An herbaceous annual plant from the family of Mackinlayaceae, Gotu Kola is used as a medicinal herb ayurvedic medicine, traditional African medicine and traditional Chinese medicine to treat various diseases like bowel disorders, AIDS, elephantiasis, epilepsy, insanity, fever, eczema, diarrhea, and amennorhea.
Also referred as Vallarai in Tamil, Gotu Kola is particularly used in treating nervous disorders, premature aging and senility. Traditional medicines claim Gotu Kola as a 'Brain Tonic'.
Gotu Kola - Source and Facts
Gotu Kola is botanically called Centella Asiatica. Centella is largely found growing in the tropical and subtropical climates in Africa, Asia, Australia, India and South America and few parts of southeastern United States. Centella is a small green plant with slender stems and creeping stolons in green to reddish green color.
Its fan shaped leaves are said to resemble the structure of a human brain. Since the leaves are about the size of an old British Penny, Gotu Kola is also called as the Indian Pennywort, marsh penny and water pennywort. Gotu Kola has three main chemical constituents:
- Asiaticoside, which is classified as an antibiotic that helps in healing wounds especially in the treatment of leprosy and tuberculosis
- Brahmoside and Brahminoside, pair of chemicals that are diuretic in nature and have a slightly sedative action in large doses
- Madecassoside, a glycoside that is strong anti-inflammatory agent
The Centella plant is also a source of Vitamin K, Magnesium, Calcium and Sodium. Centella is used as a leafy green in Sri Lankan Cuisine, where it is called Gotu Kola. In Sinhalese, Gotu means conical shape and Kola stands for leaf. The entire plant when cooked or used as a medicine is said to promote memory and intelligence. It is a good strengthening tonic for adrenals, and purifies blood when treating skin impurities. Gotu Kola is considered as food for brain, due to its ability in combating stress, depression and nervous breakdown.
Clinical studies reveal that Gotu Kola improves concentration and creates a calming effect on individuals prone to anxiety. A preliminary result in a clinical trial with mentally challenged children, conducted in 1992 has shown to increase the scores on intelligence test. Gotu Kola is also found to increase the brain's oxygen supply by protecting the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the brain.
Brahmi Gotu Kola
Brahmi, another famous Indian herbal adaptogen is said to possess the similar properties as Gotu Kola. They both are often used interchangeably. Nevertheless, a recent scientific study has revealed that these two adaptogenic herbs belong to two different species.
Gotu Kola Benefits and medicinal properties
Since times immemorial, Indian Ayurvedic treatment has been using Gotu Kola as a rejuvenating herb. The herb is said to develop the crown chakra (the energy center at the top of the head), and to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Traditional medicinal properties and benefits
- Supports the central nervous system
- Increases intelligence and memory / Prevents senility
- Revitalizes the immunity system
- Increases hair and nail growth
- Strengthens the adrenals
- Helps in relieving digestion troubles
- Increases fertility
- Accelerates wound healing both internally and externally
- Accelerates spiritual progress by opening higher energy centers
- Used to purify blood and circulatory systems
- Used to treat chronic skin conditions such as eczema
- Used for opium detoxification, especially in Thailand
Scientific medicinal properties and benefits
Scientific studies indicate that Gotu Kola regulates collagen production and minimizes the scar formation on skin. It is also found effective to promote healing from episiotomy, and to relieve the red welts of psoriasis. Centella also acts on the skin to maintain a youthful appearance. Scientifically, Gotu Kola is used as an
- Mildly antibacterial
- Cerebral tonic
- Circulatory stimulant
- Febrifuge (reduces fever)
- Veulnerary (to treat heals and wounds)
While tested in lab with rats that live in stressful conditions, Gotu Kola is found to benefit the adrenals by preventing their enlargement while also limiting excessive Corticosteroid production. In a laboratory setting, the herb is also found effective in destroying cultured tumor cells.
Gotu Kola Supplements
Gotu Kola is available in liposome tablets or tinctures. It is also included in many commercial topical creams that promote wound healing, collagen production, or reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Gotu Kola Tea
Gotu Kola is also available in all supermarkets as dried or powdered herbal tea. It is believed that one can get the benefits of Gotu Kola by drinking the herbal tea made from the herb. Traditional Chinese medicine argues that consuming Gotu Kola tea would be the ideal method of consumption. Following is the general recipe for preparing Gotu Herbal tea.
Boil 8 ounces of boiling water. Add 1 teaspoon of Gotu Kola tea, steep it for 5-10 minutes, strain and serve the tea hot. It is said that two cups of Gotu Kola tea each day can help relieve anxiety. However, remember as with any herb, it takes up to three weeks to see the results.
Gotu Kola side Effects and Warnings
Gotu Kola is generally safe in recommended doses. Possible side effects may include headache, stomach upset, nausea, dizziness and extreme dizziness. When applied topically or the when the Gotu Kola plants are handled, side effects may include skin allergy, burning sensations, itching and redness.
Women who are pregnant or nursing women should avoid Gotu kola. Gotu Kola may lead to miscarriage in pregnant women if taken internally or externally. Avoid Gotu Kola if you are taking tranquilizers or blood pressure lowering medications since the herb may have a narcotic effect.
It can also raise cholesterol and blood sugar level and hence people with cholesterol or diabetes should not take Gotu Kola in any form. Children under two years of age should not take Gotu Kola.