[Centella asiatica] Not to be confused with the cola nut (part of the chocolate family) which imparts get-up-and-go via the effects of caffeine, Gotu Kola is a member of the parsley family, does not contain caffeine, and is used internally and externally to revitalise and heal.
Gotu Kola’s reputation, earned over centuries, is as a rejuvenator and brain food – improving concentration and memory, enhancing nervous function, healing wounds, and treating an array of skin disorders including eczema, psoriasis, scleroderma, and most notably – leprosy. It is also considered an anti-aging herb, staving off senility. Observers have noted that elephants, who have a reputation for longevity and memory, like to eat Gotu Kola’s semi-circular leaves.
As a nerve tonic Gotu Kola has long been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to ease depression and anxiety, and promote calmness and lucidity. Studies have substantiated both anxiety-relieving activity and learning enhancement.
Phytochemicals such as the asiaticoside and asiatic acid found in Gotu Kola appear to be key components of its regenerative power – maintaining the vitality and integrity of blood vessels and connective tissue, and supporting the body’s production of other key tissue-building substances such as chondroitin sulphate and hyaluronic acid. Its ability to stimulate collagen synthesis, as well as its anti-inflammatory properties, contributes to its ability to speed wound healing and minimise scarring. In clinical trials the external application of Gotu Kola has been beneficial in treating skin ulcers, skin grafts, surgical wounds and gangrene. Other studies have shown Gotu Kola extract (taken internally) to be useful in addressing circulatory problems such as water retention in the ankles and feet, venous insufficiency and varicose veins. It is also considered useful in treating arthritis.
In areas of traditional use, such as India, Gotu Kola is eaten in salads, drunk in juice and taken as tea. It can also be used dried, powdered and in extract form.
ACTIONS include: adaptogenic (improving the body’s nonspecific resistance to disease and stress), tonic, antirheumatic, mild diuretic, sedative, peripheral vasodilator, alterative (blood cleansing).
CAUTIONS: Occasionally Gotu Kola causes itching or nausea. It can also temporarily increase sensitivity to sunlight – be sure to wear sunscreen if taking Gotu Kola.
DRUG INTERACTIONS: Gotu Kola taken at the same time as sleep promoting drugs (including some antidepressants and anticonvulsants) can exaggerate their effects. It may also interfere with the effects of cholesterol or diabetes medications.