Materia Medica - Gotu Kola
Gotu kola has been used for thousands of years in both traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda for its positive effect on memory and focus. Gotu kola is known throughout Asia for its calming effect.
Latin Binomial: Centella asiatica
Common Name(s): Gotu kola, Pennywort, Asiatic Pennywort, Indian Pennywort
TCM Name: Ji Xue Cao
Ayurvedic Name(s): Brahmi, Mandukaparni, Jalbrahmi
Family: Apiaceae (Carrot family)
Physical Description of the Plant:
Gotu kola is a low growing creeping perennial herb that likes the hot, moist climates of the South and Southeast Asian tropics. It has small round bright green leaves with white, light purple or pink flowers, and produces an oval shaped fruit. As a member of the carrot or Apiaceace family, it is related to parsley (Petroselinum crispum), cumin (Cuminum cyminum), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), angelica (Angelica archangelica), and cilantro (Coriandrum sativum). Gotu kola is sometimes confused with bacopa (Bacopa monnieri), which is often sold under the same Ayurvedic name 'brahmi' or 'mandukaparni', because the two plants have similar energetic characteristics. However, gotu kola is in an entirely different family than bacopa.
Habitat: It is native to India, Japan, China, Indonesia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the South Pacific. Centella loves to grow near slowly moving water and swampy areas (one of its common names in Ayurveda, 'mandukaparni', means frog-leafed).
Harvest and Collection: Gotu kola leaves can be picked throughout the summer months. The leaves can be used dried or fresh for use in infusions, decoctions, or powdered. In warmer zones plants can be propagated by rootlets, planted in trays and overwintered in a greenhouse.
Parts of the Plant Used: Dried above ground parts as a tea, tincture, ground and encapsulated, or made into a topical application. Fresh above ground parts as a tincture.
Qualities: Promotes healthy memory functioning and alertness. It is a stimulating tonic that increases energy. Cools the blood and stops bleeding - nosebleeds, bleeding in the urine, uterine bleeding (TCM).
Energetics: Sweet, Bitter, Astringent, Cooling.
- Triterpenoids, including:
- Other components including:
- Asiatic acid
- Brahmic acid
- Nervine tonic (stimulant)
Meridians: Kidney, Large Intestine, Liver, Small Intestine, Spleen. Primary Category: Herbs that clear heat and dry dampness.
Indications: Gastric ulcer, venous insufficiency. Gastrointestinal disorders related to damp heat - pain, dysentery, enteritis, diarrhea; liver symptoms such as jaundice (TCM).
Contraindications/Cautions: Do not use for more than 4 weeks without a break. Excessive use internally or externally can cause itching and headaches. Avoid if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you have an over-active thyroid.
Drug Interactions: Avoid if you are using tranquilizers or sedatives.
Tincture: 30 drops with water, 3 times a day.
Infusion: 1 teaspoon of dried leaves, to 1 cup of hot water, steep for 15 minutes, strain and sweeten to taste.
Poultice: 2 tsp powder in 25 mL water.
Combinations: Combine with Bacopa, Ginkgo, Holy Basil, Lion's Mane, Rosemary.
Folklore: Gotu kola has been used for thousands of years in India, China, and Indonesia. It is used in Ayurveda to soothe mental turbulence. It is one of those herbs that is tri-doshic or brings balance to all three of the Ayurvedic body types, vata, pitta, and kapha. Gotu kola’s ancient use is recorded in the Chinese Shennong Herbal (1st-2nd century CE). It is referred to as 'the fountain of life' in China as a legend boasts that a gotu kola-eating herbalist lived for over 200 years. It was listed in the ancient Indian medical text ‘Sushruta Samhita’.
In Spanish is it referred to as 'sombrerito' which means little hat and alludes to the shape of the leaf. In the Sri Lankan Singhalese language, 'gotu kola' means cup-shaped leaf. In Sri Lanka elephants, who have a reputation for a long life and excellent memory, eat the plant. The locals follow their example and eat a few leaves a day.
Flower Essence: Future Memory This elixir will assist people to wake up, to remember who they are, to understand what they can do in the world, and to see the ways in which they are able to help. Gotu Kola can help reduce intrusion of the emotional body into the mental body; this intrusion can affect memory. This elixir can assist in remembering lost information. The mental and emotional bodies will become strengthened and more distinct from each other. Past-life information can be received with less of an emotional charge.
Applications: Male reproductive problems such as low sperm count. Combine with Rosemary tea when studying for exams. TCM: Wound healing, useful to clear heat from the liver and benefit the eyes - glaucoma, cataracts, pinkeye.
Gotu Kola is widely used to treat skin problems. It heals wounds, cuts, grazes and burns, and helps heal chronic skin conditions, including ulcers, skin cancer and even leprosy.
In India Gotu Kola is used to treat abdominal disorders, asthma and bronchitis. In Europe it is used for rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis and poor venous circulation. It is known to reduce spider veins and improve varicose veins. Gotu Kola is also an ingredient in face creams. It stimulates the production of collagen and is anti-wrinkle and skin-firming, improving the tone of veins near the surface of the skin.
Gotu Kola is commonly eaten as a salad green, eaten raw and sold as fresh juice in many Asian countries. Rich in nutrients, gotu kola is a nourishing plant that is sweet and bitter in flavor, and is often eaten in a variety of Asian dishes. A typical dish consists of shredded gotu kola leaves, shallots, lime juice, chili, and coconut flakes.
Young tender leaves have a dry spicy flavor and can be eaten raw in salads & sandwiches. They can also be cooked. The herb’s flavour combines well with fish and vegetables, and is a good addition in stir-fries, curries and soups.
Scientific Research: Gotu Kola's anti-tumour and wound-healing properties have been clinically proven - it contains triterpenoid saponoids that help to promote cell replication. It increases reproduction of peripheral blood vessels and connective tissue, improves circulation and helps to retain/restore skin elasticity. It speeds up collagen formation and increases antioxidant levels within a wound in the early stages of tissue repair.
Kashmira J. Gohil, et al. “Pharmacological Review on Centella asiatica: A Potential Herbal Cure-all.” Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 2010 Sep-Oct; 72(5): 546–556. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116297/
Soumyanath A, Zhong YP, Gold SA, Yu X, Koop DR, Bourdette D, Gold BG. Centella asiatica (Gotu Kola) accelerates nerve regeneration upon oral administration and contains multiple fractions increasing neurite elongation in-vitro. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2005 Sept;57(9):1221-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16105244
Jana U, Sur TK, Maity LN, Debnath PK, Bhattacharyya D. A clinical study on the management of generalized anxiety disorder with Centella asiatica. Nepal Med Coll J. 2010 Mar;12(1):8-11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20677602 http://nmcth.edu/images/gallery/Editorial/gQTk2u_jana.pdf
Wanakhachornkrai, et al. Neuritogenic effect of standardized extract of Centella asiatica ECa233 on human neuroblastoma cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. (2013)
Wattanathorn J., et al. “Positive modulation of cognition and mood in the healthy elderly volunteer following the administration of Centella asiatica.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2008 Mar 5;116(2):325-32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18191355