Synapsa: Premium-Grade Bacopa Monnieri Extract Benefits, Research & Dosage
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the body that just about every aspect of our existence, including:
Essentially, these neuro chemicals are what enable us to feel, interpret, act, and react to our surroundings.
Executives, students, bio-hackers, and even top-tier athletes are constantly seeking ways to optimize and balance these neurotransmitters to manifest the ideal neurological environment for next-level performance.
It’s rather common to use a stable of precursor compounds, such a L-Tyrosine or Alpha GPC, to optimize levels of important neurotransmitters like Acetylcholine, Dopamine, and Serotonin.
But, what if you could use just one supplement that impacted all of the major neurotransmitters to some degree, balancing them out to create the ultimate cognitive environment for mental energy, focus, and clarity while at the same time reducing feelings of stress and anxiety?
Today, we discuss a compound that’s been regularly used for thousands of years known as bacopa monnieri, and why it could be the supplement you need to get more done while feeling less stressed this year!
What is Bacopa Monnieri?
Bacopa monnieri is one of the oldest herbs of Ayurveda traditionally used in the treatment of neurological and behavioral defects. Some accounts indicate that the herb has been used as far back as 800 B.C.
Given its prolonged history of use, the powerful herb has collected various monikers over the centuries, including:
- Safed chamni
- Litet tjockblad
Bacopa derives its name from Brahma, the mythological “supreme ruler” and creator of the world as well as the science of Ayurveda.
In addition to its neuro-enhancing effects, bacopa was also routinely used as an adaptogen and natural medicine in the treatment of all manner of diseases ranging from depression to leprosy.
How Does Bacopa Monnieri Work?
Like most medicinal plants, bacopa monnieri contains a whole host of biological compounds which are believed to be responsible for the plant’s therapeutic effects.
Of all the alkaloids, saponins, and other phytocompounds present in bacopa, the ones doing the real “heavy lifting” are a pair of steroidal saponins called bacosides A and B.
Bacosides are known to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) where they are able to modulate neurotransmitter levels in the brain.
Included among the various neurotransmitters that bacopa’s bacosides are able to modulate are:
- Acetylcholine -- the “learning” neurotransmitter that affects memory and learning
- Dopamine -- the “reward” molecule that also affects mood, motivation, motor control and decision-making
- Serotonin -- the “happy” chemical most often associated with a healthy, upbeat mood, but it also affects appetite, memory, learning, and reward
- GABA -- the primary inhibitory (“downer”) neurotransmitter that calms the mind and helps promote feelings of relaxation
More specifically, bacopa is known to inhibit acetylcholinesterase –- the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, and stimulates choline acetyltransferase -- the enzyme that stimulates acetylcholine synthesis. choline acetyltransferase -– the enzyme that produces acetylcholine.
Bacopa also boosts levels of serotonin and GABA in the hippocampus, heightening mood and promoting feelings of calm relaxation.
Research also indicates that bacosides can stimulate antioxidant enzymes (such as Superoxide Dismutase -- SOD), support synapse regeneration, and repair damaged neurons.
Bacosides are even noted to help reduce “hippocampus devaluation” by removing aluminum from the cerebral cortex, which is especially important if you use mass-market deodorants & antiperspirants (which almost always include aluminum as a primary active ingredient).
Benefits of Bacopa Monnieri
Enhances Memory & Cognition
Bacopa offers a number of alluring benefits, but it is perhaps best known for its ability to improve memory and cognition.
The main mechanism by which bacopa bolsters memory and cognition is via improving synaptic communication.
Specifically, the herb encourages the growth and proliferation of dendrites, which strengthens neural signaling.
Note: dendrites are branch-like nerve cell extensions that receive incoming signals. Reinforcing this “connection” through which the nervous system communicates ultimately boosts cognitive function.
Research finds that Bacoside-A stimulates nerve cells, which makes the synapses more receptive to the incoming nerve impulses.
But, there’s more...
Bacopa also has been shown to enhance memory and cognition through stimulation of hippocampal activity by increasing protein kinase activity in the body, which regulates various cellular pathways.[3,6]
Since the hippocampus is crucial to virtually all cognitive activity, researchers believe this is one of the main avenues through which bacopa dials up brain power.
Additional studies have shown that daily supplementation with bacopa monnieri at doses between 300-640mg per day) shows improvements in[4-9,27-30]:
- Visual memory
Reduces Stress & Anxiety
Be it financial, social, physical, psychological, or emotional, stress is at the forefront of many individuals’ lives. Now, more than ever, individuals are looking for an escape by and all means, including drugs and alcohol.
However, substances like drugs and alcohol come with their own adverse affects to both a person’s mental and physical health.
You might be interested to know that bacopa has a long history of use as a tonic for the nervous system to alleviate feelings of anxiety, worrying, and stress.
This is due to bacopa’s adaptogenic properties wherein it enhances our body’s ability to encounter and interact with stress (mental, physical, and emotional) as well as recover from it.
Bacopa exerts these adaptogenic traits partly due to its modulation of neurotransmitters, but the age-old herb also affects cortisol levels. Cortisol, as you probably know, is the body’s primary stress hormone.
Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels can damage your brain.
In fact, neuroscientists have found that chronic stress creates long-term change in the brain’s structure and function, resulting in the overexpression of certain proteins that damage neurons.
Chronic stress can also result in oxidative damage to neurons which has several negative consequences including:
- Decreased memory
- Neuronal cell death
- Impaired decision-making
- Brain mass shrinkage.
Enter bacopa and its potent stress-relieving, neuron-protecting benefits.
Human studies document bacopa’s adaptogenic effects, including a reduction in cortisol.[8,21]
Lower cortisol leads to less feelings of stress which not only heightens mood but also pays dividends towards concentration and productivity (since you’re not worried all the time).
Additionally, since bacopa modulates dopamine and serotonin, it can attenuate stress-induced alterations in dopamine and serotonin in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, further underscoring the herb’s adaptogenic qualities.
Bacopa also increases production of Tryptophan Hydroxylase (TPH2), an enzyme vital to numerous CNS activities, including serotonin synthesis.
And to top it off, bacoside-A (one of the primary actives in bacopa) has been documented to encourage GABA activity.
GABA, as you may recall from above, is a calming, inhibitory neurotransmitter. Bacopa is noted to both upregulate GABA activity and decrease glutamate activity, which may help reduce feelings of anxiety by decreasing activation of neurons that can get overstimulated.
The end result is reduced feelings of stress & anxiety, improved cognitive function, and more “feel good” vibes.
Thus far, we’ve mentioned that bacopa can help modulate and balance various neurotransmitters in the brain.
But, what does that mean exactly and how does bacopa do that?
Studies show that bacopa monnieri may activate choline acetyltransferase (an enzyme involved in the production of acetylcholine -- the “learning” neurotransmitter) and inhibit acetylcholinesterase (the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine).
The result of these two actions increases levels of acetylcholine in the brain which promotes increased attention, memory, and learning.
Bacopa monnieri helps preserve dopamine synthesis by keeping the dopamine-releasing cells alive.
This is particularly noteworthy when you realize that levels of dopamine (“the motivation molecule”) begin to decline with age. This is, in part, due to a decrease in dopaminergic function as well as a “dying off” of dopaminergic neurons.
Now, here’s where things get really interesting.
Dopamine and serotonin have a delicate balance in the body.
Over supplementation of one neurotransmitter precursor, such as 5-HTP or L-DOPA, can lead to an imbalance of the other, resulting in decreased efficacy and depletion of the other neurotransmitter.
In other words, if you’re only supplementing with 5-HTP while not using something to help balance dopamine (e.g. L-Tyrosine or L-Dopa), you may be risk for creating a massive dopamine deficiency.
Bacopa is able to keep things on an even keel by balancing out dopamine and serotonin promoting optimal mood, motivation, and focus.
Cognitive decline is an inevitability we all will encounter to some degree or another as the years go by.
But, there might be some help in staving off the effects of Father Time.
Various studies show that the herb offers robust neuroprotective benefits.
Specifically, bacopa has been noted to[3,12-14]:
- Combat neuroinflammation
- Repair damaged neurons
- Reduce β-amyloid
- Increase cerebral blood flow (CBF)
- Confer antioxidant effects
Bacopa also helps reduce β-amyloid deposition in the hippocampus and resulting stress-induced hippocampal damage and neuroinflammation, which may help resist aging and the onset of dementia.
Note: β-amyloid is a “sticky” microscopic brain protein that accumulates in the brain to form plaque. Researchers also use β-amyloid as a marker to track Alzheimer’s.
Increases Cerebral Blood Flow
As if that wasn’t enough, bacopa monnieri extracts also offer neuroprotection via nitric oxide-mediated cerebral vasodilation.
Basically, bacopa monnieri can increase blood flow in the brain via increasing in nitric oxide production.
Greater blood flow means better oxygen and nutrient delivery (glucose, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.) to the brain promoting both cognitive function and long-term brain health.
Beneficial for Young & Old
Cognitive health is something that we as a society really only tend to focus on the older we get. But, the truth is that it’s something that needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds from a much earlier age.
It just so happens that Bacopa has not only been studied in adults, but adolescents and children, too!
A 2016 systematic review included children from 4 to 18 years old and found that bacopa monnieri supplementation consistently yielded improvements in:
- Cognitive domain
- Language behavior
Furthermore, the same review noted that children supplementing with bacopa demonstrated improvements in their spelling ability, vocabulary, ability to understand words, and sound processing!
Researchers even found that bacopa supplementation led to reductions in hyperactivity and attention-deficit domains.
A subsequent review analyzed nine studies in children and adolescents and found that supplements that contained bacopa monnieri (as well as other cognitive-enhancing ingredients such as ashwagandha and rhodiola) improved:
- Mental Speed
- Free recall
- Associative Memory
- Language behavior
- Number facility
- Auditory memory domains
What is the Effective Dose for Bacopa Monnieri?
There are a wide variety of bacopa monnieri extracts available for purchase. And (like most things in life), some options are superior to others.
One of the best bacopa monnieri supplements on the market is Synapsa.
Synapsa, also known as KeenMind or CDRI-08, is a standardized extract of Bacopa monnieri developed by the Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) in India and distributed by PLT Health Solutions.
Synapsa is backed by multiple human trials noting improvements in[5,7,29,30]:
- Visual processing
- Learning rate
- Working memory
- Information retention
- Mental performance in cognitively demanding environments
Effective dose begins around 300mg per day up to 640mg per day.
Typically, bacopa is a nootropic that needs to be taken consistently (i.e. daily) to derive maximum benefits (particularly in regards to memory).
That being said, there is research noting that the herb can offer acute benefits, primarily in regards to improving performance in multi-tasking and reducing anxiety commonly experienced during cognitively-demanding work.
How to Take Synapsa Bacopa Monnieri
Historically, the herb was consumed alongside ghee, the typical cooking fat of Indian cuisine.
Bacopa contains fat-soluble compounds, thus requiring a lipid transporter to be efficiently absorbed and utilized.
As such, it may be helpful to take your daily serving(s) of bacopa with a meal, or at least with some type of fat (fish oil, MCT oil, etc.).
Is Bacopa Monnieri Safe?
Side effects are rarely experienced with bacopa, but there is the off-chance for mild GI distress or fatigue.
Bacopa has even been studied in children, and a 2016 review noted that “Bacopa monnieri has potential to thrive as a natural and safe option…”
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