Gotu kola is a common plant native to Southeast Asia, China, and India. It has been used as a traditional medicine in the region for hundreds of years and has numerous applications.
Modern research has shown that it contains numerous beneficial compounds. Furthermore, there is evidence it could help several conditions, including cognitive impairment, skin disorders, circulatory problems, and more. Therefore, gotu kola extract has become a popular product in recent years.
This article explores the science behind this herbal remedy and explains how to choose and use a gotu kola supplement.
What Is Gotu Kola?
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) has fan-shaped leaves, white or pale purple flowers, and a distinctive tobacco-like aroma. It grows abundantly in wet areas like swamps and rice paddies throughout southern and eastern Asia. It can also be found in certain parts of Africa and Central America.
The plant has many alternative names, including Indian pennywort and tiger grass. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is known as mandukparni and is considered a rasayana, a rejuvenating herb. In Chinese medicine, it is called ji xue cao and, according to some sources, is considered one of the “miracle elixirs of life.”
In Malaysia, the plant is eaten as a vegetable and is purported to have a range of health benefits. It has also been widely used as an herbal remedy in Europe for over 30 years.
The whole plant is typically used to make medicine, and it can be used internally or externally. Some of its traditional indications include:
- Wound healing
- Skin disorders
- Amenorrhea (lack of menstruation)
- Female urogenital disorders
- High blood pressure
- Memory and cognitive impairment
- Emotional disorders
Modern science has not investigated all of these applications thoroughly, and more research is required to determine the plant’s efficacy. However, there is evidence to support several medicinal uses, which we will discuss in detail below.
How Does Gotu Kola Work?
Gotu kola contains many bioactive compounds. Among the most therapeutically important is a group of triterpenoids, collectively known as centelloids. They include:
- Asiatic acid
- Madecassic acid
- Asiaticosides A and B
These chemicals have proven to have a range of beneficial properties. For example, asiatic acid has been associated with anticancer, liver-protective, wound healing, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects. Research suggests that it may be helpful in the treatment of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disorders.
Meanwhile, madecassoside has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective effects. It has been studied as a treatment for skin disorders, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. It may also have anti-aging effects and promote wound healing.
The plant also contains many other beneficial chemicals, including flavonoids, fatty acids, phenolic compounds, vitamins, minerals, and more.
Gotu Kola Benefits
Most of the current research on gotu kola has involved animal studies or isolated cell lines. There are a handful of clinical trials, but, to date, these have only focused on a few key areas. Therefore, we still have much to learn about the plant and how it affects human physiology.
That said, the existing evidence is promising, and it seems that further study is worthwhile. A few of the most thoroughly researched benefits of gotu kola are detailed below.
Memory and Cognitive Function
Improving memory and cognitive function are among the most common gotu kola uses. Many people consider it a nootropic, and it has been studied as a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. It is characterized by an accumulation of proteins known as beta-amyloid and tau in the brain. These proteins are thought to interfere with nerve transmission causing memory deficits and behavioral changes.
Research involving a mouse model of Alzheimer’s found that gotu kola water extract attenuated beta-amyloid-related behavioral abnormalities. It also prevented beta-amyloid formation in human cell lines.
The herb has also been investigated to treat cognitive impairment following a stroke. The 2016 study involved 48 participants treated with either 750mg or 1000mg of gotu kola extract or 3mg of folic acid daily for six weeks. Folic acid has previously been shown to improve vascular cognitive impairment, which often occurs after a stroke.
The results indicated that both gotu kola dosages were as effective as folic acid in all domains of a cognitive function assessment. Furthermore, it was more effective than folic acid in the memory domain.
Gotu kola could also have a positive influence on mood.
A 2012 review suggested the herb has antidepressant effects. It may inhibit the release of stress hormones and increase beneficial neurotransmitter levels.
A 2017 review into the cognitive effect of gotu kola had mixed results. It concluded that the current evidence did not support overall cognitive improvements after taking the herb. However, the authors suggested it may improve working memory and self-reported alertness and calmness while reducing self-reported anger.
These effects could indirectly benefit cognitive function. It also seems that gotu kola may work well in combination with other herbal remedies such as ginkgo biloba and ashwagandha.
Skin Conditions and Wound Healing
There has also been significant research into gotu kola’s effects on skin health and healing.
A 2013 review suggested it may be helpful in the treatment of wounds, burns, psoriasis, and scleroderma. It appears to promote the growth of collagen-producing cells, increasing collagen production and the tensile strength of the skin. For this reason, it may also be helpful for cosmetic issues such as scarring, cellulite, and stretch marks.
A more recent 2021 review added acne and atopic dermatitis to the list of skin conditions gotu kola may benefit. This is due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
A 2022 review and meta-analysis supports these applications. It concluded that gotu kola might improve wound healing via several mechanisms, including increased collagen production, improved microcirculation, and reduced inflammation.
Gotu kola tends to be used as an external preparation when treating skin disorders.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Chronic venous insufficiency is a common condition that affects circulation in the legs. It causes sensations of limb heaviness, swelling (edema), discomfort, and skin changes. The exact cause of chronic venous insufficiency is unknown, but it seems gotu kola could help.
A 2013 review of eight studies found that the plant improved microcirculation and reduced ankle swelling. Study participants also reported improvements in symptoms, including leg heaviness, edema, and pain.
Research suggests several mechanisms underlying these benefits. It appears that gotu kola could reduce inflammation and strengthen blood vessels by increasing collagen production. These effects may reduce damage to the veins and prevent leakage, thus improving circulation overall.
Gotu Kola Side Effects
Gotu kola is thought to be relatively safe when taken in normal amounts. However, it could cause side effects in some people, including:
- Skin sensitivity and allergies (external use)
- Digestive upsets
- Drowsiness (high doses)
Some research also suggests that gotu kola has anti-fertility effects in males and females and may induce miscarriage. Therefore, individuals who are pregnant or trying to conceive should not take this herbal remedy.
There have also been a few reports of jaundice following gotu kola use and another report of acute liver failure. People with pre-existing liver disease should exercise caution and consult a physician before use. It may also affect blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
Finally, gotu kola could interact with other medicines, especially those affecting the liver. At high doses, it has sedative effects and should not be taken alongside sleeping pills or other medicines that cause drowsiness.
Gotu Kola Supplement Options
There are many options when buying gotu kola supplements.
Traditionally, the herb would be brewed in hot water to make tea. However, many people find this method inconvenient and prefer to take tablets or capsules instead. The primary advantage is that they are easy to consume and provide a pre-measured dose each time.
For skin disorders and wound healing, there are a variety of external preparations, including dressings and cream.
When purchasing gotu kola products, remember that dietary supplements are not well-regulated, and many items are low-quality. Therefore, it is essential to find a well-established and reliable brand.
Look for companies that list their ingredients and dosages clearly and avoid those that make outlandish health claims. Reading customer reviews on third-party sites like Trustpilot is another excellent way to determine whether a brand is legitimate.
Gotu Kola Dosage
There is no standard gotu kola dosage, and research studies tend to use anywhere between 300mg and 680mg three times a day. Many commercial products contain around 600mg per dose.
The amount required will depend upon personal physiology and the reason for using the supplement. Therefore, individuals should consult a health care professional for guidance regarding the best dose for them.
Final Thoughts on Gotu Kola
Gotu kola is a traditional herbal medicine with several research-backed benefits. However, most of the research to date has involved animal studies rather than human clinical trials. Therefore, there is insufficient evidence that a gotu kola supplement will work for everyone.
Anyone considering using the herb should consult a physician or herbalist to ensure it is suitable for them. These professionals can also offer additional information on safety and the most appropriate dosage.