Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) -
Gotu kola has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years in
India, China and Indonesia. Its ability to heal wounds, improve mental
clarity, and treat skin conditions such as leprosy and psoriasis were
important reasons for its extensive use in these countries. It has also
been called one of the "miracle elixirs of life" because legend has it that
an ancient Chinese herbalist lived for more than 200 years as a result of
using the herb.
Historically, gotu kola has also been used to treat syphilis, hepatitis,
stomach ulcers, mental fatigue, epilepsy, diarrhea, fever, and asthma.
Today, American and European herbalists use gotu kola for disorders
that cause connective tissue swelling, such as scleroderma, psoriatic
arthritis (arthritis occurring in conjunction with psoriasis), anklylosing
spondylitis (arthritis of the spine), and rheumatoid arthritis. Recent
studies confirm some of the traditional uses and also suggest possible
new applications for gotu kola, such as lowering high blood pressure,
treating venous insufficiency (pooling of blood in the veins, usually in the
legs, boosting memory and intelligence, easing anxiety, and speeding
Medicinal Uses and Indications
Wound Healing and Skin Lesions
Gotu kola contains triterpenoids, compounds that have been shown to
aid in wound healing. For example, animal studies indicate that
triterpenoids strengthen the skin, increase the concentration of
antioxidants in wounds, and restore inflamed tissues by increasing blood
supply. Because of these properties, gotu kola has been used externally
for burns, psoriasis, prevention of scar formation following surgery,
recovery from an episiotomy following vaginal delivery of a newborn, and
treatment of external fistulas (a tear at or near the anus).
Venous Insufficiency and Varicose Veins
When blood vessels lose their elasticity, blood pools in the legs and fluid
leaks out of the blood vessels, causing the legs to swell (venous
insufficiency). In a study of 94 people with venous insufficiency, those
who took gotu kola reported a significant improvement in symptoms
compared to those who took placebo. In another study of people with
varicose veins, ultrasound examination revealed improvements in the
vascular tone of those who took gotu cola.
High Blood Pressure
In a study of people with heart disease and high blood pressure, those
who took abana (an Ayurvedic herbal mixture containing gotu kola)
experienced a significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure (pressure
on blood vessels when the heart is at rest) compared to those who took
placebo. Further studies are needed to determine whether gotu kola
alone, some other herb in the Ayurvedic mixture, or the particular
combination of all the herbs in the remedy is responsible for the
Triterpenoids (active compounds in gotu kola) have been shown to
soothe anxiety and boost mental function in mice. A recent study found
that people who took gotu kola were less likely to be startled by a novel
noise (a potential indicator of anxiety) than those who took placebo.
Although the results of this study are somewhat promising, the dose used
in this study was extremely high, making it difficult to draw any
conclusions about how gotu kola might be used by people with anxiety.
One study involving 13 females with scleroderma found that gotu kola
decreased joint pain, skin hardening, and improved finger movement.
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