Health Benefits of Gotu Kola

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. While some benefits of the herb may need further study, gotu kola may help improve your health and well-being. 

Health Benefits

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. Researchers believe these compounds are responsible for the wide range of health benefits. 

Boost Cognitive Function 

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.

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Another study showed 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. 

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.

Health Risks

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 is 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.

Amount and Dosage

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. Due to the risk of damaging the liver, gotu kola should be taken on a short-term basis only. Experts recommend no more than a 500-milligram dose taken twice daily for 14 days. Always take a two-week break before resuming use. Starting with a low dose and slowly increasing to a full dose can also reduce the risk of side effects.

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.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on October 05, 2021

Sources

SOURCES: 

Angiology: "Effects of the total triterpenic fraction of Centella asiatica in venous hypertensive microangiopathy: a prospective, placebo-controlled, randomized trial," "Evaluation of treatment of diabetic microangiopathy with total triterpenic fraction of Centella asiatica: a clinical prospective randomized trial with a microcirculatory model."

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment: "Effects of metal-contaminated soils on the accumulation of heavy metals in gotu kola (Centella asiatica) and the potential health risks: a study in Peninsular Malaysia."

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Effectiveness of Gotu Kola Extract 750 mg and 1000 mg Compared with Folic Acid 3 mg in Improving Vascular Cognitive Impairment after Stroke."

Journal of Stress Physiology & Biochemistry: "Centella Asiatica: A Concise Drug Review With Probable Clinical Uses."

Nepal Medical College Journal: "A clinical study on the management of generalized anxiety disorder with Centella asiatica."

Novel Therapeutics in Alzheimer's Disease: "Centella asiatica Extract Improves Behavioral Deficits in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease: Investigation of a Possible Mechanism of Action."

Penn State Hershey, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center: "Gotu kola."

Phytotherapy Research: "Possible Involvement of Nitric Oxide Modulatory Mechanisms in the Neuroprotective Effect of Centella asiatica Against Sleep Deprivation Induced Anxiety Like Behaviour, Oxidative Damage and Neuroinflammation."

Alternative Medicine Review, 2007.

Fundukian, L., ed. The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, third edition, 2009.

Mato, L. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2009.

MacKay, D. Alternative Medicine Review, 2001.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database: “Gotu Kola.”

Natural Standard Patient Monograph: “Gotu Kola.”

Wattanathorn, J. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2008.

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