Bacopa is a herb used in Ayurvedic medicine for improving memory and treating a number of ailments. Learn more about its benefits, as well as the side effects by reading this article.
The therapeutic effects of bacopa are largely attributed to the presence of alkaloids and saponins, like brahmine, hersaponin, herpestine, etc.
Bacopa or Bacopa monnieri is a perennial plant with thick and succulent leaves. It mainly grows in the wetlands and shores of Asia, including India. It is also known by the names of water hyssop, brahmi, thyme-leaved gratiola, and coastal water hyssop.
This plant has immense importance in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is used for enhancing memory and treating epilepsy. It is considered a brain and nerve tonic in both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. However, an overuse of this herb can produce some side effects. But before going into the details of bacopa side effects, let’s throw some light on its potential benefits.
Health Benefits of Bacopa
» Bacopa is considered as an adaptogenic and memory-enhancing herb. It is also believed to possess tranquilizing, anti-allergic, and antioxidant properties.
»Traditionally, brahmi is used for the treatment of epilepsy and asthma. It has been observed that this herb can produce a relaxant effect and stabilize the mast cells. This is the reason why it is believed to be effective in treating asthma and allergies.
» Bacopa may help reduce anxiety and stress as well. It can be effective for improving memory, learning, and concentration. Due to its antioxidant properties, this herb can protect the brain cells from the damaging effects of the free radicals. This may prove helpful in checking the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
» Brahmi can have a positive effect on the neurological and cognitive functions, and so, it may prove helpful in disorders like, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. The compound bacoside, present in this herb has been found to improve nerve impulse transmission. Apart from these, this herb is sometimes used for several other conditions, such as bronchitis, irritable bowel syndrome, sexual dysfunction, and fluid retention.
Side Effects of Bacopa
Bacopa has not been reported to cause any serious side effect, when it is used in normal therapeutic doses. In fact, it has been used for this purpose for several hundred years in Ayurvedic medicine. So far, this herb and its extract have been found to be well-tolerated by people. But still, an overdose of brahmi should be avoided, as occasionally, it can produce a few side effects that are discussed below.
So far, one case of liver toxicity has been reported in a woman taking several other Ayurvedic herbs, along with bacopa. This case was reported in the Annals of Hepatology. However, the symptoms resolved once the use of those herbs was discontinued.
Bacopa contains a substance known as hersaponin, which has been found to possess spasmodic properties. This is the reason why, it can help improve the transmission of nerve impulses, as well as the reflexes in the digestive tract. However, hersaponin can produce a few undesirable effects, such as abdominal cramps, nausea, and increased bowel movements. These side effects were observed in a study carried out at the Southern Cross University in 2006.
This side effect was observed in a study conducted in 2001. In addition to increased thirst, dry mouth and increased frequency of urination were are also reported with the use of Bacopa monnieri.
Irregular heartbeat or palpitation is another possible side effect associated with bacopa. Bacopa can slow down the heartbeat, which can become problematic for people already having a slow heart rate. Individuals with an underlying heart problem can be more likely to experience this side effect.
In an animal study, bacopa has been found to decrease fertility in male mice. So, it is suspected that this herb may have negative effects on male fertility.
Other Possible Side Effects
Bacopa may sometimes produce a few other side effects, such as:
✧ Muscle weakness
These side effects are likely to be experienced when bacopa is taken in large doses.
» Bacopa or brahmi can interact with some medications by altering the way they are metabolized and eliminated from the body. So, if you are taking any of the following medication, do not take brahmi without informing your health care provider.
✧ Antidepressants and sedatives
✧ Antipsychotic medications
✧ Thyroid medications
✧ Calcium channel blockers
» The safety of bacopa for pregnant and breastfeeding women has not been properly evaluated. So, it is better to be on the safe side by avoiding this herb during this period.
Herbs and herbal extracts should always be taken with caution, and under the supervision of a physician or health care provider. This is also applicable for the herb, bacopa. Despite having several important benefits, this herb can also cause a few side effects. To avoid the undesirable effects of bacopa, it needs to be used judiciously and in moderation, as per the direction given by your health care provider.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.