Have you started to notice that your memory is not as sharp as it once was? Has the stress of the modern world put blips in your brain? Do you feel like you need a foghorn to clear your mind? The good news is, you’re not alone and there’s an Ayurvedic herb that can help. In fact, improving brain function, memory and mental processing is something that the beautiful little green plant named Brahmi has been doing for thousands of years.
The name, Brahmi, is derived from Brahma, the Vedic god of creation. In Indian mythology, Brahma created the entire universe with his thoughts while in deep meditation. As our thoughts can create both health and disease you can see why a well-functioning mind is so important in Ayurveda. This is where the power of Brahmi comes into play.
Characteristics of Brahmi
Brahmi is a ground-covering, green-leaved, crawling plant with little white flowers. It grows in marshes or in wetlands across India, China, Nepal, and even in Florida and Hawaii. Brahmi does not need good drainage to flourish and can even grow in an aquarium. It can also easily be grown in a pot in your herb garden. My grandmother had Brahmi growing in our ancestral home in India, and she would pick the greens and add them to her dishes.
Brahmi is also known as Bacopa monnieri and sometimes you’ll see it labeled solely by this name. Gotu kola is another Ayurvedic herb that is also very good for the brain and nervous system. It has many of the same characteristics as Brahmi, but they are two separate herbs. Brahmi and gotu kola can be taken together but since they’re so similar I use one or the other, with Brahmi being my favorite of the two.
Brahmi’s Primary Uses and Health Benefits
- Helps improve memory and attention
- Supports brain and nervous system function
- Increases creativity
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Supports immune health
- Helps maintain healthy blood pressure
- Supports a healthy inflammatory response
- Supports respiratory health
Brahmi is one of the greatest Ayurvedic herbs for enhancing brain function. It’s also used for a variety of neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ADHD and epilepsy. Brahmi is often given to school age children to help promote focus and intelligence in the developing brain—a recommendation I followed with my son.
One of the amazing uses of Brahmi is in the management of addictions, such as alcohol and sugar. Brahmi’s ability to treat both Parkinson’s disease and addictions comes from its capacity to regulate and normalize dopamine secretion in the brain.
Brahmi is packed with antioxidants and contains several biochemical compounds that enhance the function of neurotransmitters in the brain. Its medicinal benefits have been researched through multiple clinical trials in India, Europe and America.
Brahmi is tridoshic, which means it supports all three doshas (mind-body types): Vata (space/air), Pitta (fire/water) and Kapha (water/earth) that are responsible for our physical, mental and spiritual balance. This makes Brahmi one of the best herbs for everyone to take.
How To Take Brahmi
You can purchase Brahmi in the following forms:
A typical starting dose as a supplement is 500 mg twice a day after meals and if needed, slowly work up to 2 grams per day. If you’re working with a health care practitioner for a specific condition, they might start you at a higher dose.
Brahmi is a cooling herb so it can dampen an already weak digestive system if taken alone. Adding digestive herbs like ginger or cardamom help to balance its cooling effect on your gut.
Most people tolerate Brahmi very well and there are no clear contradictions or drug-related interactions. But I recommend working with a health care practitioner when you are taking prescription medications that target the brain since Brahmi also impacts neurochemistry.
Some people can experience GI discomfort, such as nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Typically, these symptoms occur if you start with too high of a dose, or if your digestive system is weak. When I first started taking Brahmi, in my enthusiasm for its benefits, I began with too high of a dose and experienced some nausea. I then reduced my dose and then slowly titrated it back up with no problems.
My Favorite Ayurvedic Herbal Cocktail
My personal preference is taking Brahmi as a powder in warm water combined with ashwagandha powder and shankhpushpi powder with a hint of ghee. The combination of these three powders is a common Ayurvedic herbal cocktail for protecting and restoring the mind from stress and fatigue. I’ve found this combination to be particularly beneficial for women who are in perimenopause, a time of tremendous physical and mental fluctuation due to unpredictable hormonal shifts.
- 1/2 tsp Brahmi powder
- 1/2 tsp Ashwagandha powder
- 1/2 tsp Shankhpushpi powder
- 1/3 cup hot water
- 1/4 tsp ghee (which will melt once added to the hot water)
Mix well and drink. It may not taste all that great, but the health benefits are definitely worth plugging your nose for.
I drink this herbal cocktail daily after lunch and dinner. It helps prevent the onset of future memory problems, plus it enhances my current mental agility and balances my hormones.
Seeds of Wisdom
Our memory and cognitive health are not often valued until they begin to decline later in life. As a neurologist, I had a very early appreciation for the importance of preserving brain health. That’s why I proactively included Brahmi in my personal herbal regimen as a young adult. Brahmi helped me maximize my current intellectual capacity as well as protect against future decline. It’s also why I started my son on Brahmi as a child so that his developing mind was supported in becoming calm, creative and focused in a world filled with constant mental distractions. Often when we plan for our future, we invest a certain amount of our income towards our financial retirement. Investing into our cognitive health, so that we can enjoy the fruits of our labor with an active and alert mind, is an equally important investment we must make today.