Gotu Kola or else known by the scientific name Centella Asiatica is a herb that belongs to the parsley family and is a staple in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and is native to the wetlands in Asia, however, it can grow in many tropical swampy regions of the world.
Despite being aquatic plants they can still be cultivated in drier soils to be grown in gardens across the world as long as they are regularly watered.
Gotu kola is commonly sold as a dietary supplement in a capsule, powder, or topical formulation that can usually be found in most health stores.
However, it is more traditionally eaten as a vegetable in Southeast Asia but acquiring this herb in its original state will be more difficult in countries outside of Asia.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the history of Gotu kola, the health benefits that it is scientifically proven to have as well as more deliberated health benefits, along with the many uses of Gotu Kola.
So if you’re interested in integrating Gotu kola into your pantry or even your medicine cabinet then keep on reading.
History of Gotu Kola
Gotu Kola is indigenous to Southeast Asia and grows in moist surroundings and can grow in altitudes of up to 1800m. It’s not only used for medicinal purposes, but people in Asia eat Gotu kola as a vegetable, predominantly featuring in traditional salads in Sri Lanka, containing other ingredients like fresh coconut and lime.
In India, Gotu kola or known as Brahmi there is considered to be the most spiritual of all the herbs and was used by ancient Yogis to help them reach their spiritual goals to the cognitive functions of the plant.
Nowadays, many people around the world who practice yoga and meditation will take gotu kola as the effects can help enhance meditation sessions whilst also being able to replicate the feeling of meditation even when you’re not trying to be in that state of mind.
Gotu kola is said to develop the crown chakra located at the top of the head which acts as someone’s center of their spirit, wisdom, consciousness and balances the right and left of the brain.
The leaf of Gotu kola coincidentally resembles the shape of a brain. Gotu kola can also be known by the names Indian pennywort and mandukaparni and is also listed in an ancient medical text known as the ‘Sushruta Samhita’
Years ago, Eastern healers used gotu kola as the main treatment for emotional disorders like depression, however, scientists nowadays say that larger-scale studies need to be done to draw definite conclusions about gotu kola’s effectiveness when it comes to emotional and mental disorders.
In China, gotu kola is considered to be one of the ‘miracle elixirs of life’ and has been linked to longevity for over 2000 years.
Gotu kola can often get confused with kola nuts, which is a caffeine-containing seed that is used as a flavoring ingredient in beverages, however, the two things are very different and gotu kola does not function as a stimulant as kola nuts do.
Uses & Benefits of Gotu Kola
There are various uses and benefits of gotu kola, some of which require more necessary scientific research to support and promote the widespread use of gotu kola as some there is still research to be done regarding the impact that gotu kola has on other medications and how effective the active ingredients are at targeting certain areas of the body.
Helps Boost Cognitive Function
One of the main reasons gotu kola is considered the miracle elixir of life and has been widely used by practicing yogis over the years is because of its ability to help support cognitive functioning of the brain and the nervous system. Gotu kola is considered beneficial for improving memory and protecting the mind against aging.
Research has been conducted to confirm these speculations, one being a 2016 study that compared the effects of folic acid and gotu kola on cognitive functioning after a stroke.
Both gotu kola and folic acid were deemed equally beneficial at improving cognitive functioning, gotu kola exceeded folic acid in terms of effectiveness when it comes to the memory domain.
In more recent studies, scientists have been unable to draw definitive conclusions regarding the herb’s ability to improve cognitive and memory functioning but have found that gotu kola can improve alertness, which will then have a more positive effect on short-term memory.
The effects of gotu kola have been linked to being a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, however, all current research relating to this claim has been carried out on mice in a lab so further research will still need to be done to clarify this so gotu kola can then be used for treatment for Alzheimer’s.
Wound & Burn Healing
There is research that supports the use of gotu kola for effectively speeding up the process of healing wounds and burns, however, most of these studies have been performed on animals or artificial wounds so there is no way to confirm whether it would have the same effects on humans.
Further human trials need to be conducted to clarify whether gotu kola is effective and safe to use in this way and whether it would react with other medications.
As a precaution, we’d recommend not using gotu kola on any healing wounds or burns without consulting with a doctor or medical professional first.
Helps Reduce Anxiety & Stress
Gotu kola is also linked with reducing anxiety and stress, however, there is not enough modern-day scientific research to back up these claims, and previous studies that make these links were often poorly designed or carried out on animals.
Gotu kola contains a compound called Asiatic acid which regulates the neurotransmitters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which helps relieve the feeling of anxiety. This reduced feeling of anxiety and sense of calmness is why gotu kola has been linked to improving memory as people are more relaxed and concentrate more.
Gotu kola has been used as a natural replacement for GABA agonist drugs to help relieve high levels of stress or anxiety without the sedative effect of medicinal drugs.
Research from 2016 supports these ancient findings, where over 30 participants were given gotu kola in place of their antidepressant medication for 60 days the participants reported they experienced decreased anxiety and depression levels.
Aids With Sleeping Problems
As gotu kola is linked with benefiting anxiety, depression, and stress it’s also perceived that it can be used to treat insomnia and some of these emotional disorders also correspond with the inability to sleep.
Gotu kola is a safer and more natural alternative to prescription sleeping pills and there is old research that shows the correlation of taking gotu kola with an improvement in people with sleeping disorders.
Improving Circulation & Reducing Swelling
Gotu kola is significantly linked with improving circulation and reducing swelling and is effective in treating patients with varicose veins.
Research from 2001 shows that gotu kola reduces problems such as fluid retention and ankle and foot swelling that is commonly caused by sitting down on a long flight.
The research was also carried out on patients with moderate cases of varicose veins and participants who took a gotu kola supplement experienced reduced swelling and fluid retention compared to those that did not.
Helps Relieve Joint Pain
Gotu kola has anti-inflammatory properties that may help relieve joint pain and could be useful as a natural pain reliever for people who struggle with arthritis.
A 2014 study on rats reported that oral administration of gotu kola reduced cartilage and bone damage and also reduced joint inflammation – but extensive research on this area is still to be done on humans so its effects cannot be confirmed.
Helps To Reduce The Appearance Of Stretch Marks
Gotu kola can also be used as a topical treatment to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and also to prevent more stretch marks from forming. This is due to the main active ingredients, terpenoids increase collagen production in the body as it’ll increase the elasticity and hydration of your skin so you’re less likely to show marks when your body is growing.
However, consistent research suggests that it is not always possible to prevent stretch marks, especially during natural processes like pregnancy. Whilst treatments like gotu kola may be able to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, they will not be able to eliminate them.
Remember, gotu kola cream is considered safe to use as a topical cream during pregnancy, but the oral administration of gotu kola is not recommended during pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding.
We briefly touched upon how research suggests that gotu kola is somewhat effective in treating Alzheimer’s but other research claims that it can be used to treat other diseases like leprosy and even cancer.
Gotu kola has antioxidant properties that neutralize the free radicals that cause cell damage and can lead to diseases like cancer. There is ongoing research to show the link between Asiatic acid (a component of gotu kola) that inhibits cell growth activity and prevents cancer cells from spreading rapidly beyond treatment capabilities.
However, extensive research still needs to be done in this area before this can be considered a treatment or cure for one of the world’s biggest killers.
Side Effects & Risks
As with any form of medication or medicinal plants, there will be possible side effects and risks to taking it. Whilst, generally well tolerated by people who take it, overconsumption can lead to common symptoms like drowsiness, an upset stomach, headaches, and nausea.
If you take the recommended dosage of gotu kola and you’ve experienced the above side effects or any different side effects then you should stop taking it immediately.
It’s important to start with a low dosage when beginning to take herbal medicine and then slowly increase the dosage as time goes on to reduce the risk of you experiencing side effects.
You should also be careful if you intend to use any form of gotu kola topically as it could cause skin irritation especially for those with sensitive skin. Gotu kola can have high levels of metal as it is sometimes grown in contaminated soils in some areas of the world.
So ensure you do a patch test somewhere less conspicuous on your body and wait to see if there is a reaction before committing and doing a full application.
Before taking any new sort of medication, even herbal medicine, you should always consult with your doctor beforehand, especially if you struggle with any health implications.
As a general rule, you should not take any sort of form of gotu kola if you are currently pregnant, under 18 years of age, have diabetes, have high cholesterol, or taking any other form of medication for a health condition.
If you’re having surgery anytime soon then you should also avoid taking gotu kola as it may interfere with medicinal sedatives and trigger liver problems.
Gotu kola should only be taken up to six weeks at a time and you should try to leave a two week to a month break before you begin taking it again.
Topical gotu kola cream is considered safe to use on the body all the time as long as confirmed by a doctor and a patch test has been done before applying it all over the body.