Gotu Kola: Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects

Gotu Kola, (Botanical name – Centella asiatica), is an adaptogen plant of the family Mackinlayaceae believed to promote longevity and anxiety relief.

Better known as Brahmi or Indian Pennywort, it is native to China, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Indonesia, and has been used in Ayurvedic, African, and Chinese medicine to promote relaxation and relieve anxiety.

Today, in the U.S. and Europe, this plant is most used to treat varicose veins, a condition which occurs when your veins become dilated, enlarged, and overfilled with blood.

This plant has small green leaves with light or white purple-to-pink flowers with no flavor. Additionally, it does not act as a stimulant or contains caffeine.

Health benefits of Gotu kola

Varicose veins

Varicose veins are enlarged and swollen veins that commonly occur on the legs. Sometimes, in very severe cases, varicose ulcers form on the skin, or the varicose veins may rupture. Certain things can increase your chances of developing this condition, such as – pregnancy, being overweight, and old age.

This plant contains a chemical named TTFCA – triterpenic fraction of Centella asiatica. TTFCA is especially beneficial for varicose veins since it stimulates the production of elastin and collagen.

Liver health

According to a 2010 study at the Chongqing Key Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Chongqing, China, and issued in the journal Phytomedicine, asiaticoside – a compound from this plant – may help prevent liver injury.

Doses of five mg per kilogram body weight of this substance per day, for 3 days, reduced inflated liver enzymes in response to a liver-toxic substance. Furthermore, this compound also considerably improved liver function and decreased tissue destruction.

Brain health

Centella asiatica has been referred to as “food for the brain” because it activates the release of BDNF – brain-derived neurotrophic factor, an essential protein that influences brain function as well as the peripheral nervous system.

Low levels of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor are usually problematic and have been associated with – neurotransmitter dysfunction, Alzheimer’s, poor neural development, and even depression.

Skin health and wounds healing

This plant contains triterpenoids which improve blood supply to affected areas and boost antioxidant levels in the wounds. These compounds have also been found to have notable results in healing of skin, lymph tissue, other connective tissues, mucous membranes, and blood vessels. More importantly, intake of this herb may be beneficial for the reduction and prevention of stretch marks.

Improves circulation

Centella asiatica promotes microcirculation, which is the circulation of blood through the smallest blood vessels consisting of capillaries, arterioles, and venules. In addition, this plant improves the flow of blood throughout the body by strengthening the veins.

Hair loss

Using this herb topically is a good method for preventing hair loss and for promoting hair growth. However, hair loss may be a sign of a more serious medical problem which needs an evaluation by a dermatologist.

Natural remedy for anxiety

This plant has anxiety-reducing abilities which come from its triterpenoid content. Recent studies have established that patients taking this plant are less likely to be startled by loud noises. The startle response (it’s excessive in post-traumatic stress disorder) is a good indication of anxiety levels.

Side effects of gotu kola

Don’t use this herb if you have a liver disease. Also, it is recommended not to use this herb for more than six weeks. Furthermore, it should not be combined with antidepressant prescription drugs. High doses can cause temporary loss of consciousness, confusion, and headaches.

Some individuals are allergic to Centella asiatica and experience an allergic reaction. Avoid using this plant if you had an allergic reaction to it in the past.

Moreover, when used topically, side effects can occur, such as – a burning sensation, skin redness, allergic rash or itching. This herb may interfere with type 2 diabetes Mellitus medications, LDL cholesterol-lowering drugs, diuretics, sedatives, and drugs that affect the liver. Stop supplementation if any side effects appear.

Pregnant and lactating women should not use this herb because it contains emmenagogue substances (these are substances which have the ability to provoke menstruation). Also, it is not recommended for children.

How to eat

This herb can be eaten in raw form in salads or used for preparing a tea. You can also blend it in a smoothie. However, according to the traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, this herb is best used as a tea. One teaspoon of dried Gotu Kola is good for one cup of water.

How much should you take

The generally recommended doses include 2 medium fresh leaves/day in a salad or a teaspoon of dried leaves in a tea, two times/day. For topical use, you can apply a cream or a gel. For anxiety and stress relief use 500 mg, twice a day.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20171071
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492213/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2389834
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22817824

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