Here, we take a look at Brahmi, its Ayurvedic uses, benefits, and side effects. We also take a look at its Ayurvedic applications, appropriate dosages, and compare it with a similar herb known as gotu kola.
Brahmi, also known botanically as Bacopa monnieri, is a very well-known Ayurvedic herb used to improve memory, concentration, and intelligence.
Brahmi is a Sanskrit word derived from the words brahma or brahman. According to Hindu mythology, brahma is the creator of the universe.
It is said that lord brahma is responsible for all creative forces in the world.
The word brahman in Hinduism connotes the highest universal principle (also called the ultimate reality). Brahmi literally means the energy/wisdom of Brahma.1
Indian pennywort, thyme-leafed gratiola, water hyssop, or herb of grace are some of the other common names for brahmi.
Brahmi has been used for centuries in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. Either by itself or with a combination of other herbs, brahmi has long been an important medicine in Ayurveda.
In renowned Ayurvedic medical texts like the Dravyaguna Vijnana (herbal pharmacology), brahmi has been categorized under medhya herbs.
Medhya herbs are used in Ayurveda as nootropics i.e. cognition enhancers to improve memory, intelligence, and other neurological functions.
In Ayurveda, brahmi has been described to have a wide variety of uses and benefits.
Brahmi has also been extensively mentioned in the Ayurvedic medical text Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita. A few examples from these classical textbooks have been mentioned here.
Brahmi has been categorized under balya maha kashyaya, sangya sathapana maha kashyaya and praja sathapana maha kashayaya by renowned Ayurvedic scholars Charaka.
Balya maha kashyaya is a group of herbs that provide strength and immunity.2
Sangya sathappan maha kashayaya is a group of herbs that help in preventing unconsciousness i.e. improving alertness and influencing the quality of consciousness.3
Praja sathapana maha kashaya is a group of herbs that are helpful in stabilizing pregnancy.4
Brahmi is used in a wide variety of Ayurvedic formulations. Brahmi ghrita, brahmi taila(oil), and brahmi churna(powder) are some of the commonly available preparations.
The freshly extracted juice of brahmi is also used. Brahmi is also available as capsules and syrups. In Ayurveda, brahmi has been described to have a wide variety of uses and benefits.
Some other important Ayurvedic formulations containing brahmi are saraswat arishta, saraswata churna,and smriti sagar rasa.
Brahmi is not only a part of Ayurvedic formulations but it is also used in a variety of food products.
There are various commonly available food products (depending on your location) including beverages and health drinks that contain brahmi as an ingredient.
Some beverages even have brahmi as the primary ingredient, while some have it mixed with fruits and other ingredients.
Besides these, brahmi granules are also available which can be taken after mixing with milk. Brahmi granules are available in various flavored forms as well.
Brahmi is also used as an ingredient in custard powders, health foods, jellies, biscuits, nutrition bars, and cereals.
Gotu kola, another herb from popular Ayurvedic texts is also known as mandukaparni. Interestingly, it is mistakenly considered to be brahmi in the norther regions of India.
Many herbalists often mislabel gotu kola as brahmi but the plants are totally different. Gotu kola is Centella asiatica whereas brahmi is Bacopa monnieri.
The comparative phytochemistry, pharmacology and therapeutic properties of these two herbs are also distinct.
The Ayurvedic Formulary of India has also clarified that brahmi is Bacopa monnieri and gotu kola or mandukaparni is Centella asiatic. Classical Ayurvedic textbooks have also mentioned them as separate herbs.
However, just like brahmi, gotu kola is also categorized under the medhya (nootropic) category of herbs.
Gotu kola is mistakenly known as brahmi in some regions of the country because the literal meaning of brahmi in Hindi/Sanskrit is anything that increases intelligence, memory, and general cognition.
The reason these herbs are confused with each other is probably that both are used as nootropics (cognition enhancers).
Bacopa monnieri is a small, soft, perennial, creeping and non-aromatic herb.
It has numerous branches which particularly grow in wetlands and marshy places.
The plant can generally grow up to 6 inches in height.
However, it can grow up to 3 feet in height. Branches creep horizontally and cover the ground.
The leaves are small, oblong, and green in color. The leaves are coin-shaped and grow in a cluster of two to three. The leaves are placed alternatively on the hairy stem. The leaves are succulent in nature and are 4-6 mm thick.
The flowers are small and actinomorphic. Flowers are light pink or bluish-white or light purple in color. Flowers contain 4-5 petals. Flowers grow in summer season and later on fruit grows.
In India and other tropical countries, it grows naturally in wet soil, shallow water, and marshes. It grows naturally around wells, rivers, and ponds where water is regularly available.
Brahmi is also found as a weed in rice fields.
The herb can be found at elevations from sea level to altitudes of approximately 4000 feet.
It is also called the water aquarium plant because it grows in water. The propagation of plants is often achieved through cuttings.
Brahmi is an indigenous plant which is found throughout the country in the damp and marshy areas of tropical regions.
Brahmi is also found in India’s neighboring countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam. It is also found in US states like Florida, Hawaii, and some other southern states where it can grow in damp conditions (by a pond or bog garden).
Brahmi can be grown hydroponically. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. Here, plants are grown using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent.
This is one of the benefits of brahmi, you can grow it yourself!
Sanskrit Synonyms Of Brahmi With Meanings
Aindari: It is called aindari because it gives the body energy and power. It is also called aindari because it grows in 'watery land'.5
Rasa or Taste: Tikta or bitter.
Guna or Qualities: Laghu or light.
Viryaor Potency: Ushna or hot.
Vipakaor Taste Conversion After Digestion: Katu or pungent.
Prabhava or Special Effect: The prabhavaof brahmi is medhya (cognition enhancement)
Effect on Dosha: Bacopa monnieri is Kapha dosha shamak and Vata dosha shamak. It pacifies excessive Kapha and Vata dosha because of its ushna virya or hot potency.
Parts Used: Panchanga or the whole plant.7
Dosage: Swarasa or freshly extracted juice- 10-20 ml.7
Next, we’ll discuss the various Ayurvedic uses and benefits of brahmi.
Various phytochemical studies have shown that the main chemical constituents of brahmi are alkaloids brahmine, herpestine, nicotine, saponin, monierin, hersaponin.
Bacosides A1, A2, A3, and B, bacogenins A1 to A4, steroids triterpene, and bacosine. Apart from the Bacopa saponins A–F, three new triterpenoid glycosides, Bacopasides III–V have also been shown.8
Saponins are the main active constituents of extract of brahmi and are responsible for most of its pharmacological actions.9
The active ingredients of extract of Bacopa monnieri are enlisted below in table.9
|Saponins||Bacoside A, bacoside B, bacopasaponins, D-mannitol, acid A, monnierin|
|Alkaloids||Brahmine, herpestine, hydrocotyline|
|Phytochemicals||Betulinic acid, betulic acid, wogonin, oroxindin, stigmastarol, β-sitosterol|
|Other constituents||Brahmic acid, brahamoside, brahminoside, isobrahmic acid|
|Component||Amount (per 100 gram)|
|Crude fiber||1.05 gram|
|Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)||63 mg|
|Nicotinic acid||0.3 mg|
In general, brahmi is well tolerated by most individuals. While brahmi has its own uses and benefits, the most common side effect seen in some people is gastrointestinal distress. The main symptoms of gastrointestinal distress including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
If you want to take brahmifor its above-mentioned benefits, consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner or general physician first.
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