Gotu kola is a slender, creeping plant that grows commonly in swampy areas of India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, South Africa and the tropics. Its fan shaped leaves are about the size of an old British penny - hence its common names Indian pennywort, marsh penny and water pennywort.
It is regarded as one of the most spiritual and rejuvenating herbs in Ayurveda and is used to improve meditation. It is said to develop the crown chakra, the energy center at the top of the head, and to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which the leaf is said to resemble.
Gotu kola has been widely used for a number of conditions, particularly in traditional Eastern health care. In Ayurveda Gotu kola is one of the chief herbs for revitalizing the nerves and brain cells. It is said to fortify the immune system, both cleansing and feeding it, and to strengthen the adrenals.
It has been used as a tonic for purification of blood and for promoting healthy skin. It has also been used to aid in restful sleep, treat skin inflammations, as a treatment for high blood pressure and as a mild diuretic. Recent studies (1995) demonstrated that Gotu kola destroyed cultured tumor cells in the laboratory setting (in vitro).
The leaves of this swamp plant have been used around the world for centuries to treat leprosy, cancer, skin disorders, arthritis, hemorrhoids, and tuberculosis. In recent years, Gotu kola has become popular in the West as a nerve tonic to promote relaxation and to enhance memory.
The herbs calming properties make it well suited for overcoming insomnia and making one calm for yoga and meditative practices. It is commonly used to rebuild energy reserves improve memory and treat fatigue, both mental and physical.
Gotu kola has been referred to as "food for the brain". This oriental herb has demonstrated mild tranquilizing, anti-anxiety and anti-stress effects, as well as improving mental functions such as concentration and memory. It has a calming effect on the body and is chiefly used to support the central nervous system. These beneficial qualities make Gotu kola an excellent herb for children with A.D.D. because it has a stimulating effect on the brain that increases one's ability to focus while having a soothing and relaxing effect on an overactive nervous system.
Gotu kola is often confused with kola nut. Due to this confusion, some people assume the rejuvenating properties of Gotu kola are due to the stimulating effects of caffeine contained in kola nut. In fact, Gotu kola is not related to kola nut and contains no caffeine. There are three main chemical constituents in Gotu kola. The first is asiaticoside, which is a triterpene glycoside and classified as an antibiotic. It aids in wound healing and has been used in the treatment of leprosy and tuberculosis in the Far East. The second constituent is a pair of chemicals, brahmoside and brahminoside, which are saponin glycosides. These are diuretic in nature and have a slightly sedative action in large doses. Finally, there is madecassoside, a glycoside that is a strong anti-inflammatory agent. The plant is also a source of Vitamin K, magnesium, calcium and sodium.
Gotu Kola has been found to have significant results in healing of skin, other connective tissues, lymph tissue, blood vessels, and mucous membranes. Researchers have found that Gotu kola contains several glycosides that exhibit wound healing and anti-inflammatory activities and that asiaticosides stimulate the formation of lipids and proteins necessary for healthy skin.
Gotu kola affects various stages of tissue development, including keratinization (the process of replacing skin after sores or ulcers), the synthesis of collagen (the first step in tissue repair), the stimulation of hair and nail growth, and support for the repair of cartilage. Gotu kola has been effectively used in the treatment of second and third degree burns. It has been shown to decrease healing time and reduce scar tissue formation.
Recent studies show that Gotu kola also has a positive effect on the circulatory system. It seems to improve the flow of blood throughout the body by strengthening the veins and capillaries. Gotu kola has been shown to be particularly useful for people who are inactive or confined to bed due to illness.
The herb has been used successfully to treat phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), varicose veins, as well as leg cramps, swelling of the legs, and "heaviness" or tingling in the legs. In modern health care it has been used for venous insufficiency, localized inflammation and infection, and post-surgery recovery.
Parts Used: Leaves and aerial parts.
Common Use: Prevention of mental fatigue and enhanced concentration and memory. A balancing tonic that both increases energy and relaxes the body. Stimulates the central nervous system, aids circulation especially in the legs, and is a mild diuretic. Aids in many types of wound healing. Used for rheumatism, blood diseases, mental disorders, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, sore throat, and hepatitis.