This herb is a favourite food of elephants, which are notoriously long-lived animals, leading many people to associate it with longevity. Though scientific research hasn't shown that it can extend your life, studies have found that gotu kola provides other important health benefits.
What it is?
The medicinal use of gotu kola stems from India, where the herb continues to be part of the ancient healing tradition called Ayurveda. Word of its therapeutic benefits for skin disorders gradually spread throughout Asia and Europe, and gotu kola has been prescribed in France since the 1880s to treat burns and other wounds.
A red-flowered plant that thrives in hot, swampy areas, gotu kola grows naturally in India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, middle and southern Africa, Australia, China and southern US. The appearance of this slender, creeping perennial changes, depending on whether it's growing in water (when it has broad, fan-shaped leaves) or on dry land (when it leaves are small and thin). The leaves are most commonly used medicinally.
What it does?
Whether taken internally or applied externally as a compress, gotu kola has many beneficial effects. The herb's workhorse substances are chemicals called triterpenes (especially asiaticosides), which appear to enhance the formation of collagen in bones, cartilage and connective tissue. In addition, they promote healthy blood vessels and help to produce neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in the brain.
Gotu kola's singular effect on connective tissue – promoting its healthy developments and inhibiting the formation of hardened areas – makes it potentially important for treating many skin conditions. It can be therapeutic for burns, keloids (overgrown scar tissue) and wounds (including surgical incisions and skin ulcers). Gotu kola also seems to strengthen cells in the walls of blood vessels, improving blood flow and making it valuable for the treatment of varicose veins. Research results are often impressive. In more than ten studies observing gotu kola's effect on veins (which are surrounded by supportive sheaths of connective tissue), about 80% of patients with varicose veins and similar problems showed substantial improvement. Other studies indicate that applying gotu kola topically to psoriasis lesions may aid healing as well.
Gotu kola has been used to increase mental acuity for thousands of years. Current research supports a role for this herb in boosting memory, improving learning capabilities, and possibly reversing some of the memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease.
In one study, 30 developmentally disabled children were found to have significantly better concentration and attention levels after taking gotu kola for 12 weeks than they did at the start. Preliminary findings reveal that animals given gotu kola for two weeks were able to learn and retain new forms of behavior much better than animals not on the herb.
- Treats burns and wounds.
- Builds connective tissue.
- Strengthens veins.
- Improves memory.
- Relieves arthritis.
- Dried herb/tea.
- Pregnant women or those who are trying to conceive should not use gotu kola.
- Reminder: If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements.
How to take it?
To treat varicose veins: Take 200 mg of the standardized extract three times a day.
For burns: Use 200 mg twice a day until they heal.
To improve memory or possibly slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease: Take 200 mg three times a day. You can substitute 400-500 mg of the crude herb for each 200 mg dose of the standardized extract.
Guidelines for use:
In most cases, gotu kola is taken internally as a tablet or capsule, with or without meals. However, gotu kola tea or tincture can also be applied externally to the skin for psoriasis, burns, wounds, incisions or scars. You can use the oral and topical preparations of the herb together over the same period of time.
To apply gotu kola topically, soak a compress in tea or in tincture and apply it directly to the affected areas. Start with a relatively weak tea, steep 1 or 2 teaspoons of dried leaf in a cup of very hot water for 10-15 minutes. You can also make a paste to apply to patches of skin affected by psoriasis. Break open capsules and mix 2 teaspoons of dried gotu kola powder in a small amount of water.
Possible side effects
Taking gotu kola orally or using a topical preparation generally does not cause problems. Skin rash (dermatitis), headaches and sensitivity to sunlight are rare side effects. If you experience these symptoms, reduce the dosage or stop using the herb.
Facts and Tips
- Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is commonly known in Australia (Hydrocotyle vulgaris), is a related species, but has no known therapeutic properties.
- There's no relationship between gotu kola and the kola (or cola) nut, which is used in cola drinks. The kola nut is a stimulating containing caffeine; gotu kola is a very mild sedative, and is caffeine-free.
- As an anti-inflammatory, gotu kola also helps to relieve arthritis. the standard dose is two leaves a day added to a salad or 2 g of dried herb three times a day before meals.
When buying gotu kola supplements, look for those that contain 10% asiaticosides. If you can't find the standardized extract, substitute 400-500 mg of the crude herb for each 200 mg dose of the standardized extract.