Lately, the attention towards cognitive wellness has declined dramatically and the prevalence of mental health issues has increased exponentially. While many modern-day remedies claim to offer potentially effective treatments for cognitive issues, there is a growing interest in alternative remedies, including Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a traditional science that focuses on the utilization of naturally available ingredients for treating conditions and maintaining overall health and wellness. In this regard, brahmi, an ancient herb, revered in Ayurveda may hold the key to unlocking your cognitive potential. It has been used for centuries to promote mental health, and it is time that we start incorporating it into our regimen to promote cognitive wellness and mastering our mind.
As per Ayurvedic knowledge dating back several years, our body is influenced by three doshas (vital energies), known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha and an imbalance among these can result in the onset of health issues or other complications. As far as mental well-being is concerned, Ayurvedic wisdom suggests that an excess of the Vata dosha in our body could potentially result in the development of neurological disorders9 and neurodegenerative conditions, including poor memory, memory loss, poor blood circulation, and cases of anxiety. In this regard, Ayurveda recommends the use of naturally occurring ingredients to deal with such issues. Brahmi also known as bacopa monnieri, is one such herb that has been used extensively in traditional medicinal preparations to deal with diverse brain-related issues1. Brahmi has been extensively mentioned in the CharakaSamhita, AtharvaVeda, and SushrutaSamhita2.
There are several properties1 associated with the herb such as medhya rasayan. According to the traditional Indian medicine system, medhyarasayanas are natural ingredients that have innate therapeutic properties that sustain and enhance memory, help improve intellectual defects, and boost cognitive ability. (Thus, brahmi could be utilized to enhance memory, pradnyashakti (increases intellectual power), unmadahara (reduces mental illness), majjadhaturasayana (rejuvenation to deal with nervous system disorders). In modern times, the herb is incorporated to potentially enhance memory, and learning, and deal with depression, tension, and other neurological and respiratory problems1 that are discussed below.
How does brahmi help us boost our brain and support cognitive wellness?
Prevention of age-related cognitive decline: Oxidative stress is one of the most critical factors in aging and age-related complications and the brain is particularly susceptible to free radical damage3. The extracts of brahmi are well-recognized for their potential antioxidant activity with numerous modes of action to protect the brain against oxidative damage and subsequent cognitive decline specifically in the elderly. A pilot study4 to assess the impact brahmi has as a memory enhancer and its safety and tolerability in elderly showed a rise in cognitive fitness amongst all participants with no significant adverse effect.
Improving brain health: Brahmi is synonymous with improvement of brain health and is known as medhya rasayan, a herb that has the potential ability to support cognitive function and deal with intellectual deficiencies according to traditional texts. This ability is further supported by some modern-day research studies as well. A 12-week study5 in healthy adults highlighted that taking brahmi daily significantly improved the potential speed of processing visual information, learning rate, and memory.
Learning: One of the primary ways brahmi aids learning is by potentially helping improve memory. Additionally, brahmi's adaptogenic properties may potentially help reduce stress, which can help in creating a more conducive environment for learning. Additionally, Ayurveda is classified as medhyarasayana, which aids rejuvenation intellect and memory. A study6 has also highlighted that using brahmi improved spatial learning and enhanced the ability to retain information.
Memory-related issues: According to Ayurveda, the human body is influenced by three energies or doshas namely, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. However, it is the predominance of “Vata” dosha that generates neurological disorders, symptomized as memory loss7. Therefore, brahmi has been used by Ayurvedic experts for hundreds of years for its potential Vata-balancing properties and potentially dealing with several neurological disorders and memory-related conditions4. Modern-day studies suggest that it is the potential antioxidant properties of brahmi that potentially help deal with memory-related issues. Moreover, brahmi exhibits an antioxidant3 and free radical scavenging action.
Stress- related benefits: Lately, brahmi has been gaining attention for its potential ability to alleviate anxiety. The herb is being considered an adaptogenic herb8, that helps the body adapt to stressors and potentially help prevent stress.Incorporating brahmi into our routine can help provide potential relief from stress and anxiety. The active ingredients of the herb have the potential to influence the body's hormonal balance, including stress-related hormones. Thus, brahmi can potentially offer a sense of calm and relaxation while managing stress and anxiety naturally.9
Other benefits of brahmi in daily life (diverse health benefits)
Ayurveda and modern science attribute several other benefits to brahmi that may have a positive impact on our health and overall wellness. These include9 being useful in the treatment of cardiac issues (potential ability to support healthy blood flow), respiratory disorders (may help reduce inflammation in the throat, and reduce excess phlegm and mucus buildup), anti allergy (methanolic extract of brahmi contains mast cell stabilizer, which may help deal with certain allergic conditions), healthy skin (disinfects the skin andspeeds up the healing process), anti-inflammatory (releases proinflammatory mediators that can potentially reduce swelling and inflammation) etc.
Practical tips on how to include brahmi in daily routine 9,10
Brahmi is a versatile herb and based on individual issue being addressed, it can be consumed in any of the following ways:
Raw leaves: A person can chew on 2-3 raw leaves of brahmi to potentially reduce stress and anxiety, respiratory congestion, etc.
Juice/tea: A person can consume brahmi by mixing it with water and consuming it as juice or brewing it as tea.Brahmi tea and juice can be consumed to get healthy skin, heal wounds, boost respiratory health, improve immunity, diarrhoea,
Brahmi paste: A person can use brahmi by making a paste of the leaves.This paste can be used to deal with inflammation or headaches1 by rubbing on the body.
Tablets, churna and pills: Brahmi can also be consumed in the form of pills and capsules as it is readily available in the market and is easy to consume.
Mindful practices that can complement brahmi's effects
Yoga is a complementary health approach that can help promote cognitive wellness and brain health. Yoga encompasses physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and other principles to balance the mind, body, and spirit. Multiple studies11 and trials have found positive associations between yoga and mental health. Therefore, practicing yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises may potentially help promote brain health.
Furthermore, since vitiation of Vata dosha potentially triggers neurological disorders, it is vital to have a balanced diet12 that doesn't aggravate the vitiated dosha. Therefore, it is recommended to have meals that are Pitta and Kapha pacifying in nature, and moderately sweet, warm and easy to digest. It is also a good idea to avoid cold foods, and indulging in massages with Vata-specific oils like sesame oil.
Brahmi is an ancient herb that has multiple benefits. The herbs have shown great potential in supporting brain health, improving memory, and reducing stress and age-related cognitive issues. Ayurvedic wisdom and modern research have both backed the potential of the herb and recommended its usage for our cognitive wellness. So, if you are on a quest for optimal brain health and cognitive prowess, explore brahmi.