A traditional part of Indian Ayurvedic medicine, gotu kola is a medicinal herb that is thought to improve skin health and cognitive function, and support detox organs like the liver and the kidneys. Modern science has confirmed some of these benefits. Read on to discover the scientifically proven gotu kola benefits you could gain from what’s known as the “herb of longevity.”
What Is Gotu Kola?
Gotu kola, also known as Centella asiatica or Indian pennywort, is a perennial flowering plant native to Asian wetlands. It is used as both a culinary veggie and a medicinal herb in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine. What are the benefits of gotu kola? Read on to find out.
The Top 7 Gotu Kola Benefits
Here are the top seven scientifically evidenced health benefits of gotu kola that could help improve your overall well-being. Unfortunately, much of the evidence comes from studies on rodents, although we do have humans featured in a few. More studies on human participants need to be conducted to truly give a definitive thumbs up to the following benefits.
1. Aids Cognitive Function and Alzheimer’s Treatment
A 2016 study found that stroke patients who consumed gotu kola extract enjoyed improved overall cognitive function at the same rate of those taking folic acid, and had better increases in memory. Another study found that the effects of gotu kola on mice showed enhanced learning and memory capacity, especially in older mice tested.
Age-related cognitive improvements also lead to benefits for those with Alzheimer’s disease. A 2012 animal study observed that gotu kola extract exhibited a positive effect on mice with Alzheimer’s, specifically their behavior deficits. This is due to gotu kola’s ability to protect brain cells from plaque formation and toxicity, possibly preventing the disease from progressing. Of course, mice are not humans, so these effects should be considered with the limitations of that comparison in mind.
2. Antidepressant Ability
Another aspect of gotu kola’s influence on brain function is its ability to act as an antidepressant. A review of studies from 2016 suggests that gotu kola could potentially replace antidepressant medications and ameliorate the symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression, as evidenced in one study’s participants.
Likewise another clinical study in the above-linked review showed that gotu kola given to rats with induced chronic depression showed a positive effect on their physical well-being, along with improving certain aspects of their depressive behavior.
3. Relieves Stress and Anxiety
In 2016, researchers found that gotu kola produced an anti-anxiety impact on sleep-deprived mice, reducing anxious behavior and improving locomotor activity. Similarly a review of herbal medicines for the treatment of anxiety asserted that gotu kola functioned in an acute anti-anxiety capacity.
4. Minimizes Scarring and the Appearance of Stretch Marks
Gotu kola may help promote wound healing, making it effective in minimizing scarring and other blemishes on the skin. In a 2015 study, researchers noted gotu kola’s healing effect on various wound types, including clean cuts, jagged tears, and wounds resulting from blunt-force trauma.
A separate study from 2013 on human participants found that gotu kola applied topically helped to not only reduce the appearance of stretch marks, but also increase overall collagen production throughout the body, possibly preventing new stretch marks from forming. This led researchers to suggest gotu kola could help heal any existing marks or blemishes on the skin, including those from burns or infections.
5. Improves Circulation and Blood Pressure
In a study from 2001, participants with varicose veins consumed gotu kola for 2 days prior to an airline flight, the day of the flight, and the day following. Those who took gotu kola had reduced levels of ankle swelling and fluid retention than the control group, thanks to gotu kola’s ability to improve blood flow and circulation. An older study from 1990 also showed that gotu kola is useful in treating varicose veins, due in part to its ability to positively influence the connective tissue in our vascular walls.
By relaxing the arteries and blood vessels in the body, gotu kola is also effective in regulating blood pressure and improving heart health by helping to prevent conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke.
6. Eases Joint Pain
Gotu kola works as an anti-inflammatory, which makes it an asset in treating arthritis and alleviating joint pain and tenderness. This 2014 study on rats with collagen-induced arthritis showed that consuming gotu kola helped reduce not only joint inflammation, but also cartilage and bone erosion as well.
7. Supports Detoxification
More recent research on gotu kola examines its influence on kidney and liver toxicity. A 2017 animal study found that gotu kola can effectively suppress toxic side effects from isoniazid, an antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis. Rats given the antibiotic along with gotu kola supplementation experienced less toxicity than rats in the control group, and they recovered to near-normal levels afterward. Though more research is needed to evaluate this effect in human subjects, it’s nevertheless another promising discovery in gotu kola benefits.
Possible Gotu Kola Side Effects
While this medicinal plant extract is generally tolerated well by those who use it, some reported side effects are:
- Upset stomach
It’s recommended to start with a low dose of gotu kola extract to evaluate your vulnerability to side effects. Additionally it’s advised that you follow the instructions on the product’s label and only take gotu kola for 2-6 weeks at any given time, waiting at least 2 weeks in between before resuming its use again.
Seek medical advice before using gotu kola if you:
- Have high cholesterol
- Are diabetic
- Have liver disease
- Are on any other medications including sedatives, diuretics, or blood pressure drugs
Gotu kola use is not recommended for those who are:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
- Scheduled for surgery within 2 weeks
- Under 18 years of age
- Skin cancer survivors
- Managing hepatitis
How to Use Gotu Kola
For topical use, gotu kola ointment can be applied several times a day depending on how severely affected the area is. Seek medical advice for recommended use, and test the ointment on a small patch of skin first to make sure you don’t experience any sort of irritation or allergic reaction.
For consuming gotu kola extract, depending on what you’re using gotu kola to treat, you can take anywhere between 60 and 2000 milligrams per day of the liquid extract. It comes in bottles not unlike eye droppers and can be consumed directly or mixed in with other liquids like a tea.
To make gotu kola tea you can:
- Add the extract drops to any of your favorite teas.
- Use fresh or dried gotu kola leaves to boil your own healthy elixir.
- Mix in a powdered gotu kola supplement.
Got to Get Gotu Kola
Using gotu kola can improve blood circulation, collagen production, and the symptoms of anxiety disorders. While it’s considered safe and has very minor reported side effects, you should nevertheless consult a trusted medical professional before supplementing with this botanical to rule out any conflicts it may have with your health condition or other medications you may be on. Should you experience any adverse reactions, discontinue taking the supplement immediately, but if it agrees with you then you’re free to enjoy the full-body health benefits gotu kola has to offer.