Labdoor analyzed 8 of the best-selling Bacopa monnieri supplements in the United States. Tests were performed on bacoside content, pesticides, and heavy metal contamination (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury).
Bacosides are the bioactive component of the plant, Bacopa monnieri 10. In our analysis, products ranged from having 75% less to 58% more bacosides compared to their label claims. Products that were standardized to a specific bacoside percentage performed best in label accuracy. The 3 products in our analysis that only listed bacoside extract deviated by an average of 38% from their label claims. Bacopa monnieri is known to leach heavy metals from the environment as it grows; in our analysis, 2 products measured more than 0.5 mcg/serving of lead 4.
Analytical chemistry methods used to generate this report include high-performance liquid chromatography (Bacosides by British Pharmacopoeia), gas chromatography–mass spectrometry, and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectroscopy.
Key Finding: The average bacoside concentration was 9.4% of the product’s measured serving size.
Scoring: Label Accuracy scores were based on how each product claimed its Bacopa content. If the product only claimed a standardized extract, its measured bacoside content was directly compared to this claim. If the product listed both a standardized extract and a powder, we assigned a 10% bacoside concentration to the powder and added the extract and powder components to derive a total bacoside claim1. If the product only claimed Bacopa powder and did not specify bacoside content, it was considered a proprietary blend and given an automatic score of zero.
Results: Overall, the products we analyzed showed significant label discrepancies. In total, products scored an average of 28 out of 100 in label accuracy. 3 of the 8 products claiming only standardized extracts scored an average of 62.
Key Finding: All products recorded non-detectable levels of 20 common pesticides and two products exceeded 0.5 mcg/serving of lead.
Scoring: Product Purity scores reflect whether measured heavy metal contaminants surpass the following California Prop 65 proposed and established safe harbor levels in 1 serving: arsenic - 10 mcg/day, cadmium - 4.1 mcg/day, lead - 0.5 mcg/day, mercury - 0.3 mcg/day2.
Results: As Bacopa monnieri plants grow, they collect metals from soil over time, especially if metal concentrations in the soil are high. Wetlands, for example, are a typical habitat for Bacopa and the soil there often accumulates metals from industrial waste3. 2 products in our analysis exceeded the California Prop 65 safe harbor level for lead in 1 serving, and 2 more would exceed this level in 2 servings. In terms of pesticides, all 8 products had no detectable levels of the 20 common pesticides in our screening.
Key Finding: All products received a score of 100 out of 100 in Nutritional Value.
Scoring: Nutritional Value scores for this category follow our standard methods for assessing macronutrients and micronutrients.
Results: Products in this category did not record any additional macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) or micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Key Finding: All products received a score of 100 out of 100 in Ingredient Safety.
Scoring: Ingredient Safety scores reflect the safety of each product’s active and inactive ingredients. We used the FDA’s “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) database, CSPI classifications, and primary research literature to assign scoring penalties5,6.
Results: Recorded inactive ingredients in this category were mainly ingredients used to make the supplement capsules, such as gelatin and cellulose, which are generally considered to be safe. Bacopa monnieri is recognized as a dietary supplement under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994; gastrointestinal distress is its most commonly reported side effect9.
Key Finding: Products with bacopa powder averaged 4.7% bacosides.
Background: Research has shown that Bacopa monnieri supplements may be beneficial in healthy young adults and adults aged 65 and older8. Researched potential benefits include improving working memory and reducing anxiety9. A typical dose of Bacopa monnieri is 300 mg/day standardized to an extract concentration of 50-55% bacosides, which equates to 150-165 mg/day8. Bacopa powders, distinct from standardized extracts, can vary widely in bacoside concentration depending on season and place of harvest and even genetic variation10.
Scoring: Projected Efficacy scores for this category are based on the total amount as well as the concentration of bacosides in 1 serving of each product.
Results: Total bacoside content ranged from 24.5 to 102.8 mg/serving, with an average of 47.5 mg/serving. Bacoside concentrations ranged from 3.0% to 15.8%, with an average of 9.4%.
- 1Shinomol, GK & Muralidhara. (2011). Bacopa monnieri modulates endogenous cytoplasmic and mitochondrial oxidative markers in prepubertal mice brain. Phytomedicine. 18.4:317-326.
- 2CA OEHHA. (2014). Proposition 65 FAQs.
- 3Nriagu JO. (1990). Human Influence on the Global Cycling of Trace Metals. Glob. Planet. Change. 2.1-2:113-120.
- 4Sinha S. (1999). Accumulation of Cu, Cd, Cr, Mn, and Pb from artificially contaminated soil by Bacopa Monnieri. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 57.3:253-264.
- 5FDA. (2015). GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Database.
- 6CSPI. (2017). Chemical Cuisine.
- 7 Stough C. (2008). Examining the nootropic effects of a special extract of Bacopa monniera on human cognitive functioning: 90 day double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Phytother. Res. 22.12:1629-1634. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18683852
- 8Calabrese C, et al. (2008). Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J. Altern. Complement. Med. 14.6:707-713.
- 9Stough C, et al. (2001). The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 156.4:481-484.
- 10Bansal M, et al. (2016). Seasonal variations in harvest index and bacoside A contents amongst accessions of Bacopa monnieri (L.) Wettst. collected from wild populations. Physiol. Mol. Biol. Plants. 22.3:407-413.