Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Bacopa: A Better Memory Booster?

What you can tell me about bacopa? I first read about it as a treatment for memory problems. Do you know anything about its effectiveness in treating memory problems or what the recommended dosage should be?

Answer (Published 4/4/2006)

Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) is an herb native to India that has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine to enhance memory, learning and concentration and also to treat anxiety, heart problems, digestive disorders, asthma, and bronchitis. Most of the research on bacopa has been in animals, but a few small studies on humans have also been done.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

The single study I've been able to find on bacopa's effect on memory was a small, double-blind, placebo-controlled 12-week trial conducted in Australia with 46 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 60, divided into two groups. The volunteers in one group were given 300 milligrams of bacopa daily, and the others received a placebo. Prior to the study, the researchers tested all the volunteers to assess their verbal learning abilities, memory and speed of information processing. The tests were repeated five and 12 weeks after the study began. The researchers noted a significant improvement among the volunteers in the bacopa group compared to those in the placebo group.

A review article of some 38 scientific studies of bacopa was published in the March, 2004, issue of the journal Alternative Medicine Review, and noted two small studies that demonstrated an improvement in cognitive function in children as a result of taking bacopa. A single small-scale human study also found a decrease in anxiety symptoms among patients treated with bacopa.

Bacopa is now being widely promoted as a treatment for memory problems, but I would recommend more proven protective strategies. Keep your mind active by reading newspapers and books, doing crossword puzzles, playing musical instruments, participating in ongoing education, and learning a new language. As far as supplements to enhance memory are concerned, the ones listed below have been studied more thoroughly than bacopa:

  • Ginkgo biloba. This well-studied botanical remedy increases blood flow to the head, has a reputation as a memory-enhancing agent and may slow the progression of dementia in early onset Alzheimer's disease. You probably won't notice any effects for six to eight weeks. (Look for products standardized to 24 percent ginkgo flavone glycosides and 6 percent terpene lactones; the dose is 60 to 120 milligrams twice a day with food.) Ginkgo has low toxicity, although it may cause mild stomach irritation.
  • Acetyl-L-carnitine (also called ALC or ALCAR) is an amino acid derivative. Human clinical studies of this compound are currently underway, and the early evidence from animal trials is encouraging. Many people take ALC as a cognitive enhancer. The dose is 500-1,000 milligrams twice a day on an empty stomach. It is nontoxic, but this is an expensive regimen.
  • Phosphatidyl serine, or PS. A naturally occurring lipid that is a component of cell membranes, PS is considered a brain-cell nutrient. Human studies have reported positive effects on memory and concentration; PS may improve cognitive function in normal adults and may help reverse age-related cognitive decline. The supplement form, derived from soybeans, is readily available, but fairly expensive. The starting dose is 100 milligrams two or three times a day; if this produces positive benefits after a month or more, it may be possible to go on a lower maintenance dose. It is nontoxic.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here