Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional healing therapy from India, have long used the herb bacopa (sometimes called brahmi) to enhance memory and mood. It is also used to help ease epilepsy and insomnia, and as a mild sedative. A number of years ago, bacopa was tested on animals with great success. More recently, human studies show bacopa does indeed enhance cognitive function, especially in the area of memory.
At the School of Biophysical Science in Australia, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted on healthy individuals. The participants were given either a placebo or 300 mg of bacopa for 12 weeks. At midpoint and the end of the study, the participants performed a variety of tests measuring their cognitive skills. Compared to the placebo group, the group taking bacopa showed significant improvements in the speed of visual information processing, learning rate and memory.
In a similar study conducted at the University of Wollongong in Australia, 76 healthy adults, aged 40 to 65 years, were given either a placebo or bacopa for 12 weeks. Cognitive tests for attention, verbal and visual short-term memory and long-term memory retrieval were performed at the beginning and end of the study, as well as six weeks after the trial was complete. Though the tests for attention and memory function were not significantly different from placebo in this study, the results did show a significant increase in the ability to retain new information in those taking bacopa.
Other natural remedies shown to aid in memory function include ginkgo and phosphatidylserine (PS).
Sources: Psychopharmacology 2001 Aug;156(4):481-4; Neuropsychopharmacology 2002 Aug;27(2):279-81