Brahmi: The Brain Protector

Brahmi: The Brain Protector

The Claim

The Ayurvedic herb brahmi, also called waterhyssop or bacopa, is believed to sharpen the brain by protecting cells and increasing chemicals associated with learning and memory. It’s used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, and ADHD, along with fighting stress and improving memory.

The Evidence

Some studies show that taking brahmi improves memory in healthy older adults. One study even showed that the herb boosted both memory and hand-eye coordination in kids between the ages of 6 and 8. Early studies hint that the supplements may ease symptoms of anxiety and even epilepsy, although more research is needed.

For doctors familiar with Ayurvedic medicine, though, the effects take on more Eastern-inspired language. “Traditionally, it has been used to clarify the chakras and the mind,” says Svetlana Kogan, M.D., a family physician in New York City and author of Diet Slave No More. In other words, it will help you feel better and ward off certain diseases. “It’s very useful for people with chronic fatigue syndrome, people with trouble focusing, and attention deficit disorder.” For maximum benefit, Dr. Kogan pairs the herb with lifestyle modifications like yoga and breathing techniques (such as alternative nostril breathing). “Within a month, it’ll be very clear if brahmi is working for the person,” she adds.

How to Use It

Most studies use a dosage of 300 milligrams of brahmi extract per day, and Dr. Kogan scales upward or downward based on the patient’s bodyweight. Still, it’s best to use it only if you’re not already taking prescription meds. “I never use it on people who are on medications, because there’s no research on how brahmi interacts with stimulants,” she says. “It’s possible that it increases the concentration of stimulants in the blood, so as long as the patient’s not taking any pharmaceuticals, I’m willing to try brahmi.”

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