Thousands of years ago our ancestors were using herbal remedies to solve their ailments, but in some parts of the world very little has changed. Ancient Indian medicine was part of the Ayurvedic tradition and millions of rural Indians are utilizing the same tools that they have for many generations.
As modern science has pieced together the benefits of these Ayurvedic herbs, the rest of the world is benefiting. One plant called bacopa monnieri is an herb used to improve cognitive capabilities, reduce anxiety, and improve learning. In fact, many children are still using this Ayurvedic herb in small Indian villages to this day.
The benefits of bacopa are manifold and well-researched. Because there are millions of people using the plant for medicinal purposes, the Indian government sponsored and embarked upon a multi-decade research of the plant to understand the dangers and better recognize the beneficial extracts.
Within these studies, the Indian government found that not only is bacopa monnieri a safe substance for improving cognition, but it is a reliable one as well. For centuries children have consumed bacopa plant with ghee (clarified butter) because it is a fat soluble extract. The ancient Ayurvedic masters were intuitive enough to realize that the plant was fat soluble long before modern chemistry and biology!
The term “cognitive enhancement” might seem vague especially for parents who are wary about feeding supplements to their children. There are a few things that happen with bacopa and improved cognition:
#1. Reduced anxiety – everyone who has taken a test knows the feeling of anxiety and fear that can accompany any exam. The irony is, this anxiety is often the reason people struggle with test performance. It isn’t a result of reduced intelligence, but anxiety gets in the way.
Bacopa helps to increase cognitive performance by reducing anxiety so that the user will have less stress around the exam. This naturally leads to higher exam scores (or other markers of cognitive capacity).
#2. Memory enhancement – another aspect of bacopa that can prove effective is memory enhancement. The extract in the bacopa monnieri plant helps to increase a brain chemical called acetylcholine, which is implicated in improved memory formation and learning.
This is one of the main benefits of bacopa monnieri and it’s well studied compared to any other. Nearly every other chemical compound and drug used for memory formation has less research, which is why this is so safe.
Many parents will find it hard to justify giving supplements to children and there is no need to do so for healthy children. However, for some parents who want their children to have the best chance at success in later life, it can be useful to use all tools at their disposal.
Bacopa monnieri is a great way to improve cognition and hopefully avoid the unnatural prescription drugs like Adderall or Ritalin. While these might be helpful for some children who need it, finding a natural alternative for your child will be much safer in the long run.