is a creeping perennial with white or blue flowers that grows throughout much of Southern Asia. It has been used traditionally to treat
. In the traditional medicine of India,
is considered to fall in the “brahmi” category of herbs, a group of substances said to assist the mind and enhance awareness. From this comes
common name of brahmi, despite the fact that many other herbs fall into the brahmi category as well.
Used for Today?
is widely marketed today as a “brain tonic” for enhancing memory and mental function. However, as discussed in the next section, the evidence that it works remains weak at best.
Even weaker evidence, far too preliminary to rely upon at all, hints that
might have potential value for
, placebo-controlled studies have evaluated the potential value of
for enhancing mental function, the results are far from conclusive.
appears to have
properties in the brain, which could potentially lead to positive effects on mental function.
However, a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 76 individuals that tested the potential memory-enhancing benefits of
generally failed to find much evidence of benefit.
The only significant improvement seen among all the many measures used was in one that evaluated retention of new information. While this may sound at least somewhat promising, in fact it means almost nothing. Here’s why: When a study uses many different techniques to assess improvement, mere chance ensures that at least one of them will come up with results. Properly designed studies should focus on one test of benefit alone (the “primary outcome measure”) that is selected prior to running the trial. “Fishing” for results among multiple tests is a highly suspect method.
Similarly, a randomized trial involving 48 healthy elderly subjects found some memory enhancing effects of
compared to placebo, but the outcomes measured were too numerous to be meaningful.
Nonetheless, if several independent studies use multiple tests of improvement, and the pattern of response is reliably maintained, then the results begin to appear more significant. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case with
. In a previous double-blind, placebo-controlled study enrolling 46 individuals, use of
over a 2-week period again produced benefits, but in an entirely different pattern.
In yet another double-blind, placebo-controlled study, this one involving 38 people, short-term use of
failed to produce any measurable improvements in memory.
In addition, use of combined
(120 mg) and
(300 mg) has also failed to improve mental function.
This type of inconsistency suggests that the limited benefits seen in some studies were due to chance.
Slightly more promising results have been seen in studies of a proprietary
and about 30 other ingredients.
However, these studies are generally not up to modern scientific standards.
The proposed active ingredients in
are substances called bacosides. A typical dose of
used in the studies described above was 300-450 mg daily of a concentrated alcohol extract standardized to bacoside content, equivalent to about 6-9 g of whole dried herb.
There are no well known significant side effects associated with the use of
. However, comprehensive safety studies have not been reported. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
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J Altern Complement Med.
2008 Jul 8. [Epub ahead of print]
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a