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Standardised herbal extracts: the key to cognitive function

stephanie_berglin's picture
  • Bacopa monnieri, cognition, memory, brain health, brahmi

Clinical evidence supports the use of the Ayurvedic herb brahmi for cognitive enhancement. Clinical trials have shown cognitive benefits across all age ranges, with long-term supplementation (12 weeks) leading to the most significant improvements.[1]

Clinical trials and traditional evidence show that supplementation with brahmi enhances a range of cognitive processes including verbal attention, memory acquisition, retention and recall, intellect and speed of information processing.[1-5]

The standardised extract of brahmi BacoMind® has been shown to support verbal attention, verbal memory and memory acquisition and retention in the elderly.[2,5]

Brahmi, and its active constituents the bacosides, may exert their effects through modulation of the cholinergic system and/or through antioxidant activity.[4]

The leaf of the ancient ginkgo tree is one of the most widely prescribed and consumed herbal medicines worldwide where it is used for conditions associated with cerebral vascular insufficiency, including memory loss, headaches, tinnitus, vertigo, dizziness and impaired concentration.[6]

The active constituents include flavonoids and terpenoids, the most important of which appear to be the ginkgolides and bilobalide.[6] Ginkgo displays significant antioxidant activity and improves circulation through the veins, arteries and capillaries, including cerebral microcirculation, which may account for its effect on memory and concentration.[7]

Evidence indicates that both acute and longer-term ginkgo supplementation can improve memory and cognitive processing speed.[6,8,9] A Cochrane review found ginkgo supplementation to be superior to placebo in improving cognition, activities of daily living, mood and emotional function in patients with acquired cognitive impairment.[10]

The medicinal use of ginseng extends over 5000 years, where it has been used as a general tonic, adaptogen and to improve physical performance.[11]

Animal studies have shown that the active constituents ginsenosides improve memory impairment and age-related cognitive decline.[12,13] In humans, studies show ginseng standardised to 4.85mg of ginsenosides may support quality of memory, in particular secondary memory, as well as accuracy of attention.[11,14,15]

Clinical trials have investigated and show that the combination of ginkgo (standardised to 24% flavonesglycosides and 6% terpene lactones) and ginseng (standardised to 4.85mg ginsenosides) significantly improve memory, including quality of memory, working memory and long term memory.[11,14]


  1. Neale C, Camfield D, Reay J, et al. Cognitive effects of two nutraceuticals ginseng and bacopa benchmarked against modafinil: a review and comparison of effect sizes. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2013;75(3):728-737. [Full text]
  2. Morgan A, Stevens J. Does Bacopa monnieri improve memory performance in older persons? Results of a randomized, placebocontrolled, double-blind trial. J Altern Complement Med 2010;16(7):753-759. [Abstract]
  3. Stough C, Lloyd J, Clarke J, et al. The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2001;156(4):481-484. [Abstract]
  4. Stough C, Downey LA, Lloyd J, et al. Examining the nootropic effects of a special extract of Bacopa monniera on human cognitive functioning: 90 day double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Phytother Res 2008;22(12):1629-1634. [Abstract]
  5. Barbhaiya HC, Desai RP, Saxena VS, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of BacoMind™ on memory improvement in elderly participants - a double blind placebo controlled study. J Pharmacol Toxicol 2008;3:425-434. [Full text]
  6. Ginkgo. Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database 2014. Viewed 20 Nov 2016, www.naturaldatabase.com
  7. Braun L, Cohen M. Herbs and natural supplements: an evidence-based guide, 3rd ed. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2010.
  8. Stough C, Clarke J, Lloyd J, et al. Neuropsychological changes after 30-day Ginkgo biloba administration in healthy participants. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 2001;4(2):131-134. [Abstract]
  9. Rigney U, Kimber S, Hindmarch I. The effects of acute doses of standardized Ginkgo biloba extract on memory and psychomotor performance in volunteers. Phytother Res 1999;13(5):408-415. [Abstract]
  10. Birks J, Grimley EV, Van Dongen M. Ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2002;(4):CD003120. [Full text]
  11. Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Wesnes KA. Differential, dose dependent changes in cognitive performance following acute administration of a Ginkgo biloba/Panax ginseng combination to healthy young volunteers. Nutr Neurosci 2001;4(5):399-412. [Abstract]
  12. Yang L, Zhang J, Zheng K, et al. Long-term ginsenoside Rg1 supplementation improves age-related cognitive decline by promoting synaptic plasticity associated protein expression in C57BL/6J mice. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2014;69(3):282- 294. [Full text]
  13. Zhao H, Li Q, Pei X, et al. Long-term ginsenoside administration prevents memory impairment in aged C57BL/6J mice by upregulating the synaptic plasticity-related proteins in hippocampus. Behav Brain Res 2009;201(2):311-317. [Abstract]
  14. Wesnes KA, Ward T, McGinty A, et al. The memory enhancing effects of a Ginkgo biloba/Panax ginseng combination in healthy middle-aged volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2000;152(4):353-361. [Abstract]
  15. Kennedy DO, Scholey AB. Ginseng: potential for the enhancement of cognitive performance and mood. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2003;75:687-700. [Abstract]


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Stephanie Berglin
Stephanie Berglin DBM, DipNut, BA Comms is a herbalist, nutritionist and iridologist with 12 years of clinical experience. Completing her studies at Sydney's renowned Natural Care College, Stephanie went on to found her own successful practice, whilst also working as a technical editor at one of Australia's leading nutraceutical companies.