Which Bacopa Extract should you be using?
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As many of you will already know, not all Bacopa Monnieri extracts are equal.
In fact, many Bacopa products aren't standardized to the active compounds which give Bacopa it's great reputation as a nootropic for cognitive improvement and memory formation. These types of products, while effective for traditional Ayurveda, are not going to provide the nootropic benefits that many of us seek - at least, not in a consistent, reliable manner.
Additionally, you can expect different effects and results depending on the brand of Bacopa you go with. As always, it is important to do your research and understand the differences between these herbs, so you can be sure of what you are purchasing.
What is Bacopa Monnieri?
Bacopa is a plant that's indigenous to many parts of the world. We typically source our Bacopa extracts from India, but it is grown all over the globe - Asia, Africa, Europe, etc.
Bacopa has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and more recently, has gained popularity for its research and effects as a nootropic and adaptogen.
Supplementing with Bacopa Monnieri has been shown to reduce anxiety, in turn, improving cognition. Furthermore, there is strong supporting evidence that supplementing with Bacopa improves memory formation.
Since Bacopa is also an effective adaptogen, some users report experiencing a loss in motivation for performing tasks or getting work done. However, this response does vary on your own physiology and the type of extract you use. There are also ways to counteract the negative effects if you experience any of these, such as combining Bacopa with nootropics or stimulants that have mood and motivation boosting properties.
We will cover some common combinations and details about Bacopa Monnieri and its mechanisms of action and interactions in a later article.
How does Bacopa Monnieri Work?
Bacopa primarily encourages the growth of dendrites, which are the one end of a neuron (the other end being axons). This results in improved neuronal communication, which means it promotes the speed at which neurons, and therefore the entire nervous system, communicate.
Bacopa also has a secondary impact on the dopaminergic and serotonergic systems within the body, but this is not the primary effect and mechanism of action for this nootropic herb. It also exhibits synergistic effects with GABA receptors, enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain and body.
There are a few naturally occurring compounds found within the Bacopa Monnieri plant. The primarily isolated, active compounds are known as bacosides. There have been twelve bacosides identified, and these are all exclusively found in the Bacopa Monnieri plant.
Bacosides are known as dammarane triterpenoid saponins. This isn't as complex as it sounds, so let's simplify it into layman's terms.
Terpenes are a class of odorous (pungent) organic compounds produced by various plants, they lend to Bacopa's strong and unique smell. A saponin is a glycoside that possesses both fat and water-soluble properties (it is both hydrophilic and hydrophobic). Although Bacopa is mostly fat soluble, this explains why it is effective with or without a meal, but we do recommend taking it with food if you find it makes you at all nauseous.
Triterpenes are composed of three terpene units. Triterpenoid saponins belong to the saponin group of compounds, giving them the collective name of triterpenoid glycosides.
Dammarane saponins are structurally similar to those found in Ginseng, known as ginsenosides, and another way of identifying some common traits amongst these compounds.
Overall, this classification helps identify Bacopa's common properties - the smell and solubility, along with the effects in the body, based on the molecular composition.
The effective dosage for Bacopa Monnieri has been established to be at least (but typically) 300mg when using a 55% bacosides extract. This means that anything less may not result in the claimed benefits that this herb offers.
The extract and dosage strengths are especially important when considering a product that contains a proprietary formula. Ask the manufacturer for these details, and simply avoid any products for which they won't provide a breakdown of the formula. This is a very common practice with most nootropic stacks, so a good guide is if they don't list the standardized extract percentage and source, or if they use anything less than a 50% variant within a formula, avoid the product as you will get better value for money elsewhere. More on this later.
What are the different types of Bacopa Monnieri Extracts?
When selecting the Bacopa supplement that's right for you, there are many types to consider. Choosing the right Bacopa supplement is based on understanding the different forms, so here are the most common types of Bacopa extracts.
Bacopa Whole Plant Extract
- Not Standardized, unknown bacoside contents.
- Standardized to bacosides at varying percentages. Higher percentages typically result in more "bang for your buck".
- Standardized to Glycosides at varying percentages. A broader range of bacosides, resulting in a broader range of effects.
Bacopa Leaf Extracts are significantly less potent, and will typically require a dose of at least 750mg to achieve just 10% bacoside content.
Oftentimes, the only factor people consider is the price, without paying close attention to the contents of the supplement. And then you wonder why you might not have had the results that you expected. That's not to say that Bacopa is guaranteed to work for you, but being informed will go a long way in making the right choice.
These confusing varieties are not the fault of the consumer; many vendors and retailers don't know the difference themselves, completely oblivious to the many choices that are available to supplement with.
Other retailers are fully aware of the type of Bacopa supplement they sell, but the extract information is purposely withheld or limited, giving customers the impression that it may be an extract that it isn't. Scary stuff.
This product says it's Bacopa Monnieri, and it's half the price of another brand. The next is a 20% extract, while the other 45% or 50%. The following is a whole plant extract while the one after that is only extracted from the leaves. Another focuses on select active compounds found within the Bacopa Monnieri plant.
It's not surprising that this is confusing to people. Let's try to make sense of it.
There are two popular brands of Bacopa which have been patented and researched - Synapsa Bacopa and Bacognize Bacopa extracts. Let's look at these two types first.
Synapsa vs Bacognize Bacopa Extracts, and their Benefits
Many customers have been asking about the differences between these two brands of Bacopa. The first thing to understand is that these are branded and patented forms of Bacopa Monnieri. The advantage here is that you can be assured that you will always get an accurately standardized form of the extract that you purchase, regardless of the brand you choose to go with. That means you can expect a consistent effect every time you purchase a new bottle, and each of these brands has human-based clinical research behind them.
Both brands use the whole Bacopa plant within their products and both use organic forms of Bacopa, however, each of them focuses on specific compounds found within the plant.
The Bacognize Bacopa Extract contains the same ratios found within the plant itself, while Synapsa Bacopa Extract is standardized to contain higher bacoside content, focusing on drawing as many bacosides out of the plant as possible.
Bacognize Bacopa has a standardized concentration of glycosides. It contains bacosides, bacopasides and various alkaloids that naturally occur within the plant. These various saponins result in a different physiological effect on the body and mind.
Most users report that Bacognize Bacopa Extract is more sedating in effect when compared with the Synapsa brand of Bacopa Monnieri.
In our many years of experience, we find that the latter focus on bacoside content is better tolerated and less likely to have negative effects on mood and motivation. This is likely due to the lack of the other bacosides and alkaloids that naturally occur within the plant, which can act as sedative and motivation agonists and antagonists, respectively.
As a guide, if you are considering either of these brands as your source of Bacopa, consider using the Synapsa Extract during the day and Bacognize Extract in the evenings due to the sedating effect of the latter. It's worth trying a sample first.
Patented vs Generic Bacopa Monnieri Extracts
Do you go with a patented brand of Bacopa, or do you choose something generic instead? That depends on how much you trust the brand behind the generic forms of Bacopa, with the biggest differentiator being a lower price.
Provided the Bacopa supplement you choose has been assayed to verify the active ingredients, their potency, and heavy metal content, we don't believe there is a notable difference between Synapsa Bacopa Extract, Bacognize Bacopa Extract, or any other non-patented "generic" forms of Bacopa Monnieri supplements in terms of quality.
Our own brand of Bacopa Monnieri Extract, available in both capsules and powders, is standardized to a minimum of 50% bacosides. We use this same form of Bacopa in our both Neurostim Extracts and Neurochill, both of which contain 320mg of 50% bacosides, extracted from the whole plant.
What's the advantage? The price of non-patented forms will be lower, quite significantly in many cases.
We also ensure to perform analysis of the heavy metal contents of our Bacopa, due to its affinity for drawing in heavy metals from the earth when growing as a plant. Here is our Bacopa Monnieri Heavy metal analysis.
If the vendor of your Bacopa doesn't or won't provide a certificate of analysis for both purity and active contents, we strongly recommend you consider purchasing from someone else, instead of wasting your hard-earned money.
Guide to Buying Bacopa Monnieri Supplements and Stacks
|Nootropic Formula||Source||Extract Strength||Dosage||Bacosides||% of 165mg Target|
|Neurostim Extracts||Whole Plant||51% Bacosides||320mg||163mg per serving||99%|
|Neurochill||Whole Plant||51% Bacosides||330mg||169.5mg per serving||102%|
|Alpha Brain||Leaf||Not listed||Proprietary||Proprietary||-|
|Mind Lab Pro||Whole Plant||45% Bacosides||150mg||75mg per serving||45%|
|HVMN Rise||Whole Plant||50% Bacosides||300mg||150 per serving||91%|
|NitroVIT||Leaf||Not Listed||250mg||25mg per serving||15%|
|OptiMind||Whole Plant||55% Bacosides||Proprietary||Proprietary||-|
|BrainForce||Not Listed||Not Listed||200mg||Unknown||-|
|Neuro-Peak||Leaf||20% Bacosides||100mg||20mg per serving||12%|
|Thrivous Clarity||Not Listed||25% Bacosides||600mg||150mg per serving||91%|
|OptiNeuro||Not Listed||1:7 Extract||90mg||-||-|
|Omnimind||Not Listed||25% Bacosides||410mg||102.5mg per serving||62%|
|Neuro Clarity||Not Listed||20% Bacosides||100mg||20mg per serving||12%|
|Qualia||Leaf||45% Bacosides||300mg||135mg per serving||82%|
|Cortex||Not Listed||20% Bacosides||Proprietary||Proprietary||-|
|Limitless Brain||Not Listed||Not Listed||100mg||-||-|
To recap, the target researched dosage for Bacopa is 300mg when using a whole plant extract standardized to 55% bacosides, totaling 165mg of bacosides. Based on these figures, it is evident that many commercial nootropic products fall well short of the mark - especially proprietary blends.
If you find a product or extract that contains only 20% bacosides, then the equivalent dosage will be 825mg. Don't settle for anything less, unless you are experienced with Bacopa and find more therapeutic benefits from lower doses.
Other types of Bacopa Monnieri supplements are powders without the active compounds listed, as these are unlikely to be standardized to any bacoside content, which means they either contain very little (if any) or will produce wildly different effects from batch to batch. These are likely to be referred to as Organic Brahmi Powder or Organic Bacopa Powder. The fact that these types of Bacopa may be organic is unimportant if they don't contain any of the active compounds which provide an effect.
Bacopa Leaf extract, also referred to as Bacopa extracted from the 'aerial parts of the plant', contains significantly fewer bacosides than a whole plant extract. How much?
To achieve just 10% bacoside content with a leaf extract, you will need to consume 750mg. That means a Bacopa Leaf extract dosage equivalent to 300mg of a 50% extract, is 3,750mg. It is important to understand that a leaf-based extract at dosages of 300mg will be almost entirely ineffective for cognitive and memory benefits.
These less concentrated forms will appear to be cheaper, but they are far from cost-effective per dose due to economies of scale - the dosage required will be much higher than the label suggests, especially so with a formula. The aforementioned 'organic' brands often use only leaf extracts, but completely negate to mention this important fact. A very disingenuous practice that we will name and shame brands for following if you ask us about them.
Non-standardized forms of Bacopa are commonly used in many popular, branded nootropic formulas and stacks available on the market. As one would expect, you won't be getting anywhere near the correct dosage of bacosides in these nootropic blends, and it's precisely why they hide the exact dosages in a proprietary formula. Our advice is to avoid these, and instead either choose a formula that does list the breakdowns or simply buy Bacopa as a standalone supplement instead.
Questions? Let us know below!