As the population grows older and baby boomers enter retirement age and beyond, the issue of preserving memory becomes increasingly relevant. What can we do to keep our cognitive abilities sharp, to protect our brains’ cells from aging’s toll?
While there are some famous natural options for boosting memory, such as ginkgo biloba, a new study investigated one that most people are quite unfamiliar with. Its name is “Bacopa monnieri.” And you just might want to write that down, or save this story someplace, because Bacopa might represent a new wave of promise for enhancing and preserving memory.
A new study sought answers to see if Bacopa was effective in improving memory performance in healthy older adults. It was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, all signs of a good-quality trial.
It took place in Australia between February and July 2005. In it, 98 healthy participants over 55 years of age were recruited from the general population. Participants either received an extract of Bacopa monnieri called “BacoMindTM” at 300 mg a day, or an identical placebo. Researchers performed brain tests and memory assessments at the beginning and at 12 weeks.
Here is what the study found: Bacopa significantly improved verbal learning, memory acquisition, and delayed recall. The supplement also improved three other signs of cognitive performance, but not to significant enough levels. Side effects of note were only mild gastrointestinal frustrations such as increased stool frequency, abdominal cramps, and nausea.
The researchers concluded that Bacopa significantly improved memory acquisition and retention in healthy older Australians. This finding is in line with other past studies that found Bacopa helpful for memory, and supports traditional healers who use the herb for this purpose.
In traditional medicine, especially in India, Bacopa is referred to as a “brain tonic.” In the wild, it is a creeping plant found throughout India, mostly in damp marshes. Here in the U.S., it is seen mostly in fish aquariums, as a popular water plant. In India’s Ayurvedic medicine, Bacopa has been written about and used for 3,000 years. Stories exist that talk of a special tea brewed with parts of a plant growing along the River Ganges that helped give people tremendous memories. Today, it lives on in that same vein.