Both gotu kola (Centella asiatica and/or Hydrocotyle asiatica) and Bacopa monnieri (pictured at left) are known as “brahmi.”This has created much confusion in the literature in the use of these two plants. Both are known to enhance memory and intelligence but gotu kola is decidedly the weaker of the two in that function, and is best used for hot skin conditions (in India, it’s used for leprosy).
Bacopa is the true “brahmi” with strong central nervous system properties.
Last year, I purchased a live Bacopa monnieri plant from Horizon Herbs. I kept it in my greenhouse all winter and found that it’s a fast-growing creeper, overrunning many of the nearby containers that already had their own plants and soil. I decided to plant some outside in the spring in a semi-shaded part of the garden, watered by a drip irrigation system.
It loved the space; after three or four months, it filled a large area, and I was able to snip a bunch of it to blend with vodka. The bright green ‘slurry’ that immediately occurred informed me that the plant was already extracted. I took about two teaspoons of this tincture, and after about 30 minutes became extremely tired and could not resist taking a nap, which I did.
It was only later that I realized that the tiredness I was experiencing was not a case of an afternoon post lunch ‘slump’ but was in fact, a much more profound phenomenon. I thought it might be the brahmi.
I recently read an Ayurvedic weight loss protocol that included bacopa taken a few times a day to reduce nervous food cravings. The kind of sleepiness that a high dose of bacopa induces is not a heavy, drugged feeling, but a feeling of deep peace and calm in keeping with its respected Ayurvedic mental and soul-calming properties.
I’ve since made it a habit to take fresh brahmi tincture — about 1 teaspoon before bed. The result for me has been a full night’s deep sleep, with my thoughts turned “off.” Bacopa/brahmi is just the herb for insomnia caused by anxiety and worry, and is more powerful than any other I’ve experienced! Let me reiterate, it does not have a drugging effect like valerian root can.
Bacopa is an ideal herb to give not only to induce sleep, but for staying asleep through the night. To build a good sleep habit, Todd Caldecott combines reishi mushroom, western skullcap and bacopa taken three times a day. This follows the dictum of the late Dr. Christopher that insomnia is a condition that is created during the day and therefore should be treated throughout the day.
In Ayurveda, it is thought to have general restorative effects (rasayana and balya), having bitter, sweet and cold energies. Unfortunately, when you read about the herb in Ayurvedic texts, it’s difficult to sort out whether gotu kola or bacopa is being described, because of the similar properties they share, but for its effect on the nervous system, bacopa is by far the superior herb and should be regarded as the ‘true’ brahmi.