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Supplements from the gotu kola plant have become a popular treatment in the U.S. for trying to improve cognition, reduce fatigue, improve concentration, decrease anxiety, and treat varicose veins. Despite the similar name, gotu kola is unrelated to the kola nut. It contains no caffeine.

Why do people take gotu kola?

Oral gotu kola might improve circulation. Some studies show that it can help treat chronic venous insufficiency. This condition can cause varicose veins, swelling in the legs and feet, pain, and itching. Taking gotu kola for 4 to 8 weeks seems to improve symptoms. Some think it may lower the risk of blood clots after plane flights, but more research is needed.

A few studies have found that gotu kola might improve strength, mood, and cognitive function in older people. Experts have looked at gotu kola as a treatment for other conditions like anxiety, liver disease, bladder disease, and hardening of the arteries. Some of the early research has been promising, but we don't have enough evidence yet.

A few studies have found that gotu kola creams or ointments might prevent scarring and help with wound healing and psoriasis. These creams may help reduce stretch marks during pregnancy. Again, more research is needed to know for sure.

How much gotu kola should you take?

Optimal doses of gotu kola have not been established for any condition. Quality and active ingredients in supplements may vary widely from maker to maker. This makes it very hard to establish a standard dose. Ask your health care provider for advice before taking gotu kola.

Can you get gotu kola naturally from foods?

There are no sources of gotu kola besides the plant itself. Some people eat gotu kola leaves in salad or steep them to make tea.

What are the risks of taking gotu kola?

  • Side effects. Oral gotu kola seems to cause few side effects. There is the potential for allergy when taken orally and topically. Some people develop nausea and headache. In high doses, gotu kola can cause sleepiness.
  • Risks. Animal studies have found that gotu kola makes it harder to become pregnant. Do not use gotu kola if you have any health conditions, especially diabetes, high cholesterol, or liver disease. Stop using gotu kola for at least two weeks before surgery.
  • Interactions. If you take any medicines or supplements regularly, talk to your health care provider before you start using gotu kola. It could interact with treatments for anxiety, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease, and liver disease. Gotu kola could amplify the effects of alcohol and sedative medications.

Given the lack of evidence about its safety, oral gotu kola is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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