Brahmi is known by two Latin names which seem to be synonymous, although Bacopa monniera, is the more commonly used name in medical articles. There is some confusion though as in India there are two plants known as Brahmi, this one and Centella asiatica. This is because of the ancient Vedic medical texts written in Sanskrit.
Brahmi is known in English as water hyssop, although there are many varieties around the world. It grows in Florida, USA, in wetlands, is native to the Indian subcontinent, so grows in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It also grows in Central America, China and Taiwan.
It has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for around 3000 years for many purposes, mainly for memory enhancement. The entire plant is apparently beneficial. Modern medical research trials have basically substantiated the ancient remedies, and have found it can help Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s sufferers.
It has antioxidant properties which mean that it is an effective reducer of stress and it has anti-aging effects on the brain. In experimental animal and in vitro tests it has also demonstrated that it helps the cognitive processes. Its antioxidant activity also explains why in Ayurvedic medicine it is used to strengthen the immune system, improve vitality and cognitive as well as sexual performance, as it improves circulation of blood and as an antioxidant can help men with erectile dysfunctions. It is also said to increase longevity.
It is also used for skin ailments such as eczema and psoriasis and is used as a diuretic and in the treatment of asthma. Apparently it is a digestive aid too and good for the liver spleen, lungs and kidneys.
In 1998 the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was given jointly to Robert F. Furchgott, Louis J. Ignarro and Ferid Murad for “their discoveries concerning nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system”. Their experiments had been connected with Brahmi or Bacopa monnieri.
In India newborn babies are consecrated with Brahmi, in the hope that it will open up the pathway to the intellect. It is much revered by Indians, and it seems that they have been right about the amazing properties of this plant for 3000 years.It has much the same properties, according to tradition, as the Intellect tree.
Women with a high oestrogen count, those who take the contraceptive pill or have oestrogen replacement therapy should not take any supplements of Brahmi as it can cause temporary loss of hearing.
It is a member of the Scrophulariaceae or figwort family of plants which makes it a relative of mullein and toadflax, among others.