How does it feel?
Fresh gotu kola has an aromatic odour, slightly reminiscent of tobacco. If you can find a sample to taste you will first notice a strong bitter hit quickly complemented by a gentle sweetness and aromatic taste. The bitterness rolls away leaving the sweet to dominate and you are left with sweet and aromatic aftertaste.
All around the world the actions of traditional medicines were understood by their immediate sensory impacts. Click on each of gotu kola’s key qualities below to learn more:
The sweetness is due to the high levels of triterpene saponins that are the most significant health-giving constituents.
What can I use it for?
Gotu kola is revered as a great herb for use within meditative practices because of its ability to ‘open the mind’. It is a rejuvenative tonic, with particular effect upon the brain, helping to restore cerebral functioning that may have been compromised due to excess stress, trauma or illness. It will also improve cognitive functions such as memory, learning and recall.
Gotu kola is also one of the most prominent healers in traditional medicine, used in the past to mend some of the most demanding wounds and skin problems (skin ulcers, weeping eczema and even leprosy). Unusually its benefits were as much from oral consumption as topical applications. Its systemic impact upon collagen synthesis and blood vessel repair mechanisms have made it very valuable where there has been any deep tissue damage, but also where the surface of the skin has been damaged through injury or chronic skin conditions. It was also used to reduce inflammatory damage in rheumatic and other inflammatory joint problems.
These combined properties make got kola an obvious remedy when stress and inflammatory problems coincide, for example in skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, and inflammatory gut problems.
Into the heart of gotu kola
Gotu kola starts as a most impressive healing agent. Laboratory studies indicate that it promotes collagen synthesis, the tissue required to heal wounds and damaged tissue, yet also switching effect to reduce excessive fibrosis or scarring. There are similar data to show that constituents in gotu kola can significantly reduce local inflammation.
Extending out from this are indications that gotu kola improves the integrity of blood vessel walls, the endothelium, and thereby improves circulation to key tissues. There is also evidence that it can enhance inherent cellular antioxidant performance to reduce tissue damage resulting from various stresses and trauma.
These properties seem particularly important in the central nervous system and brain. Gotu kola can be seen to protect the nervous system. This combined action makes it effective where there has been any head trauma or injury and also where there may be signs of cognitive degeneration or mental fatigue.
Gotu kola has sometimes been coupled with Bacopa monnieri under the generic heading of ‘brahmi’, and both are classified in Ayurveda as medhya rasayanas, remedies that boost memory, restore cognitive deficits and improve mental function.
Gotu kola has been one of the most popular remedies in Ayurvedic medicine as a powerful healer.
It balances all three doshas and benefits the skin and bhrajaka pitta through its ability to hasten wound healing and reduce scars. For mental and nervous conditions it is used where there is pitta/vata aggravation. As it protects the brain by nourishing majjadhatu and also benefits sadhaka pitta it is used for a wide range of neurological applications.
What practitioners say
Nervous system: Gotu kola improves concentration, intelligence, memory and alertness. It is relaxing can be applied in conditions of stress, insomnia and emotional turbulence. Beyond that it can be useful in managing behavioural and developmental imbalances such as spectrum disorders and ADHD. It combines these with its healing effects, with apparent benefits in reducing neuroinflammatory activity, and is an important remedy to be used in dementia, chronic fatigue syndromes and the after-effects of stroke.
Skin: Gotu kola is a specific herb for inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, urticaria and acne.
Joints: Gotu Kola is traditionally used for arthritis, gout and joint inflammation.
Did you know?
The Sanskrit name mandukaparni refers to the shape of gotu kola’s leaves resembling the webbed feet of a frog!
The gotu kola leaf also looks like the cerebellum in the brain and in the tradition of the ‘doctrine of signatures’ is renowned for promoting intellect, soothing the nervous system and for general mind-enhancing properties.
Its other common name Hydrocotyle is derived from the Greek words for ‘water’ and ‘cup’, describing the plants natural habitat and the appearance of its ‘cup-shaped’ leaves..
Gotu kola is widely used as a vegetable in Asia and is safe.
Traditional Ayurvedic characteristics are
- Rasa (taste) Bitter, astringent, sweet.
- Virya (action) Cooling.
- Vipaka (post-digestive effect) Sweet.
- Guna (quality) Dry, light.
- Dosha effect Balances vata, pitta and kapha, reduces excessive kapha and pitta
- Dhatu (tissue) Plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, nerve.
- Srota (channel) Nervous, circulatory, digestive.
Much of the clinical trial evidence relates to a standardised extract of gotu kola known as ‘total triterpenic fraction’ (TTF), made up of 40% asiaticoside, 30% asiatic acid and 30% madecassic acid with doses at 60 to 180 mg/day. At up to 8% in the plant these levels of triterpenes are likely to be met with the recommended daily doses of whole herb.
Various studies have shown that gotu kola extracts have a protective effect against various neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, learning and memory enhancement, neurotoxicity and other mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and epilepsy.
Preliminary clinical studies have shown an effect in reducing anxious responses in healthy subjects.
There have also been an uncontrolled clinical trial showing benefit in generalised anxiety disorder and improving cognitive performance.
A systematic review has concluded that gotu kola tripenoids have potential therapeutic effects in cardiovascular problems, and to have anti-atherosclerotic, antihypertensive, antihyperlipidemic, antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory activities. An Italian research group had in earlier additional studies demonstrated benefits of gotu kola triterpenoids on the microcirculatory consequences of long-distance flights, of diabetes, and venous hypertension (linked to deep-vein thrombosis and associated chronic venous congestion eg. in the legs). A systematic review of this evidence showed that Centella asiatica significantly improved microcirculatory parameters such as transcutaneous partial pressure of CO2 and O2, rate of ankle swelling and venoarteriolar response. and that patients treated showed significant improvement in CVI signs such as leg heaviness, pain and oedema.
One intriguing clue to the action of gotu kola was provided by a placebo-controlled study that demonstrated an effect of the triterpenoid fraction of gotu kola on the stabilisation of potentially thrombotic atheromatous plaques (detectable at the forking of the femoral artery). This suggests that elements within gotu kola could modulate collagen synthesis.
There is clinical trial evidence of benefit in healing diabetic ulcers when applied topically. Such healing activity may also be systemic: one study has demonstrated that oral doses of gotu kola reduced the amount of loose endothelial (blood vessel wall) cells associated with phlebitis.
To see the references used in this summary check our downloadable Expert Herbal Reality Resource pdf
From 3 up to 30 g of dried leaf per day.
- Triterpene saponins (pentacyclic ursane type – ‘centellosides’), mainly asiaticoside and madecassoside and their corresponding sapogenins asiatic and madecassic acids.
- Essential oil including myrcene, farnesene, germacrene, caryophyllene and pinene
Pentacyclic triterpenoids are widely distributed in many medicinal plants, such as licorice, green tea, hawthorn as well as gotu kola; some have shown apparent effects on glucose absorption, insulin secretion, diabetic vascular dysfunction, retinopathy and nephropathy, all features of diabetes or prediabetic conditions.
Asiatic acid is anti-inflammatory with antihypertensive, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, antimicrobial, and antitumour activities in preclinical studies.