This is a famous quote about Brahmi by Acharya Vagbhatta (a pioneer in Ayurveda who wrote Astangahrudayam). Vagbhatta calls Brahmi as ‘smrithikara’ – a memory enhancer and Brahmi is best known as a memory booster and intellect enhancer. Brahmi is in Ayurvedic science for centuries and now with more acceptance towards alternative medicine, Brahmi as a supplement is gaining importance. Besides a brain tonic, it also has other health benefits, and let’s go into detail regarding the same.
TAMIL: Neera Brahmi
KANNADA: Jala Brahmi
ENGLISH: Water hyssop, Indian pennywort, Herb of Grace, Thymaleafed Gratiola
The Drug Brahmi in Ayurveda
The term ‘Brahmi’ as per Hindu mythology refers to the ‘shakti of Brahma'(the Creator) who is the goddess Saraswati (the Goddess of knowledge) pointing towards the importance of this drug in the cognitive function of the brain. Because of this property, this herb is given a divine position and is cared for with utmost importance.
Kerala is best known for its Ayurvedic tradition. It is very common in Kerala households to grow Brahmi and also there is a practice of giving Brahmi (juice or ghee) for school-going children so as to improve their intellect.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, CHEMICAL COMPOSITION:
Brahmi/Bacopa monnieri / Water hyssop is a perennial creeping herb that is seen growing mostly in marshy areas throughout India. This herb is non-aromatic with small white flowers. The leaves of the plant are succulents, i.e. Stores water with about 4-6 mm thickness which are arranged opposite around the stem. The herb can be easily propagated by stem cuttings. It can also be grown in water.
Bacosides A & B, Bacosaponine, brahmin, Betulinic acid, belonging to various chemical classes are the bioactive components of Brahmi. Each of these chemicals has its role in neuroprotection. Hence Brahmi belongs to the class of nootropic drugs.
PROPERTIES OF BRAHMI ACCORDING TO AYURVEDA
Brahmi belongs to following classes of herbs according to Ayurveda:
Prajastapana: groups of herbs that help with pregnancy-related issues.
Balya: that promotes strength and improves immunity
Medhya: brain tonic & memory booster.
Apart from these, Ayurveda explains the following properties of Brahmi:
1.RASA (taste): Tikta (bitter) & Kashaya ( astringent)
2.GUNA (quality): Laghu (easy to digest)
3.VEERYA (potency): Sheeta (cold)
4.VIPAKA (conversion after digestion): Madhura – taste gets converted to sweet after digestion
5.KARMA (action):balances vata &pitta dosha and rakta dhatu.
6.PRABHAVA ( special action): Medhya – brain tonic
Therapeutic Benefits of Brahmi as explained in Ayurveda:
1.Sophahara – Anti- inflammatory
2.Panduhara- Alleviates anemia
3.Jvarahara- Treats fever
4.Kustahara- Cures skin diseases
5.Kandugna – Relieves itching
6.Unmada vinashini- helps in psychiatric disorders
7.Deepani – improves digestion
8.Pleeha – useful in spleen disorders
9.Vayastapani & Ayushya – Improves the quality of life and promotes longevity
10.Medhya – improves intellect
11.Vak, Swarya – Improves speech and quality of voice
12.Hrdhya – Cardiac tonic
13.Svasahara- useful in respiratory disorders
14.Kasahara – relieves cough and cold
15.Meha – useful in diabetes
16.Vishahara – helps in detoxification
These are the properties explained as in Ayurveda and the herb is thus helpful in all the above conditions. Among all the properties, Brahmi is famous for its memory boosting, stress buster, and cognitive properties.
Supporting research is going to prove the above properties of Brahmi and hence there is less information available regarding its scientific relevance. With the available information, let’s look deep into the benefits and actions of Brahmi:
1. POWERFUL ANTIOXIDANT
Brahmi is loaded with compounds like bacosides which have powerful antioxidant properties. Various studies have found that major chronic disorders like heart diseases, kidney problems, diabetes, cancers, digestive issues, etc. are caused by free radicals. The antioxidants in Brahmi react with these free radicals and neutralize them and hence preventing the cells from undergoing further oxidation and doing damage control.
2. REDUCES INFLAMMATION
Inflammations are our body’s fighting mechanism for diseases and infections. However chronic diseases in our body – diabetes, cancers, CKD, and heart diseases can lead to chronic inflammation in our body as well which in turn can lead to pain and other disturbances.
There are molecules called cytokines that are released in the body prior to inflammation. Brahmi has a property that suppresses the release of these molecules and inflammation can be prevented as well as brahmi inhibits the release of certain enzymes that causes inflammation. Thus, Brahmi stimulates inflammatory immunity in our body.
The anti-inflammatory property in Brahmi is similar to the property of diclofenac and indomethacin (NSAIDs) – studies in animals proved it.
3. IMPROVES BRAIN FUNCTION
Brahmi is a brain tonic and can be used by all age groups and genders. Brahmi supplements every day is closely linked to increased brain function. Studies are going on to prove its scientific relevance. Brahmi in children is seen to be improving their spatial learning and ability to retain information. In adult groups, it has proved to improve their visual proceeding information, learning rate and memory. In older people, it improved their memory and attention. So overall Brahmi supplement can boost memory, concentration, and processing of information.
4. REDUCED ADHD SYMPTOMS
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness among other behavioral patterns. Studies using Brahmi on ADHD children found that Brahmi significantly reduced symptoms such as restlessness, impulsivity, inattention, and poor self-control. Brahmi has a coolant action and this action helps in reducing symptoms.
5. IMPROVES ANXIETY AND STRESS
Anxiety and stress get triggered by a number of reasons and can reduce the quality of everyday living. Brahmi is an adaptogen, i.e., creates more resistance to stress. Brahmi hence reduces stress by elevating our mood and reduces the level of cortisol – a hormone that induces stress. Studies have shown that Brahmi every day has significantly reduced stress, anxiety, and depression levels in adults. The anti-anxiety property of Brahmi is similar to that of lorazepam- a medicine used to treat anxiety.
6. REDUCES BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease. Brahmi releases nitric oxide which in turn dilates the blood vessels and thus lowering the blood pressure in people with hypertension
7. ANTI- CANCEROUS PROPERTIES
Studies are going on towards this action of Brahmi. However, it has found results in test tube studies and in animals. Human studies are yet to be conducted. The high number of antioxidants and compounds like bacosides in Brahmi is responsible for its anti-cancer properties.
8. IMPROVES IMMUNITY
Regular intake of Brahmi can boost your immunity. The antioxidants in Brahmi help in improving the body’s immune system.
9. RELIEF FROM ARTHRITIS
The anti-inflammatory properties of Brahmi help in reducing the symptoms of inflammatory conditions of arthritis , gout, etc.
10. BENEFITS ON SKIN
Antioxidants and anti-aging property of Brahmi help in retaining the youthfulness of the skin and enhances its natural glow. It also helps in cell regeneration and reduces pigmentation. Acne, dryness, and skin allergies can also be managed with Brahmi with its anti-inflammatory actions.
BENEFITS ON HAIR
Brahmi is an excellent drug that promotes hair growth. It also prevents dry scalp and hair fall. Also promotes the quality of hair strands by curing problems like split ends and dandruff.
Promotes good quality sleep with its coolant action- thus reducing stress and hyperactivity
IMPROVES LIVER AND KIDNEY FUNCTION
Helps in the natural detoxification of the liver and kidney and promotes liver and kidney functions
BRAHMI- PARTS USED, DOSAGE & TIME OF INTAKE
Parts used – whole plant (can be used as freshly prepared decoctions or powder prepared by drying the plant)
1. Adult Dose:
a) Decoction – 10-20ml per day
b) Powder – 2-3 g in divided doses per day
*Not directly administered in children below the age of 5 years
*Usually taken after treating with ghee
*For children above 5 years:
Decoction – 5-10ml per day
Powder – 1-2 g per day
Anyways Brahmi is not recommended in pregnancy for a long period. Go for short periods of 3-4 weeks.
Time of Intake:
*Depends upon the condition for which the herb is administered
*People with sleep disturbances, it is advised to take it at night before sleep.
*If the herb is advised for concentration or memory boosting – have an early morning.
DIET TO FOLLOW
As such, there are no such diet restrictions with Brahmi, anyway try to avoid junk foods and food that are heavier for digestion for better results.
SIDE EFFECTS OF BRAHMI
Always try to take medicine with the advice of a doctor. Even though serious side effects of brahmin are not noticed, it is better avoided in:
1. Bradycardia – people with low heart rates
2. People with sensitive stomachs or ulcers- since it is digestive, this can increase the symptoms in these people.
Common side effects noticed with Brahmi:
Common Classical Ayurvedic Preparations that Contain Brahmi:
Brahmi & Gotukola
Brahmi/ Bacopa monnieri is often mistaken for other herbs Gotukola / Centella Asiatica is also called as Brahmi by some texts. These 2 herbs are useful in disorders of the central nervous system but they are totally different. Ayurveda calls Gotukola as Mandukaparni. It says both mandukaparni and brahmiare similar in properties except for Brahmi is found to cause a mild increase in pitta dosha than Mandukaparni.