Feb 22 , 2018
The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs
By Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa and Michael Tierra
“In India, Gotu Kola is often used interchangeably with another similar herb, Bacopa. Both are called Brahmi. These two plants are not very well distinguished in the old Ayurvedic texts. There is some discussion about how interchangeable they really are. But a careful look at the texts pretty clearly indicates that two different plants are being discussed.
“Gotu Kola is a sweeter, slightly heavier plant, with more tonic qualities. Bacopa is a colder, bitterer plant, with slightly more detoxifying qualities. Both target the brain and nerves. Baba Hari Dass differentiates Gotu Kola as the ‘weaker brahmi’ and Bacopa as the ‘stronger brahmi.’ Charaka recognizes both as being supporters of mental faculties, but maintains that Bacopa has a more specific role in treating mental diseases (insanity, anxiety, depression, epilepsy), while Gotu Kola advances mental function through a more general rasayana effect. [Rasayana is the science of lengthening the lifespan].
“Bacopa has been a part of traditional Ayurvedic medicine since at least the sixth century A.D. It’s used in Asia for nerve diseases, mental exhaustion, and to improve memory – it’s a powerful brain food. Meditators use it to increase comprehension, concentration and recollection. Because it increases the ability to solve problems effectively, it is often found in Ayurvedic formulas to prevent stress.
“Bacopa is also a nerve tissue builder, nervine tonic, sedative, tonic for the heart, and diuretic. In all, it’s employed in asthma, hoarseness, cough, bronchitis, emotional stress, anxiety, epilepsy, neurasthenia, joint pain, and water retention. The sedative and cardiotonic effects are due to the presence of hersaponin, one of four saponins isolated from the plant. Other active principles contained in the leaves are steroidal saponins, including bacosides. These compounds provide the capability to enhance nerve impulse transmission and thereby strengthen memory and general cognition. Scientific literature is pointing to some good uses for Bacopa in the treatment of cognitive and behavioral disorders. Children with ADHD can receive benefit from Bacopa. It is safe and effective for them.
“Recent research is revealing that Bacopa is a potent antioxidant with powerful free radical scavenging capacity, which may account for many of its effects.”
Adaptogens, Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief
By David Winston and Steven Maimes
“In addition to adaptogens and nervines, there is another category of herbal medicine that is both complementary and especially useful for enhancing emotional and mental well-being and promoting cerebral circulation. These herbs are called nootropics. They are used to enhance memory, slow or prevent the onset of age or Alzheimer’s disease-related cognitive decline, reduce oxidative or ischemic damage to the brain, and improve mood. Researchers are looking carefully at nootropics to find effective and safe remedies to ward off mental decline in our increasingly aging population.
“In addition to being a nootropic, Bacopa also is a nervine, mild anticonvulsive, antispasmodic, and antioxidant. Bacopa recently has been found to mildly stimulate thyroid function.
“Bacopa is used to relieve anxiety, promote memory and focus, and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. It is often used for children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (used with Hawthorn, Milky Oat Seed, and Holy Basil). I frequently use Bacopa for patients recovering from head trauma injuries (used with St. John’s Wort, Ginkgo, and Holy Basil).
“DOSAGE AND SAFETY
Tincture: 30 – 50 drops, three to four times per day.
Tea: 1 tsp dried herb per 8 oz boiling water, steep 40 minutes. Take 4 oz three times per day.
Dosages for children should be smaller and appropriate to size and weight of the child.
Safety Issues: Make sure that the Bacopa used has been organically grown because commercially grown Bacopa can absorb whatever pollutants (especially lead and nitrates) are in the water it grows in.
Herb/Drug Interactions: In animal studies, Bacopa has been shown to reduce hepatotoxicity and neurotoxicity caused by morphine. It also relieves ‘brain fog’ caused by the antiepilepsy drug phenytoin (Dilantin).”
Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism
By Donald R. Yance
“In ayurveda, Bacopa is used as a rasayana (restorative adaptogenic tonic); it has been used for thousands of years in the treatment of debility (particularly mental debility), mental chatter, insomnia, depression, and chronic fatigue and as a brain tonic to enhance memory development, learning, and concentration. It is also used to provide relief to persons suffering from anxiety or epileptic disorders. It is given as a general tonic to slow down the aging process. Bacopa is a secondary adaptogen that provides immense added value for neurological health.
“Bacopa is rich in the steroidal saponins bacoside A and B. Derived from the Bacopa leaf, these saponins modulate stress hormones released from the brain, exerting a neuroendocrine-enhancing and stress-protective effect. Bacopa appears to affect the central nervous system by stimulation of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and cholinergic systems; this has a calming effect on the brain and increases the ability to concentrate and retain information.
“Bacopa, in clinical trials, has been shown to improve learning in children. Bacopa is an excellent tonic herb to include in children’s formulations for attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“Recent research has focused primarily on Bacopa’s cognitive-enhancing effects, specifically memory, learning, and concentration. The results support the traditional ayurvedic claims. Research on anxiety, epilepsy, bronchitis and asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, and gastric ulcers also supports ayurveda’s use of Bacopa. Bacopa’s antioxidant properties may offer protection from free-radical damage in cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
“Traditionally, Bacopa has been used specifically to improve memory, focus, memory retention, and intelligence. In ayurvedic medicine, it is considered the most powerful brain tonic medicine. This plant has also been given as a cardiac tonic, a digestive aid, and to improve respiratory function in cases of bronchial constriction.
“Modern research has found Bacopa extract to possess significant antioxidative activity. It has also been shown to inhibit lipid peroxidation. Bacopa has a healing effect on the gastrointestinal tract. It has been shown to have significant antiulcerogenic activity and to increase mucin secretion while decreasing cell shedding, with no effect on cell proliferation. [Mucin is found in gastric juice and protects internal surfaces of the body]. The gastric, prophylactic, and curative effects of Bacopa may be due mainly to its effects on mucosal defensive factors.
“Standardized extract of Bacopa has significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and anxiolytic activity, and it improves memory retention in cases of Alzheimer’s disease. Bacopa is a revered medicinal plant of the traditional Indian system of medicine, effective against cognitive impairment in aging and senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. The bacosides in this plant possess immense potential as neuroprotective agents because of their pleiotropic [producing more than one effect] action in preventing aging complications and progression of senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.
“Neurodegenerative Parkinson’s disease is associated with aggregation of alpha-synuclein proteins and selective death of dopaminergic neurons, thereby leading to cognitive and motor impairment. The disease has no complete cure yet; the current therapeutic strategies involve prescription of dopamine agonist drugs that eventually become ineffective after prolonged use. Studies show that Bacopa reduces alpha-synuclein aggregation, prevents dopaminergic neurodegeneration, and restores the lipid content in nematodes, thereby suggesting its potential as a possible anti-Parkinson’s agent.
“Bacopa possesses strong antidepressant as well as significant anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, comparable to the effect of morphine. Bacopa has also been reported to be effective in treating neuropathic pain. Apart from its effect of augmenting morphine analgesia, Bacopa can assist in opioid withdrawal, reducing the associated adverse symptoms. Bacopa also has a strong protective effect against the toxic effects of opiates on major organs such as the brain, kidneys, and heart.”
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