It's only Day 2, and I've already gotten some herb stuck up my nose. I'm going to be sniffin' a lot of herb over the next month, so I really need to be careful if I'm to survive this. So before I dive into the amazing herb that is Brahmi (named after the Hindu God Brahma, if that gives you an idea of how revered it is!), let me first give you a little advice about "sniffin' herb."
When sniffing an herb, do not get your nose too close to said herb. The suction powers of your nose are not to be underestimated. If you get too close, you will get something up your nose. Let's hope this never happens to you, but if you do get something up your nose make sure you do not just blow air out of your nose while still in close proximity to the herb you are sniffin'. The herb will blow everywhere and very possibly get into your eye. Take it from an experienced herb sniffer. This can and will happen and it is not pleasant. Finally, do not put herbs with strong scents in the same box as other herbs. If you do, all your herbs will just smell like that herb, and it becomes difficult to fully enjoy the aroma of the herb you are trying to learn about. I'm not saying I did or did not do any of these things, I'm just sharing my wisdom. Be careful.
Brahmi, like ashwagandha, is a rejuvenative tonic that can be used to treat a multitude of ailments. But ashwagandha wasn't named after a God, so you can probably take a guess which one would win in a "most revered herb" contest, of which I'm sure there are many. Several herbs have been called Brahmi, so there is a bit of debate about which one is the authentic Brahmi. All three disputed species are close to each other in actions, but the authentic Brahmi according to the Indian Materia Medica is "hydrocotyle asiatica," so that's what I'm going with at least for the time being. Hydrocotyle asiatica may also be called Gotu Kola. If you see Gotu Kola it is always hydorcotyle asiatica, but if you see Brahmi it might be that, bacopa monnieri, or centella asiatica. So, when you buy Brahmi, always make sure to know which one you are getting!
Brahmi is good for pacifying all three doshas. In addition to helping with eczema, decreasing senility, and promoting strong intellect, it is also the most sattvic and spiritual of all the herbs. It is used by yogis as food for meditation and awakens the crown chakra (the one associated with divine wisdom and oneness with the universe) helping to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It's a blood purifier, helps fortify the immune system and can even help with leprosy, syphilis, and malaria! Whoah!
Brahmi should be avoided in high doses because it can cause headaches and may aggravate itching. It certainly aggravates itching for me, though I generally have really sensitive skin. I know this because when I accidentally blew air out of my nose and got it everywhere, some got in my shirt. And I got itchy!
I think if you like the smell and taste of nettles, you will probably like Brahmi. It has a sort of earthy, dirty, rabbit food, hay-like taste and smell in the same way nettles do. It looks a little bit like hay as well. (see below)
I have mostly used brahmi in massage oils (it does not make me itch when infused in oil) and in nasya oil (which is an oil for your nostrils). It as also commonly used in shirodhara, which is a really luxurious treatment where medicated oil is poured on to the head over a certain period of time. I have really been wanting to make medicated ghee with it for quite some time, so I finally tried out the recipe today. I boiled 1.5 teaspoons of brahmi leaves for 5 minutes, strained it out , then added a half cup of ghee to the water which I boiled until the water evaporated off. The ghee was not as green as I thought it would be, so next time I'll add a bit more brahmi. This medicated ghee can be ingested to, among many other things, tonify and nourish the nerves, relieve throat hoarseness, and to cool pitta dosha. I am not in need of brahmi at the moment, but am excited to have the ghee around for when I need it.
That seems like a good introduction to brahmi! See ya tomorrow for the letter C! We'll see how long I stay with alphabetical order... Happy Monday!
(Most of my information comes from my textbooks, teachers, personal experience and the book "The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine," by Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad. None of this is to be taken as medical advice, but as a way to learn a little more about herbs and Ayurveda.)