Health Benefits of Gotu Kola

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on September 13, 2023
4 min read

Gotu kola, or Centella asiatica, is a plant traditionally used in Chinese and Indonesian medicine. Known as the “herb of longevity,” this plant is indigenous to the wetlands of Southeast Asia, where it’s consumed as a juice, tea, or supplement. 

Practitioners of alternative medicine use gotu kola for its anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as to promote overall mental health. Benefits of the herb in humans needs further study before it can be recommended. 

Gotu kola is commonly used as an herbal supplement for conditions ranging from varicose veins to Alzheimer’s disease. Some think it may lower the risk of blood clots after plane flights, but more research is needed. Experts have looked at gotu kola as a treatment for other conditions like 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.

The plant contains compounds like triterpenoid saponins, which are common in medicinal plants. Some researchers believe these compounds are responsible for the wide range of health benefits. 

Boost Cognitive Function 

Some early research suggests that gotu kola can enhance your memory and overall cognitive function, which means it may have potential in treating Alzheimer’s disease. A 2016 study compared the effects of gotu kola extract and folic acid in improving cognitive abilities after a stroke. Both gotu kola and folic acid equally benefited participants, while gotu kola was more effective in improving memory.

Early studies on mice show that gotu kola extract had a positive effect on mice with Alzheimer’s disease. While it may show promise in treating Alzheimer’s in animals, more research is needed to confirm its effects on people. 

Varicose Veins 

Several studies show that gotu kola can be used as a treatment for varicose veins and venous insufficiency. Participants who took a gotu kola supplement for eight weeks showed improvements in the health of their veins, including reduced inflammation and pain.

Another study suggested that gotu kola supplements improved function of the veins in participants with diabetic microangiopathy, a condition that affects people with diabetes

Reduce Anxiety 

Some studies show that gotu kola may have a relaxing or anti-anxiety effect. In a 2016 study, researchers found that gotu kola reduced anxiety-induced behavior in mice that were sleep-deprived for 72 hours. While this research is still preliminary, it shows some promise in relieving stress and anxiety. 

In another study on humans, researchers found that gotu kola reduced the startle response in participants, which is often associated with anxiety. However, more evidence is needed to support the link between gotu kola and anxiety. 

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.

Gotu kola is typically safe to consume. However, some reported side effects of the herb include: 

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea 
  • Skin irritation
  • Rare cases of liver disease
  • Potential for allergy when taken orally or used on the skin

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 liver disease. Stop using gotu kola for at least 2 weeks before surgery.

Although there is limited research on gotu kola’s effect on other medications, it’s possible that it can interfere with prescription or over-the-counter medications. It could interact with medicines metabolized by the liver. Gotu kola could amplify the effects of alcohol and sedative medications. Always consult your doctor before using gotu kola. 

While gotu kola may be safe when obtained from reliable sources, herbal remedies aren’t regulated by the FDA. Some sources of gotu kola have been found to contain dangerous levels of heavy metals. Given the lack of evidence about its safety, oral gotu kola is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Gotu kola can be taken as a supplement, brewed as a tea, or used as an extract. For skin conditions, it can also be applied topically. 

While the herb is generally safe to use, careful dosing can help limit the risks. 

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.