and after the treatment period, the researchers tested the subjects’ memory accuracy, attention span, cognitive processing speed and reaction time. They also measured their brain cell cholinergic and monoaminergic functions – which related to neuron firing speeds. The subjects were also tested every four weeks during the treatment as well as four weeks after the end of the treatment.

The herbal medicine-treated group were given either 300 milligrams or 500 milligrams of a whole-herb extract of the Bacopa monnieri herb.

The groups given the Bacopa had significant improvement in cognitive function, including increased memory, greater attention spans and better reaction times.

The researchers also found Bacopa altered their cholinergic and monoaminergic activity. The researchers concluded that these results:
“suggest that Bacopa monnieri can improve attention, cognitive processing, and working memory partly via the suppression of AChE activity.”
Another  placebo-controlled clinical study of Brahmi was conducted by psychopharmacology researchers from Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology. They gave 24 healthy adults either a placebo or standardized extracts of Bacopa. This study utilized two different dosages as well – 320 milligrams or 640 milligrams – but also conducted a crossover design. This means that the adults given the placebo were tested and then given the herbal medicine and those given the Brahmi were then given the placebo.

In this study, the 320 milligram-treated groups showed significant increases in cognition and memory during three different intervals of testing.

As discussed in another previous article, a 2008 clinical study from Portland’s National College of Natural Medicine – also a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study – had similar results. Here 54 adults with an average age of 73 years old took either a placebo or 300 milligrams of a Bacopa standardized extract for three months. The Bacopa-treated group had increased word recall, less anxiety, decreased average heart rate and cognitive increases. The researchers concluded:
“This study provides further evidence that B. monnieri has potential for safely enhancing cognitive performance in the aging.”
Laboratory and animal research has concluded similar findings, using Brahmi and its constituents. These have also found that Brahmi prevented neurological damage related to oxidative damage. In a study conducted by India’s National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, researchers concluded:
“We infer that BM displays prophylactic effects against ACR induced oxidative damage and neurotoxicity with potential therapeutic application in human pathology associated with neuropathy.”
Swinburne University of Technology researchers conducted a study of Bacopa in 2013 with cognitive demand testing. The researchers tested 24 healthy elderly subjects. The researchers gave each subject 430 milligrams of Bacopa, 640 milligrams of Bacopa or a placebo. Each subject received each of the three treatments with a washout period in between. They gave the subjects a series of six cognitive demand tests – called a Cognitive Demand Battery.

The researchers found that the Bacopa treatments significantly improved cognitive performance - but not the placebo.

Longer study shows memory boosted by Bacopa

A 2008 study from Swinburne's Brain Science Institute studied the cognitive effects of Bacopa following three months of Bacopa treatment. Here 62 healthy elderly volunteers completed this double-blind, placebo-controlled study. They were given either a placebo or 150 milligrams of CDRI 08 twice a day – 300 milligrams per day.

The subjects were given the Cognitive Drug Research cognitive assessment system before and after the 90 day treatment period. This battery of tests measures reaction times, number ordering, word recall and recognition, picture recognition, and spatial and numeric working memories.

The researchers found that the Bacopa significantly improved working memory and spatial working memory. This includes accuracy and context memory recognition. The researchers also found that rapid visual information processing tasking was improved.

Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted on Bacopa in 2001. Similar results were found using 300 milligrams of Bacopa, tested after five weeks and twelve weeks of treatment. The researchers concluded in this earlier study:
"These findings suggest that B. monniera may improve higher order cognitive processes that are critically dependent on the input of information from our environment such as learning and memory."

Can Bacopa Treat Alzheimer’s disease?

These studies bear the obvious question of whether Bacopa can treat Alzheimer's disease. The answer is yes.

In a laboratory study using human brain cells at the pharmacy college of Thailand’s Naresuan University, researchers duplicated the scenario of beta-amyloid-induced damage of Alzheimer’s disease among brain cells.

When the researchers treated the brain cells with tested Bacopa monnieri, the beta-amyloid-induced Alzheimer’s damage was halted. The researchers observed that, “Brahmi-treated neurons expressed lower level of reactive oxygen species suggesting that Brahmi restrained intracellular oxidative stress which in turn prolonged the lifespan of the culture neurons. Brahmi extract also exhibited both reducing and lipid peroxidation inhibitory activities.”
The results were convincing. In their paper, the researchers concluded:
“From this study, the mode of action of neuroprotective effects of Brahmi appeared to be the results of its antioxidant to suppress neuronal oxidative stress and the acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activities. Therefore, treating patients with Brahmi extract may be an alternative direction for ameliorating neurodegenerative disorders associated with the overwhelming oxidative stress as well as Alzheimer's disease.”

The Conclusion is clear: Bacopa works

The overriding conclusion of all these studies - which are confirmed by others - is that Bacopa does significantly boost memory and cognition, and can be a valid Alzheimer's disease treatment. But this isn't all. Bacopa can also increase multi-tasking, reduce stress and even help treat Schizophrenia. Let's look at these.

Multi-Tasking Boosted by Bacopa

Increased multi-tasking is a hallmark for reducing dementia, as this stimulates brain activity and helps defer progression of the disease. Bacopa has been shown to boost multi-tasking. Research from Australia's Swinburne University of Technology tested 17 healthy elderly adult volunteers.

In this cross-over design study, each patient was tested with the placebo and the Bacopa treatment with a clearance period in between.

The volunteers were tested for multi-tasking framework and then tested again one and two hours after taking two different doses of the Bacopa or a placebo.

The subjects were also tested for moods and salivary cortisol levels – which will indicate levels of stress and/or anxiety – before and after the dosing of the Bacopa or placebo.

Each of the subjects underwent the multitasking framework testing separated by a week – called the washout period. The first week the subjects were given the test, then given the placebo, and then tested again a week later before and after being given 320 milligrams of a commercial extract of Bacopa called CDRI 08 – also labeled KeenMind®.

After another washout period of seven days, the subjects returned to receive 640 milligrams of the CDRI 08 – followed and proceeded by a round of multitasking framework testing.
The results of the study determined the subjects' memory was significantly enhanced by the Bacopa, but not by the placebo.

Better moods and decreased stress

This study also found the Bacopa elevated mood levels and reduced stress levels – indicated by the reduction of salivary cortisol levels. These also indicated adaptogenic effects of the Bacopa extract.

Bacopa and Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is often linked to dementia in many adults. A recent clinical report has also found that 500 milligrams a day of Brahmi treatment can significantly improve schizophrenia symptoms. This finding comes from India’s Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute after an observed treatment with Bacopa on a patient diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Another study from 2012 found that Bacopa helped to ameliorate brain injury - in effect helping to protect the brain from long-term brain damage.

So what is Bacopa anyway?

Bacopa Monniera – also called Brahmi and Indian Pennywort - has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to boost moods, memory and related disorders. It has thus been used to relieve anxiety, stress, ADHD-related issues, epilepsy and memory disorders such as Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia and mental diseases.

Outside of these uses, Brahmi has been used for irritable bowels, inflammation including joints, backache, headaches and some menstruation symptoms.

The plant is a small shrub that grows in wet and tropical regions, including South and Central America. Year-round ponds in warm climates will often support Bacopa.

All this research has noted few side effects among the study subjects. At most, slight stomach upset was noted in the Portland study.

While most pharmaceuticals - which typically have numerous harmful side effects - contain one or maybe two active constituents, Bacopa contains a host of medicinal compounds. These include multiple bacopasaponins, bacopasides, bacosides, jujubogenin, pseudojujubogenin, donepezil, deprenyl, brahmine, herpestine, D-mannitol, apigenin, hersaponin, cucurbitacins and plantainosides and other therapeutic phytochemicals.

How can pharmaceutical companies compete with this? Most pharmaceuticals contain one active ingredient - sometimes two. Yet each of these medicinal compounds in bacopa work synergistically to help different parts of our metabolism. Some affect our neurotransmitters. Some affect our liver. Some affect hormones. Why can't we admit that nature has designed the ultimate medicine for brain issues?


Benson S, Downey LA, Stough C, Wetherell M, Zangara A, Scholey A. An acute, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study of 320 mg and 640 mg doses of Bacopa monnieri (CDRI 08) on multitasking stress reactivity and mood. Phytother Res. 2014 Apr;28(4):551-9. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5029.

Downey LA, Kean J, Nemeh F, Lau A, Poll A, Gregory R, Murray M, Rourke J, Patak B, Pase MP, Zangara A, Lomas J, Scholey A, Stough C. An acute, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study of 320 mg and 640 mg doses of a special extract of Bacopa monnieri (CDRI 08) on sustained cognitive performance.  Phytother Res. 2013 Sep;27(9):1407-13. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4864.

Stough C, Downey LA, Lloyd J, Silber B, Redman S, Hutchison C, Wesnes K, Nathan PJ.Examining the nootropic effects of a special extract of Bacopa monniera on human cognitive functioning: 90 day double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Phytother Res. 2008 Dec;22(12):1629-34. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2537.

Stough C, Lloyd J, Clarke J, Downey LA, Hutchison CW, Rodgers T, Nathan PJ. The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001 Aug;156(4):481-4.

Rastogi M, Ojha R, Prabu PC, Devi DP, Agrawal A, Dubey GP. Amelioration of age associated neuroinflammation on long term bacosides treatment. Neurochem Res 2012;37: 869–874.

Limpeanchob N, Jaipan S, Rattanakaruna S, Phrompittayarat W, Ingkaninan K. Neuroprotective effect of Bacopa monnieri on beta-amyloid-induced cell death in primary cortical culture. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Oct 30;120(1):112-7.

Sarkar S, Mishra BR, Praharaj SK, Nizamie SH. Add-on effect of Brahmi in the management of schizophrenia. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2012 Oct;3(4):223-5.

Peth-Nui T, Wattanathorn J, Muchimapura S, Tong-Un T, Piyavhatkul N, Rangseekajee P, Ingkaninan K, Vittaya-Areekul S. Effects of 12-Week Bacopa monnieri Consumption on Attention, Cognitive Processing, Working Memory, and Functions of Both cholinergic and Monoaminergic Systems in Healthy Elderly Volunteers. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:606424.

Downey LA, Kean J, Nemeh F, Lau A, Poll A, Gregory R, Murray M, Rourke J, Patak B, Pase MP, Zangara A, Lomas J, Scholey A, Stough C. An Acute, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Study of 320 mg and 640 mg Doses of a Special Extract of Bacopa monnieri (CDRI 08) on Sustained Cognitive Performance. Phytother Res. 2012 Dec 19.

Liu X, Yue R, Zhang J, Shan L, Wang R, Zhang W. Neuroprotective effects of bacopaside I in ischemic brain injury. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2012 Nov 16.

Saini N, Mathur R, Agrawal SS. Qualitative and quantitative assessment of four marketed formulations of brahmi. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2012 Jan;74(1):24-8.

George KS, Raghunath N, Bharath MM, Muralidhara. Prophylaxis with Bacopa monnieri attenuates Acrylamide induced neurotoxicity and oxidative damage via elevated antioxidant function. Cent Nerv Syst Agents Med Chem. 2012 Oct 17.

Deepak M, Sangli GK, Arun PC, Amit A. Quantitative determination of the major saponin mixture bacoside A in Bacopa monnieri by HPLC. Phytochem Anal 2005;16: 24–29.
Garai S, Mahato SB, Ohtani K, Yamasaki K. Dammarane triterpenoid saponins from Bacopa monnieri. Can J Chem 2009;87:1230–1234.

Ampelopsis japonica Halts Breast Cancer Metastasis

The more we research plant medicines among human cancer cell lines, the more we find that so many plant medicines will halt and even eliminate cancerous cells and tumors before they rage out of control.

Mistletoe Extends Survival Times for Cancer Patients

Okay, so kissing under the mistletoe might have a solid basis in folklore, but new science finds that the plant is not only medicinal, but it can extend the life and quality of life for a cancer patient.

Research from Serbia's Institute of Oncology and Radiology at the National Cancer Research Center has determined that mistletoe extract will lengthen life for patients with severe pancreatic cancer. And a study a year earlier by some of the same researchers showed that mistletoe extract increased quality of life scores among breast cancer patients.

This is on top of a decades-long history of research on the anticancer properties of mistletoe.

The most recent study was published in the European Journal of Cancer. The researchers tested 220 patients with advanced stage pancreatic cancer—a progressive metastatic cancer that has a relatively short survival time - sometimes within months.

The researchers divided the patients into two groups and gave one group injections with up to 10 milligrams of Viscum album (European mistletoe) extract three times a week for up to twelve months. Both groups also received supportive care through the study period.

Those taking the mistletoe extract had average survival periods nearly twice those given the supportive care only—at 4.8 months versus 2.7 months among the control group.

Those cancer patients with a better overall prognosis had even better results from the mistletoe injections, with more than double the remaining survival times, at 6.6 months versus 3.2 months.

The study found no adverse side effects and the therapy was described by the researchers as "non-toxic." This significantly contrasts with many cancer treatments, which are often highly toxic.

Breast cancer patients have improved quality of life

A year earlier the same researchers at the same institution conducted another study on mistletoe extract with 95 breast cancer patients.

The patients were divided into three groups. All three groups were treated with chemotherapy. One group of 34 patients was also treated with a fresh mistletoe extract (water extract), through injections that started at 3 milligrams and increased to 50 milligrams. The patients were trained to inject themselves with the herbal medication.

The third group underwent additional treatment with another mistletoe formulation called Iscador M. This was not included with the study findings. More on Iscador M below.

The researchers found that the breast cancer patients taking the mistletoe extract in addition to the chemotherapy had significantly higher quality of life scores compared to the control group.

Lectins active compounds

Research has thus far concentrated on the lectins within mistletoe as being the primary active compounds. Research has found four different lectins within mistletoe - ML-1, ML-2, ML-3 and ML-4. These have been tested variously with cancer cells and in general, and have been found to stimulate the immune system variously.

One study, for example, found that when ML-1 is reduced from the mix, mistletoe's ability to boost immunity was depressed.

Iscador M tested extensively

The mistletoe plant medicine that has undergone the most extensive testing is Iscador M. This is a mistletoe extract that has undergone fermentation with Lactobacillus plantarum - a probiotic used to make Kimchi, Sauerkraut and other fermented foods.

This product has been tested in the lab, among animals and humans over the past two decades, with some good effects. Life extension in certain cancer cases has been found. Iscador also has been found to boost the immune system significantly as well, resulting decreases in pain and increased well being.

In some animal studies, tumor size has been decreased by Iscador. Early studies from Germany tested Iscador in human lung and breast cancer cases. These found reduction in tumor sizes and extended survival times among Iscador treated patients.

For example, in one study of 25 patients with ovary cancers, and compared to 22 patients receiving chemotherapy. The study found that Iscador group had an average survival period of over 16 months, while the the conventional group had a 5.2 month survival period.

Among those patients in stage 3 ovary cancer, the Iscador group had more than four times the survival times than the conventional group.

Mistletoe as a primary cancer treatment?

Outside of the animal studies, practically every study going back fifty years on mistletoe has tested it alongside chemotheraphy as an adjuvant therapy. Is it time for Iscador as a primary treatment?

I have reached out to Dr. Tröger for a comment on this question. With this long of a history of extending life and reducing tumors, there must be enough evidence to draw conclusions.

The issue that comes up for researchers is the fact that it would be irresponsible to test cancer patients with a new alternative cancer treatment alone. This barrier has in fact presented the single largest issue preventing researchers from confirming many alternative treatments for cancer.

The problem is that mistletoe extracts have shown success in study after study - but not consistently across different cancer types.

My cursory review of the research finds that mistletoe extracts have shown anticancer effects against Lewis lung cancer, colon adenocarcinoma, lung and bronchial cancers, breast cancer, ovary cancer, pancreatic cancer and melanoma, with varying degrees of efficacy. Multiple mistletoe studies have found it significantly boosts natural killer cell function - which are important anticancer elements of our immune system.

While mistletoe is being used on an ongoing basis in many cancer treatments today, the bottom line is that most cancer patients will probably need to urge their doctor or cancer specialist in order to have it included in their cancer treatment.


Tröger W, Galun D, Reif M, Schumann A, Stanković N, Milićević M. Viscum album [L.] extract therapy in patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer: a randomised clinical trial on overall survival. Eur J Cancer. 2013 Dec;49(18):3788-97. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2013.06.043.

Tröger W, Zdrale Z, Tišma N, Matijašević M. Additional Therapy with a Mistletoe Product during Adjuvant Chemotherapy of Breast Cancer Patients Improves Quality of Life: An Open Randomized Clinical Pilot Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:430518. doi: 10.1155/2014/430518.

Braedel-Ruoff S. Immunomodulatory effects of Viscum album extracts on natural killer cells: review of clinical trials. Forsch Komplementmed. 2010 Apr;17(2):63-73. doi: 10.1159/000288702.

Khwaja TA, Dias CB, Pentecost S. Recent studies on the anticancer activities of mistletoe (Viscum album) and its alkaloids. Oncology. 1986;43 Suppl 1:42-50.

Hassauer W, Gutsch J, Burkhardt R. What prospects of success does Iscador therapy offer in advanced ovarian cancer?. Onkologie. 1979 Feb;2(1):28-36.

Mistletoe photo: Vivian Evans

Pine Bark Extract Treats Psoriasis, Hemorrhoids, Hypertension

In a flurry of research on one of the most efficacious natural extracts, three recent clinical studies have shown that the French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol, can treat psoriasis and hemorrhoids, and reduce hypertension.

Garlic Proves to Treat the Common Cold

When we get run down by a cold, it is natural to pine for something that will reduce the duration of the cold. The conventional strategy has been to reach for antihistamines, codeine, internasal corticosteroids and even – laughably something still often mistakenly prescribed – antibiotics.

Pistachios and Almonds Increase Probiotics, Reduce Mortality

Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition has found that consuming almonds and pistacios boosts probiotic colonies within the gut.

Phytoceramides Rejuvenate Skin and Deter Eczema, Dermatitis

Researchers are increasingly finding that internal consumption and topical application of phytoceramides have multiple health-promoting effects upon the skin, including healthier skin hydration and fewer skin infections.

Medicinal Mushrooms Proving to Eradicate Human Papillomavirus

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections can lead to cervical cancer. After some significant clinical research, multiple studies are showing that medicinal mushrooms can treat and eradicate HPV infections.

Antiviral Plant Medicine Mannose-Binding Lectin Deficiency Implicated in Many Diseases

(Healing Naturally) In a recent article, I discussed some of the history regarding the Ebola virus and the fact that contracting Ebola – like many other viruses – requires not simply contact with a symptomatic patient: But an immune system unable to defend itself against the virus.

This lack of defense can come in the form of immunosuppression, but it can also come from a deficient production of mannose-binding lectins, which may well be the result of a poor diet or other stress factors that erodes the immune system.

As investigators have found over the past decade of research on not just viruses, but many other infectious diseases, part of immunosuppression comes in the form of a lack of production of mannose-binding lectins.

Thyme Provides Antiviral Protection against Herpes and Other Viruses

(Healing Naturally) Ebola is only one of many viruses that have been found among animals and transmissible to humans. While Ebola isn't the first outbreak to catch public attention over the past few decades, it also likely won't be the last.

The question lies - what is our long-term strategy to prevent future outbreaks? And how do we protect ourselves from getting a viral infection?