Research confirms the traditional memory enhancing, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory activity of bacopa monnieri, known as Brahmi in Ayurveda. Studies find it’s as effective as sodium cromolyn, the most commonly prescribed pharmaceutical mast cell stabiliser, which stops mast cells from leaking histamine and other inflammation into the blood stream.. Bacopa also prevents the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which carries messages between the vagus nerve, brain and stomach. It’s also an anti-oxidant that offers significant neuroprotection and may be useful for those suffering from alzheimer’s and other cognitive impairment.
Bacopa’s other benefits include the prevention of ulcers (histamine plays a role in these), protecting the heart, potentially helping with anxiety (by affecting GABA), and may help with pain, mental fatigue, asthma, and treat diarrhoea. It also shows promise in treating certain cancers (in test tube studies, not on humans).
I’ve written quite a bit about the role of mast cell/histamine driven inflammation causing wear and tear on the brain, which may explain why so many of us with histamine intolerance and mast cell activation suffer from the dreaded brain fog (or wet blanket around brain syndrome as I’ve called it). You can read more about that here.
And I’ve also recently shared research showing the ageing affect of inflammation on the brain (dubbed inflammaging). A recent study of Japanese people over 100 years old found that, contrary to what we’ve been told in recent years, the best predictor of a long and healthy life is not telomere length, but levels of inflammation in the body. Scientists running the study found that lower levels of inflammatory agents released by mast cells in the blood meant longer life. The more mast cell activated inflammation in the body, the more age related disease and and shorter life expectancy.
I can speak from personal experience in relation to inflammaging: just a few years ago I looked at least five years older than I do now (you’ll hear that number vary depending on how I’m feeling about my looks on any given day…). Changing my diet to a nutrient dense anti-inflammatory one (more on that here) and also adopting a healthier lifestyle overall with regular yoga and meditation, have really wound back the clock, at least from what I can see externally.
I’m sure you’ve noticed it – how do you look the morning after a histamine binge? Puffy faced maybe? Dark circles under the eyes? Some broken red veins? General ruddiness all over? Unable to zip up your jeans? I went through all of those…
So I’m always searching for natural ways to help my immune system control the histamine release from mast cells. And bacopa is my latest addition.
Most of the literature tells us this herb needs to be taken with food otherwise we risk a stomach upset, but animal studies (none human so far) tell us there’s little fear of toxicity even at massive doses. But as with all supplements it’s imperative to find a trustworthy source and to acknowledge that just like medications, they can have a significant impact on health, potentially causing side effects and interactions with medications and supplements.
I recently picked up a bottle at Whole Foods in Los Angeles and found a large sticker affixed to the side warning me that the product contains lead! God bless California. Warning labels regularly convey the danger lurking in pretty much everything I see in the store nowadays. Needless to say, I did not add it to my shopping basket.
Web MD tells us that bacopa is possibly safe for adults when taken short term for up to twelve weeks and that common side effects include increased bowel movements, stomach cramps, nausea, dry mouth, fatigue and it may cause an increase in thyroid hormones.
Bottom line – do not take any supplements without checking with a doctor and be sure to have regular blood tests to make sure everything is where it should be. All foods and supplements whether antihistamine or mast cell stabilising, have the potential to cause allergy or serious adverse effects.
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