Gotu kola is a plant that has been used for centuries in Chinese, Indonesian, and Ayurvedic medicine. In Ayurvedic medicine, gotu kola is said to balance all three doshas — Kapha, Pitta, and Vata.
It is said to be relaxing for pitta, calming of vata in the mind, and beneficial in reducing excess kapha in the body. It’s known as the “herb of longevity,” and is available in many dosage forms.
Gotu kola is used to promote mental health by reducing stress levels. It is also used to treat anxiety while improving mood.
The plant is also known to have anti-inflammatory properties and can help with arthritis and joint pain. You may have heard of this plant before because it was featured on Dr. Oz!
In this article, we’ll explore how gotu kola supplements can help with your health and wellbeing. Interested in learning more about gotu kola? Keep reading!
What is Gotu Kola?
Gotu kola, or (Centella asiatica), is a medicinal plant that is used as dietary supplements in the orient and is becoming popular in the West. It is commonly used in Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Known as the “herb of longevity,” this plant is consumed in the form of juice, tea, or supplement. It has no taste or smell, and it thrives in and around water. The leaves and stems of the plant are used as medicine.
Practitioners of alternative medicine believe gotu kola supplements to have many useful properties. They include anti-inflammatory, brainpower boosting, skin healing, and other. The plant is also used for burns and poor circulation. But, there is not enough scientific evidence to use it as a treatment in any of these conditions. Unlike kola nut (Cola nitida), gotu kola doesn’t contain caffeine. It is not a stimulant and it has sedative properties.
Gotu kola is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Gotu kola is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. According to a review, 100 grams of fresh gotu kola meets the following recommended dietary intake (RDI) needs:
- Calcium: 171 mg (17% of the RDI)
- Iron: 5.6 mg (31% of the RDI)
- Potassium: 391 mg (11% of the RDI)
- Vitamin A: 442 mg (49% of the RDI)
- Vitamin C: 48.5 mg (81% of the RDI)
- Vitamin B2: 0.19 mg (9% of the RDI)
Gotu kola is also a good source of fiber. It provides 8% of the RDI for women and 5% of the RDI for men.
Uses & Benefits
Gotu kola is used as traditional therapy for many diseases and has a lot of benefits. They include:
Gotu kola may boost cognitive function:
Gotu kola supplements can enhance cognitive function. Animal and human studies conducted so far look promising. But, these studies are small-scale and need to include more people to ensure the best results.
One 2016 study investigated the cognitive-enhancing effects of gotu kola water extract on mice. Both young and old mice showed improvements in learning and memory with a higher effect in the older mice than in the younger ones.
One 2012 study administered an extract of the plant to mice with a model for Alzheimer’s disease. It was found that gotu kola had a positive effect on behavioral abnormalities in mice with Alzheimer’s disease. The extract also had a modest effect on protecting brain cells from toxicity. This is why, with further studies, gotu kola could be a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Children with developmental disabilities:
In one study, 30 children with developmental disabilities received 500 mg daily of dried gotu kola herb for 3 months. All showed improvement in their general abilities.
Elderly people with no cognitive impairment:
Another study showed that an extract of gotu kola (250– 750 mg daily for 2 months) improved cognitive performance in healthy, elderly people.
Elderly people with mild cognitive impairment:
Elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment received 500 mg dried gotu kola twice daily for 6 months. All showed improvements in their cognitive test results.
Healthy middle-aged people:
In another study, the gotu Kola herb (0.5 g/kg body weight) was administered to healthy, middle-aged volunteers for 2 months. This resulted in improvements in several tests of cognitive function.
A 2016 study surveyed three groups of patients after a stroke. One who took 1,000 mg/day gotu kola extract; one who took 750 mg/day gotu kola extract and one who took 3 mg folic acid. All participants benefitted from the supplementation. But those in the gotu kola group showed better improvement in delayed memory recall compared with folic acid treatment. Gotu kola extract either in 750 mg or in 1000 mg was well tolerated with minimal side effects.
Gotu kola may relieve anxiety
Gotu Kola is a promising herbal treatment to reduce anxiety and stress. A review of anti-anxiety herbal medicines published in 2013 concluded that gotu kola can reduce anxiety. Yet, more research is needed to confirm this finding.
Sleep deprivation is known to cause anxiety, oxidative damage, and neuroinflammation. Clinical studies showed the effects of sleep deprivation in male mice. Those who were given gotu kola experienced less anxiety-like behavior. They had better locomotor activity and less oxidative damage.
Findings from a study found that people taking gotu kola were less likely to be startled by a new noise than those taking placebo. These findings show that the plant has anxiolytic activity in humans. Yet the high dose used in this study makes it impossible to say how gotu kola may be used for the treatment of anxiety. It remains to be seen whether this herb has therapeutic efficacy in the treatment of anxiety syndromes.
Gotu kola may act as an antidepressant
Gotu kola’s positive effect on the brain and nervous system may also make it an effective antidepressant.
A small 2016 study showed that gotu kola may be effective for generalized anxiety disorder. In effect, 33 people were asked to take the herb instead of their antidepressant medication as an alternative treatment for 2 months. Participants experienced less stress, anxiety, and depression with no particular side effects observed.
Gotu kola may help with venous insufficiency associated with varicose veins
Gotu kola is a natural treatment for varicose veins, as it may help reduce venous insufficiency and swelling.
In a 2001 study, gotu kola has been proven to help with circulatory issues that are associated with traveling long distances. Participants in the study had mild-to-moderate superficial venous insufficiency and varicose veins. They were given gotu kola before, during, and after the flight. Participants that took the herb experienced less fluid retention and ankle swelling than those who didn’t.
A 2013 review elaborated on gotu kola’s efficacy for the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency. Many clinical trials in the review reported that gotu kola is effective in improving venous insufficiency. But, the relevance of these clinical trials is uncertain and more studies need to be done.
Gotu kola may help with sleep disorders
Gotu kola may help with insomnia that accompanies anxiety, stress, and depression. It is typically considered to be a safe alternative to prescription drugs used to treat sleep disorders. But, more clinical studies need to be done to support the use of gotu kola as a treatment for insomnia.
Gotu kola may help in wound healing and reduce the appearance of stretch marks
Gotu kola is traditionally used as a topical agent to promote wound healing. It contains terpenoids, which are thought to increase the synthesis of collagen in the body. This improves wound healing, prevents stretch marks from occurring, and helps heal any existing ones.
In a 2015 study on rats, there was an improvement in wound healing after applying dressings containing gotu kola to wounds. Although promising, more research is needed to confirm these claims.
It’s important to do a patch test before using gotu kola cream topically for wound healing. To do a patch test, rub a small amount onto the inside of your arm. If no irritation or inflammation occurs within 1 day, it should be safe to use in other parts of the body.
Gotu kola may help relieve joint pain
In one 2014 study, gotu kola was administered orally to rats with collagen-induced arthritis. The herb reduced joint inflammation, cartilage erosion, antioxidant imbalance, and bone erosion. Thus, gotu kola leads to an amelioration of arthritis severity in collagen-induced arthritis rats.
Gotu kola may have antioxidant properties
A 2017 study found that taking gotu kola can reduce the toxic effects of isoniazid, a drug used in the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis. Rats given gotu kola every day before receiving isoniazid had less toxicity in their livers and kidneys. But, these findings need to be corroborated with more studies.
Gotu kola may be used in ADHD
Gotu kola could also be beneficial for ADHD. It may help relieve mental clarity and anxiety associated with ADHD. Yet, more studies need to be done before any conclusion can be made.
Dosages and Administration of Gotu Kola
The dose of gotu kola varies depending on the form:
- Dried herbs
- Capsules (powdered herbs)
- Topical formulations: ointments and creams
- Standardized extract
For cognitive function: 750 mg-1 g of gotu kola daily for up to 14 days at a time.
For Alzheimer’s: 30-60 drops of liquid gotu kola extract 3 times daily.
For anxiety: 500 mg of gotu kola extract twice daily for up to 14 days at a time. Up to 2,000 mg per day can be taken in cases of extreme anxiety.
For depression: 500 mg of gotu kola twice daily for up to 14 days at a time. Up to 2,000 mg per day can be taken during times of intensified depression.
For the circulation and swelling: 60-100 mg of gotu kola extract 3 times daily for a week, before and after any flights. Also, massaging the affected area with a topical cream containing 1% gotu kola extract can be beneficial.
For insomnia: 300-680 mg of gotu kola extract 3 times daily for up to 14 days at a time.
For wound healing: Ointment containing 1% gotu kola extract can be applied to the affected area several times daily.
For stretch marks: Topical cream containing 1% gotu kola extract can be applied to the affected area several times daily.
For joint pain: 300-680 mg of gotu kola extract 3 daily for up to 14 days at a time can be taken orally.
As an antioxidant: 30 to 60 drops of liquid gotu kola extract 3 times daily for up to 14 days at a time. Dosages may vary between manufacturers, so the directions on the bottle should always be followed carefully.
Adult dosage may vary depending on the condition. But, it must always be determined with the help of an appropriately certified herbalist or a healthcare provider.
Potential Side Effects of Gotu Kola
In the animal studies reported so far, gotu kola has been shown to cause minimal side effects. Yet, the long-term safety of this herb is not determined and more studies need to be performed on humans before any conclusion can be made.
To reduce the risk of side effects, start with a low dose and increase the dose gradually. The herb should not be used for more than six weeks at a time. If you want to use it for a longer period, make sure to take a two-week break before using it again.
Some side effects that can be experienced are:
- Dry mouth: may lead to tooth decay
- Coughing and wheezing
- Allergic reactions: A patch test should be done before full application
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Nausea or vomiting
If you start experiencing any side effects when using gotu kola, stop it immediately and see your doctor.
When should gotu kola not be used?
Gotu kola should not be used in the following cases:
- Hepatitis or another liver disease
- Scheduled surgery within the next two weeks
- People who are under 18 years of age
- People who have a history of skin cancer
Also, talk to your doctor before taking gotu kola if you:
- have a liver disease
- have diabetes
- have high cholesterol
- take medications for sleep or to relieve anxiety
- are taking diuretics
What other drugs interact with gotu kola?
Because gotu kola is still not well studied, some drug interactions might exist. Consult your doctor before taking gotu kola if you are taking any of the following medications:
- Anti-seizure medication (ex: phenytoin)
- Sedatives (ex: lorazepam, zolpidem)
- Drugs that might harm your liver (ex: acetaminophen, cordarone)
These medications can interact and cause side effects that are too dangerous to take a risk on. If you have any questions or concerns about this, please consult your doctor.
All the studies on gotu kola mentioned in this article are either relatively old, animal studies, or small-scale human studies. This is why, gotu kola should never be taken without medical supervision.
It also means that further clinical evidence is needed to determine the safety and efficacy of gotu kola. Yet, all these studies look promising, and gotu kola could be included in treatment guidelines of many diseases in the future!