Bacopa monnieri (L.) Wettst., (family: Plantaginaceae), commonly known as brahmi, is regarded as an important herb in Ayurveda and appears to help improve intelligence and memory, and revitalise the sensory organs. The nootropic activity of the plant has been examined by several researchers and alcoholic/hydroalcoholic extracts have been shown to enhance memory or other cognitive functions. Detailed studies were undertaken to examine the chemistry and physiological effects of brahmi to develop a botanical ingredient suitable for food supplements. The ingredient was developed with careful considerations to finer aspects of chemistry that included original work on correction of chemical structures reported in the scientific literature on bacoside A and B, studying geographical variations on the content of these constituents, developing specific harvesting practices and milder extraction processes to retain native chemistry of the plant. This botanical extract (as BacoMind®) was subjected to in vitro and in vivo studies followed by clinical trials to assess efficacy and safety.
Human Clinical Studies
BacoMind was evaluated in two randomised placebo-controlled studies involving elderly subjects to assess its effect on improving cognition. In the first study1, conducted in Australia, 81 healthy participants over 55 years of age (mean age: 65.4 years) received either 300 mg of the ingredient or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. The participants who took BacoMind showed significant improvement in verbal learning, memory acquisition and delayed recall measured by the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT). The ingredient appeared to be effective in enhancing cognitive performance by improving both memory acquisition and retention in healthy elderly individuals. In the second study2, Indian elderly people between the ages of 50 and 75 years (mean age: 65 years) took 450 mg of BacoMind daily for 12 weeks. Neuropsychology tests revealed significantly improved performance in tests associated with attention and verbal memory, and the ingredient was found to be well-tolerated in elderly participants. These studies became part of meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials on the cognitive effects of the Bacopa monnieri extract3.
Bacopa monnieri appears to influence the major neurological pathways involved in memory and cognition: the cholinergic, dopaminergic, and serotoninergic pathways and neuroprotective or antioxidant pathway. BacoMind seemed to inhibit three enzymes in vitro: catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT), prolyl endopeptidase (PEP), and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP). It also seemed to have an antagonistic effect on serotonin 6 and 2A (5-HT6 and 5-HT2A) receptors, known to influence different neurological pathways associated with memory and learning disorders, age-associated memory impairment4.
The short-term safety and tolerability of BacoMind was tested in a phase I human clinical study, with the support of clinical, haematological, biochemical and electrocardiographic parameters5. A sub-chronic oral toxicity study for 90 days in rats did not seem to reveal any evidence of toxicity with respect to clinical signs, neurological examination, food consumption, body weight gain, haematological and blood biochemistry parameters. A no-observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) of 500 mg/kg of body weight was established in rats6. BacoMind was also tested by standard genotoxicity tests as per OECD guidelines7.
The active constituents of B. monnieri are bacoside A and B. Phytochemical investigations8,9 conducted on BacoMind helped bring clarity to the constitution of bacoside A, the major bioactive saponin mixture of the plant. These studies also showed that identity of bacoside B is still not clear, therefore, claims on its presence in supplements should be avoided10.
Deepark Mundkinajeddu is head of research and development (R&D) at Natural Remedies Private Ltd. His major research interests include phytochemical characterisation, bioactivity profiling and the scientific substantiation of botanicals used in food supplements and traditional medicines. His other interests include intellectual property rights and global regulatory issues pertinent to botanicals. Mundkinajeddu’s team has contributed phytochemical reference standards from Indian medicinal plants to pharmacopoeia, research institutes and the herbal industry worldwide.
- Morgan A, Stevens J (2010); Does Bacopa monnieri improve memory performance in older persons? results of randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind trial. The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, 16(7): 753-759.
- Barbhaiya et al (2008); Efficacy and tolerability of BacoMind on memory improvement in elderly participants-A double blind placebo controlled study. Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology, 3(6): 425-434.
- Kongkeaw et al (2014); Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on cognitive effects of Bacopa monnieri extract. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 151(1): 528-35.
- Usha et al (2008); BacoMind™: A cognitive enhancer in children requiring individual education programme. Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology, 3(4), 302-310
- Dethe et al (2016); Elucidation of Molecular Mechanism(s) of Cognition Enhancing Activity of Bacomind®: A Standardized Extract of Bacopa monnieri. Pharmacognosy Magazine, 12(Suppl 4): S482-S487.
- Pravina et al (2007); Safety evaluation of BacoMind® in healthy volunteers: a phase I study”, Phytomedicine, 14, 301-308.
- Allan et al (2007); Safety evaluation of a standardized phytochemical composition extracted from Bacopa monnieri in Sprague Dawley rats, Food and Chemical Toxicology, 45, 1928-1937.
- Dipanwita et al. (2008); In vitro safety evaluation and anticlastogenic effect of BacoMind™ on human lymphocytes. Biomedical and Environmental Sciences 21: 7-23.
- Deepak M, Amit A (2004); The need for establishing identities of ‘bacoside A and B’, the major bioactive saponins of Indian medicinal plant Bacopa monnieri. Phytomedicine, 11, 264-268.
- Deepak et al (2005); “Quantitative determination of the major saponin mixture ‘Bacoside A’ in Bacopa monnieri by HPLC, Phytochemical analysis 16, 1: 24-29.
- Deepak M, Amit A, (2013), ‘Bacoside’ B-the need remains for establishing identity. Fitoterapia, 87: 7-10.