Bacopa is well-known as a brain tonic and sedative herb of Ayurveda, often called "Brahmi," in honor of Brahma, the creator, in the trinity with Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer. In the West, herbalists had heard first of the substitute plant, gotu kola (from Centella asiatica), that is also used as Brahmi; it has the same applications, but is not as potent. The traditional use is as a brain tonic, to improve memory, increase intelligence, and sharpen mental focus, while calming nervous energy; properties which have intrigued herbalists worldwide. Bacopa is studied primarily for its anti-stress activity, and is considered effective based on the action of its saponin components, bacosides. The bacosides may function similarly to the saponins of the Chinese herb zizyphus, also used as a tonic sedative. Brahmi is soaked in sesame oil to produce a massage oil that is applied to the head for calming nervousness, alleviating headache, and promoting good mental function; it is also applied to the hair and scalp to inhibit premature graying of hair.
Formula for calming nervous energy and improving mental function
This formulation is comprised of the four most potent anti-stress and calming herbs that are also used as tonics in the Ayurvedic tradition (these are the ones which are non-toxic and safe for long-term use). Ashwaganda is traditionally used for its calming effects and is now also employed for alleviating physical and mental distress. Nardostachys is a relative of the Western herb valerian, with actions similar to valerian, such as sedative and analgesic. Evolvulus is less known outside of Ayurvedic medicine, but it enjoys a very good reputation in India. It is commonly given for poor memory and nervous debility and has been described as being able to "increase brain power." These herbs are all quite bitter in nature.