It seems like there’s an awful lot in the world these days that wants our attention. All these distractions can leave us feeling frazzled, tired, and out of focus. Stress leads to poor sleep leads to dragging through our days and struggling to concentrate.
Of course the first thing to do is to try to manage our stress. Limiting screen time, good sleep hygiene, yoga, tai chi, mindfulness, prayer, good food, time outdoors, time with loved ones, these all help.
But sometimes we need a little help from our green friends, the herbs.
There are plenty of herbs that help deal with stress, and there are some very famous herbs like Ginkgo Biloba that are specific for memory and concentration.
But today I’d like to talk about an herb you may not know: Bacopa monnieri, from the Ayurvedic tradition. Bacopa is an herb similar to an adaptogen that is used specifically for the nervous system. This class of herbs is used to improve memory and concentration, reduce age-related loss of function, and to treat conditions like anxiety and attention deficit.
I’m a huge fan of adaptogens and tonic herbs. If I have a choice between an adaptogen and a non-tonic herb for any condition, I’m likely to choose the adaptogen.
An adaptogen is very simply any substance that aids our bodies in healthy adaptation to stress. There are a number of herbs that fall into this category, and there are many more that are tonics for the adrenals, the nervous system, etc. that are similar to adaptogens but not “official”. If you want to know more about adaptogens, I highly recommend the book Adaptogens by David Winston and Steven Maimes.
So, Bacopa. You’ve likely heard of Gota Kola, another Ayurvedic herb. Both Bacopa and Gotu Kola are often called Brahmi, just to be confusing. Some herbalists use them interchangeably. I find they do quite well together, but find myself reaching for the Bacopa more often.
Bacopa is specifically used to treat mental processes, from ADHD in children to mental decline in the elderly. It is very helpful for “brain fog”, which is a side effect of many illnesses, including MS, Fibromyalgia, CFIDS/ME, and really any auto-immune or chronic pain disorder. When we are in pain or fatigued, or not sleeping well, we are likely to suffer with brain fog. Bacopa is a key ally for this condition, and one I highly recommend.
It is a tonic herb, generally considered safe to take long term, and can be used in moderate to high doses. I like to start with a fairly low dose for adults, around 500mg twice daily, and give it at least a month to take full effect. It can be increased as needed, ask your herbalist for more specific information.
The first thing I noticed when I first started taking this herb was more restful sleep, an effect I wasn’t expecting, but was delighted to experience! And second I noted reduced anxiety. After a few weeks I noticed that I was able to concentrate for longer stretches. I’ve been taking Bacopa now for a couple of years and I’m not looking back! I hope you find it as effective in your life.
In good health,
Thank you Susan! That was a nice brief synopsis. I have the book and actually some bacopa so I’ll be revisiting them both very soon.