One herb that has been particularly useful to me lately is brahmi (Bacopa monnieri). As I have been studying hard this semester in my herbal medicine studies, I have found it useful to take brahmi for it’s ability to enhance the memory and brain function.
Bacopa monnieri – Brahmi
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), not to be confused with Centella asiatica (which also goes by the common name of brahmi, also known as gotu kola, and also has brain-enhancing functions), is a small creeping plant with small white flowers. Brahmi has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 3000 years.
Uses of brahmi
Various studies have proved that brahmi is effective for retaining newly-learnt information, so I have taken to the habit of drinking a cup of brahmi tea each day to prevent myself forgetting the mass of herbal medicine information I’m learning. While studies state that brahmi may need to be taken for several months before any benefits are noticed, I have already noticed that my memory is clearer since I started taking brahmi about a month ago.
Other functions of brahmi may include:
- boosting the immune system and boosting production of white blood cells
- relieving anxiety, insomnia and irritability
- treating asthma and improving lung function, relieving bronchial inflammation
- preventing epileptic seizures
- preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease.
How to grow brahmi
I bought a brahmi seedling nearly a year ago, and planted it in a styrofoam box (I love planting herbs in styrofoam boxes, particularly creeping herbs like brahmi, mint, Roman chamomile, etc). It has now overtaken the styrofoam box and is starting to creep out, so I am enjoying an abundance of this herb right now!
You can grow brahmi from seed or cuttings, but apparently it is easier to grow from cuttings. To grow from a cutting, you’ll need to clip a brahmi stem with leaves, and place the bottom of the stem in water. Change the water daily, and in about a week you’ll see some roots start to grow.
Brahmi loves water, and it’s roots do not go deep, so be sure to keep it well watered. If you live in a hot climate, your brahmi plant will probably do better in a shady position, but in cooler climates it will grow well in full sun. It is not frost tolerant so if your winters are rather cold, consider planting brahmi in a pot that you can move to a warmer spot for the colder months.
How to harvest brahmi
I often use the fresh sprigs of brahmi in salads, sandwiches, or as a garnish. Regularly “grazing” the plant will encourage more growth. And you can eat the flowers too ;)
I believe fresh is best, but if you cannot get fresh brahmi, dried brahmi is also beneficial – it’s also a great way to store brahmi if your plant is growing in abundance like mine! To dry brahmi, you can spread it evenly in a dehydrator until thoroughly dried, or hang in bunches in a dry area.
How to take brahmi
Unfortunately, brahmi is not pleasant tasting. In Western society, we have lost the appreciation of bitter tastes, so let me assure you while brahmi might taste unbearably disgusting at first, if you take it every day for several months you will start to enjoy the bitter flavour. So with that said, here are my favourite ways to take brahmi:
- Tea. Bring 500ml water to the boil, remove from the heat and add 2 tsp dried brahmi or 2 tbsp chopped fresh brahmi. I always add other herbs to lessen the bitterness – rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is another favourite herb for strengthening memory, and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a delicious, calming herb. Add the same quantities as brahmi. I often make a tea with all 3 of these herbs for a pleasant tasting morning brew to “switch on” my brain. Or, you can sweeten brahmi tea with some stevia leaves.
- Salads. I like to add a handful of brahmi sprigs to salads, or just 3-4 sprigs to salad sandwiches. Tuck it in among other tasty salad ingredients and the other flavours will usually overpower the bitterness of the brahmi.
- Capsules. If you really want the benefits of brahmi but can’t stomach the taste, capsules are also effective. Be aware when purchasing capsules that you are buying Bacopa monnieri as many brahmi capsules on the market are derived from Centella asiatica or other herbs.
- Pesto. I’ve made a delicious brahmi pesto which disguised the bitter taste completely. Find the recipe here.
No adverse effects have been recorded. However, like any herbal medication, you should consult with your doctor or a qualified herbalist before taking brahmi, particularly if you have pre-existing conditions or are taking other medication.
Roodenrys, S., Booth, D., Bulzomi, S., Phipps, A., Micallef, C., & Smoker, J. (2002). Chronic effects of Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) on human memory.Neuropsychopharmacology, 27(2), 279-281.
(2003). How Can I Use Herbs In My Daily Life?. (6th ed.). Australia: David Stewart.
If you’ve used brahmi before, I’d love to hear about your experience – please leave a comment below!
This post is shared at Healthy Vegan Fridays.