The Ayurvedic plant Bacopa monnieri inhibits inflammatory pathways in the brain

J Ethnopharmacol. 2017 Feb 2;197:92-100. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2016.07.073. Epub 2016 Jul 26.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Bacopa monnieri (L) Wettst (common name, bacopa) is a medicinal plant used in Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine of India, as a nootropic. It is considered to be a "medhya rasayana", an herb that sharpens the mind and the intellect. Bacopa is an important ingredient in many Ayurvedic herbal formulations designed to treat conditions such as memory loss, anxiety, poor cognition and loss of concentration. It has also been used in Ayurveda to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. In modern biomedical studies, bacopa has been shown in animal models to inhibit the release of the pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-α and IL-6. However, less is known regarding the anti-inflammatory activity of Bacopa in the brain.

Aim of the study: The current study examines the ability of Bacopa to inhibit the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines from microglial cells, the immune cells of the brain that participate in inflammation in the CNS. The effect of Bacopa on signaling enzymes associated with CNS inflammatory pathways was also studied.

Materials and methods: Various extracts of Bacopa were prepared and examined in the N9 microglial cell line in order to determine if they inhibited the release of the proinflammatory cytokines TNF-α and IL-6. Extracts were also tested in cell free assays as inhibitors of caspase-1 and matrix metalloproteinase-3 (enzymes associated with inflammation) and caspase-3, which has been shown to cleave protein Tau, an early event in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Results: The tea, infusion, and alkaloid extracts of bacopa, as well as Bacoside A significantly inhibited the release of TNF-α and IL-6 from activated N9 microglial cells in vitro. In addition, the tea, infusion, and alkaloid extracts of Bacopa effectively inhibited caspase 1 and 3, and matrix metalloproteinase-3 in the cell free assay.

Conclusions: Bacopa inhibits the release of inflammatory cytokines from microglial cells and inhibits enzymes associated with inflammation in the brain. Thus, Bacopa can limit inflammation in the CNS, and offers a promising source of novel therapeutics for the treatment of many CNS disorders.

Keywords: 1.04 Central nervous system; 2.104-Anxiolytic; 2.132—Ayurveda; 2.348—Inflammation; 2.476—phytochemistry; 2.548—signal transduction; Bacopa; Caspases; Cytokines; Inflammation; Microglia.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / chemistry*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacopa / chemistry*
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Caspase 1 / metabolism
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 3 / metabolism
  • Medicine, Ayurvedic
  • Mice
  • Nootropic Agents / chemistry
  • Nootropic Agents / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Interleukin-6
  • Nootropic Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 1
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 3