Bacopa monniera and Centella asiatica
In India, Bacopa monniera, known as “Brahmi”, is revered in the indigenous system of medicine as a nerve tonic. In early literature, the name Brahmi was also used to refer to another plant species, Centella asiatica Linn., known as Indian pennywort. However, these plants are distinctly different. The name Jala-Brahmi or water-Brahmi assigned to Bacopa monniera in ancient Sanskrit writings provides the differentiation. The vernacular name “Mandukaparni”, often confused with Brahmi, in fact refers to Centella asiatica.
A critical study on the comparative phytochemistry, pharmacology and therapeutic properties of these two botanicals also support the view that they are distinct:
- The Charaka Samhita considers them both to be promoters of cognitive functions, but it suggests that Brahmi is superior to Mandukaparni. Brahmi is used to treat specific mental disorders such as insanity and epilepsy, while Mandukaparni is a general rejuvenating tonic which improves mental health
- Brahmi promotes fertility and sustains implantation of the embryo in the uterus, while Mandukaparni tends to reject the embryo. This suggests that the plant materials have opposite effects on uterine functions
- The Sushruta Samhita defines the properties of the herbs. Brahmi belongs to tikta rasa (bitter), while Mandukaparni belongs to Kasaya rasa (astringent)
The two plants are pictorially represented below: