Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and into adulthood. While modern medicines may just suppress symptoms of the disorder, treatment through Ayurveda helps to cure the disease by nipping it off the bud. Here, Dr. Lakshmi Anoop explains the role of Brahmi in the treatment of this disorder and also how Brahmi helps to improve memory.
Brahmi is used as a general tonic to fight stress and to treat a broad range of mind-related health concerns, including memory loss, anxiety, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s, Epilepsy, OCD, Depression, etc. There is growing evidence regarding the use of Brahmi for its cognitive and nootropic effects. Brahmi supports normal nervous system activity by protecting and nourishing the nerves.
Role of Brahmi in ADHD
In Ayurveda, ADHD as an entity is not described. However, there are some references to abnormal behaviour that can be correlated to ADHD. The Charaka Samhita refers to the following – vitiation of dhee (rational thinking), dhriti (intellect/ retaining power of the mind), and smriti (memory). This causes abnormal conduct leading to “improper contact of the senses with their objectives.” This results in inattention, overactivity and impulsivity, which are characteristics of ADHD.
The fundamental approach of Ayurveda to ADHD is to develop one’s full mental potential through Medhya Rasayanas (Rejuvenators of the mind) and herbs that provide powerful nourishment to the mind. Brahmi is one such Medhya Rasayana herb that helps in rejuvenating the mind and thereby increasing the cognitive function of the brain, intelligence quotient of an individual and improving coordination between various mental functions.
Brahmi invigorates the mental process, reduce stress, sharpens the cognitive function by improving transmission of nerve impulses, creating a sense of calmness of the mind and hence it is beneficial for the hyperactive and impulsive tendencies of people suffering from ADHD. Brahmi is known to improve mental control, attentiveness, working memory and accuracy in children with ADHD. Brahmi improves planning, problem solving, information processing speed, motor responsiveness, decision making and function of Auditory Verbal Learning. These improvements are indication of enhanced function of the brain due to the effect of Brahmi.
Action of Brahmi in ADHD
- According to Ayurveda, the mechanism of regulating mental performance involves the use of herbs which are predominantly bitter and pungent in taste; light to digest, hot, penetrating with mobility properties; rejuvenative, appetizing, digestive, with dosha balancing and intellect promoting properties.
- Bitter taste has direct action on intellect.
- Hot, penetrating and light to digest property expel the Avarana (clouding) of Tamas and Rajas guna and increase the Sattva guna of Manas (Mind).
- Hot and penetrating property enhance the perception and retrieval by harmonizing Pitta
- Mobility action of herbs improves channelizing of Vata
- Three dosha balancing property of ingredients harmonizes especially Vata dosha, thereby regulating the function of the mind and improving attention, working memory and procedural memory.
Brahmi regularizes the functioning of Mana (Mind), Sharira (Physique) and mental abilities – Dhi (the power of acquisition or learning), Dhriti (the power of retention) and Smriti (the ability to recall) that are primitive seat of pathology in the treatment of ADHD.
On examining the pharmacodynamic properties of the herb Brahmi, it was revealed that Brahmi increases the Sattva part of Manas and increases the Medhya (intellect promoting) effect, improves cellular nourishment and creates pleasantness to the sense organs. When the Sattva part of Manas is increased, it enhances the individual’s happiness and the channelization of Vata becomes normal and attention span is improved. Brahmi has an unctuous property similar to the lipids in the brain and hence nourishes the brain by increasing the attention span of children suffering from ADHD. Also, Brahmi helps in absorption of micro as well as macronutrients as per the body’s requirements. ADHD- affected children have improper perfusion as well as glucose metabolism in the brain. Since, Brahmi improves blood circulation in the brain, it is beneficial for people suffering from ADHD.
Internal administration of Brahmi and Shirodhara with Brahmi oil reduces the reaction time in ADHD sufferers and thus improve their attention span. Therapies like Shiro Abhyanga (Head massage), Shirodhara (Pouring of lukewarm oils on the forehead from a perforated pot suspended above), Shiro Pichu (Placing a cotton pad dipped in lukewarm oil on the vertex or entire scalp), Shirbasti (Retaining herbal oil inside a leather cap fastened on the head), Nasya (Nasal medication) influences hormonal and cerebral blood flow. When these procedures are done with oil medicated with Brahmi it proves to be an effective treatment for ADHD.
Role of Brahmi in Memory Loss
Brahmi is one of the Medhya Rasayanas (Herbs that have rejuvenation action on the brain cells), which are specific to the brain tissue. Brahmi acts as micronutrients, retarding the ageing of brain and helps in regeneration of neural tissues besides producing adaptogenic and memory-enhancing effects. Administration of Brahmi helps to improve memory performance in both healthy and ageing adults including those suffering from age- related memory impairment.
Brahmi has multiple modes of action to the brain, all of which may be useful in ameliorating cognitive decline in elderly or in improving cognition in patients with dementia. Brahmi stimulates a few key neuro-transmitters in the brain, dopamine and serotonin. These compounds improve the efficiency of synaptic communication, and enhance memory formation. Its memory- enhancing effects have been supported by psychopharmacology literature. Brahmi improves blood and oxygen circulation to the brain and protects brain cells. It has antioxidant and nootropic properties. It produces direct neurotransmitter changes, reverses cognitive deficits produced by neurotoxins, increases blood flow to the brain, increases energy metabolism, protects neurons from cell death and restrains oxidative stress.
Mode of Action of Brahmi in Memory Loss
Brahmi enhances memory by increasing functional growth of neurons. Brahmi plays a role in protecting / delaying age- related memory decline or delay onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases. The saponins in Brahmi mainly bacosides are responsible for modulating the brain stress hormone, altering protein synthesis in the brain and helps in restoring memory in different ways. Brahmi helps to repair damaged neurons by synthesis of new neurons to replace old ones. Depleted synaptic activity is thus restored, leading to augmented functions.
Brahmi calms the nerves by regulating the body’s production of stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. It improves motor learning, acquisition, retention, spatial abilities, reasoning, decision-making and delay extinction of newly- acquired behavior. Brahmi is a safe and efficacious cognitive enhancer, which shows promising benefits across a different ages.
*Consultant Physician and Head of Panchakarma Department,
Chakrapani Ayurveda Clinic & Research Center,