Saturday, January 21, 2017

Bacopa Monnieri

I have researched a number of alternative therapies for the treatment of epilepsy and one of the more interesting ones I found was bacopa monnieri (BP or just bacopa). Bacopa is a flowering herb, with supposed medicinal properties that is more commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, for the treatment of everything from seizures to asthma. The investigated chemical(s) within bacopa that provide the actual therapeutic effects are bacosides, which are often recognized for their neuroprotective qualities. The bacosides have also been researched for their effects on blood flow, memory, antioxidant activity, and acetylcholine levels in the body.

I was most interested in the research on bacopa's effect on seizures, which is fairly limited in terms of solid human trials. There is a brief abstract here, but most of the other studies I came across were only animal studies. This full article and references can be accessed here, which offers some interesting details on the effects of bacopa on a host of different neurological issues. In the studies that actually listed the extract details, the range seemed to be anywhere from 30-60% bacosides, which is comparable to what you would find in any OTC bacopa supplement. Most supplements range from 20-50%, depending on the extract and/or manufacturer. In terms of seizure control, based on what I read, the effects of bacopa were all over the place, somewhat speculative, and again, limited to studies primarily on rats. The mechanism or potential actions included:

Raising serotonin (5-HT) levels in the brain
Reduction of oxidative stress
Prevention of glutathione reduction in the body
Potent antioxidant (greater than vitamin C)
Possible dose-dependent metal chelator
Glutamate excitotoxicity mediator

Out of all of these proposed positive impacts on cognitive processing and/or development, I found the elevation of 5-HT levels to be the most interesting. There seems to be a strong relationship with epilepsy/autism and serotonin. Despite the fact that all of these studies were only animal studies, there is convincing evidence that whatever the catalyst is (bacopa, tryptophan, 5-HTP, etc.) for altering 5-HT levels, whether directly or indirectly, has an effect on the neuroprotective capabilities of the brain and central nervous system.

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