The specific bacopa extract, CDRI 08, has both acute and chronic dosing studies in learning and memory, while reducing stress levels when cognitively challenged. This article reviews this research.
Bacopa monnieri (Bacopa) is a plant native to the wetlands of Southern and Eastern India where it is known as Brahmi. It has a long traditional use in Ayurvedic medicine for its neural tonifying, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, sedative effects, and benefits on memory and learning.1,4 It is the memory and learning effects of this herb that have proved most popular with modern researchers, especially the highly studied specific extract of bacopa known as CDRI 08.
Phytochemical studies show that bacopa contains many active constituents; however, the major constituents are the steroidal saponins, bacosides A and B.2 They have numerous mechanisms of action within the body and are of particular interest in the central nervous system where they have exhibited antioxidant activity, enhancement of kinase activity, restoration of synaptic activity, and ultimately nerve impulse transmission.3
CDRI 08 is a whole pant extract of bacopa standardised for bacosides A and B to ensure it contains no less than 55% (+/- 5%) of combined bacosides per dose. It is also the result of over 50+ years of research and development.5
The studies on CDRI 08 focused on memory and learning can be divided into two types – long-term use (12 weeks+) and acute use (2-3 hours).
Several studies have found that long-term use (12 weeks) of CDRI 08 improves measures of learning and memory, including:
A 2001 double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted on 46 healthy volunteers aged 18-60 who received either CDRI 08 or placebo for 12 weeks. They underwent a battery of neuropsychological tests before commencing the trial and were re-tested at weeks 5 and 12. Researchers found that those in the CDRI 08 group had significant improvements in speed of visual information processing, improved learning rate and memory consolidation, and decreases in forgetting rate.4
Interestingly researchers also found evidence of an anxiolytic effect for CDRI 08, noting that there were significant differences found between the active treatment and placebo groups on the state measure of anxiety at the end of the study,4 suggesting it may be helpful in stressful times. See chart below.
In 2008 another research group undertook a double-blind placebo-controlled trial to investigate the cognitive-enhancing effects of CDRI 08. Sixty-two participants completed the study and received either CDRI 08 or placebo for 90 days. They undertook neuropsychological testing before commencing the trial and were re-tested after 90 days of treatment. Those in the CDRI 08 group showed significantly improved working memory performance, particularly spatial working memory accuracy and a reduction in the number of false positives recorded in the rapid visual information processing task.2
Researchers also reported that their statistical analyses trended towards an improvement in cognitive functioning in areas of attention, working memory and psychomotor tasks for those in the treatment group.2
Researchers for both studies concluded that this specific extract of bacopa may improve higher order cognitive processes such as learning and memory, and accuracy in more complex cognitive tasks.2,4
- Want a closer look at the interplay between stress and memory formation? Read our latest article on the topic: Stress, learning and memory formation - friends or foes.
Researchers were also keen to investigate the acute of effects of CDRI 08 on measures of cognitive functioning including learning and memory.
A 2013 double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 24 healthy volunteers found that those assigned to the CDRI 08 group saw improvements in measures of information processing, reasoning and decision-making time, and aspects of attention, from testing conducted two hours after treatment.6
In a study published in 2014, researchers investigated the effect of CDRI 08 on multitasking, stress and mood in healthy volunteers. Seventeen people between the ages of 18 and 44 took either placebo, 320 mg or 640 mg of CDRI 08 before undertaking a cognitive assessment that presented four tasks simultaneously one and two hours later.3
Both dosage treatment groups improved cognitive functions, including information processing and decision-making times, and aspects of attention. Improvements in alertness ratings and contentedness were also seen – suggesting a positive effect on mood and subtle anxiolytic effects. This was supported by the changes seen in salivary cortisol scores, suggesting an adaptogenic effect.3
Research into the effects of CDRI 08 in various areas is ongoing; however, when looking at mood, the emerging bacopa research suggests it may also have positive effects on anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure in normally pleasurable activities). A 2020 study found bacopa reduced anhedonia-like behaviour in animals and anhedonia related symptoms in humans. People supplemented with bacopa extract showed significantly lower levels of anhedonia ratings in comparison to those in the conventional therapy group. Additionally, bacopa significantly prevented HPA axis dysregulation, reduced cortisol levels, and increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the animal model.1
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