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Seniors: Boost Memory with Bacopa

Seniors: Boost Memory with Bacopa: Main Image
New research suggests that the Indian herb bacopa might help prevent memory loss
It is generally accepted that aging and memory loss go together, but it's also known that there are ways of keeping our aging brains strong. Staying active--mentally and physically--can go a long way toward preventing memory loss, and new research suggests that the Indian herb bacopa might have additional benefits.

Testing memory

The study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, included 98 healthy people over 55 years old. They were randomly assigned to receive either 300 mg of Bacopa monnieri extract per day or placebo for 12 weeks. Memory and learning tests done at the beginning and end of the trial included tasks such as remembering lists of words, recreating complicated geometric shapes from memory, and following letter and number patterns. Participants also answered questions about recent memory changes.

Bacopa boosts brain power

The researchers noted the following differences between the people in the bacopa and placebo groups:

  • In tests of work recall, including recall after delay or distraction, people taking bacopa improved more.
  • Total learning scores improved more in the bacopa group.
  • Tests of ability to quickly follow number and letter patterns and in reports of improved, memory bacopa was associated with more improvement, though these differences were not statistically significant.

Some participants experienced gastrointestinal side effects (30% had increased frequency of bowel movements, 16% reported cramps, and 18% reported nausea).

"Our findings show that Bacopa monnieri is effective in enhancement of memory performance in healthy older people, with improvements in both memory acquisition (learning) and retention," said lead study author, Annette Morgan, MSc, of Southern Cross University in New South Wales, Australia. "Bacopa led to digestive upsets in some people in the study, possibly because of the high dose used. It is possible that the risk of digestive reactions could be minimized by dividing the amount into two or three portions over the day," she added.

Maintaining a good memory

In addition to the bacopa extract, you can help protect your memory and learning capacity in several ways:

  • Exercise: Staying active is the best way to keep the brain healthy.
  • Engage your brain: Mental activity is also important for helping the brain retain the ability to continuously alter its neural pathways, so look for opportunities to learn, play challenging games, do puzzles--whatever interests you.
  • Give ginkgo and grape juice a try: Some studies have found that taking ginkgo and drinking grape juice may enhance memory and learning in seniors.

(J Altern Complement Med, 2010;16:753-9)

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada, and has done extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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