Gotu Kola Summary:
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is an Ayurvedic herb that's been used for thousands of yearsmedicinally. It's used for a range of different conditions, mainly involving the skin and brain. The most common use for this herb is as a brain tonic. In modern terms, this is the equivalent of a nootropic.
Brain tonic is a very broad term for the actions of this herb. More specifically, it offers support in maintaining healthy levels of the important neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved with memories, and learning. This is a form of treatment commonly used to treat Alzheimer's disease and added to nootropic formulas to improve learning capacity and general cognitive function.
Further, Gotu kola is useful for reducing the beta-amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease and offers mitochondria protection. Mitochondria are crucial in brain (and other tissue) metabolism and function. They are a component of each one of our cells, and contains its own set of DNA separate from our own. It's thought that these cell organelles were hijacked into the early cells of our past bacterial ancestors. Any improvement or protection of these important organelles will benefit our ability to produce energy from the food we eat.
Gotu kola has also been shown to have some effects beneficial in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.
Other benefits of gotu kola includes anticancer, supports digestion, protects the liver, reduces anxiety, immunomodulatory, and sedative. It's also useful for skin conditions both internally and topically.
In the past, gotu kola has been used to improve the concentration and stamina of monks during the long hours of meditation. Many of the folklore around this plant involve the similarity of the leaf shape and the brain's anatomical appearance.
- Anti psoriatic
3-30 g fresh herb/day 
Liquid Extract (1:1)
A note on dosage
Isolates not recommended for therapeutic usage.
Long term usage is appropriate for this herb. .
+ Neurological Disorders
- Parkinson's Disease
- Alzheimer's Disease
+ Skin Conditions
- Minor burns and scrapes
- Skin ulcers
+ Cardiovascular Conditions
- Vascular and heart conditions
- Varicose veins
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Congestive heart failure
- Blood diseases
- High blood pressure
+ Immune Conditions
- Autoimmune disorders
- Venereal disease
+ Other Conditions
- To improve meditation
- Tingling of extremities
- To strengthen adrenals
Ji Xue Cao (China)
Tsubo Kusa (Japan)
Indian Water Navelwort
+ Western Herbal Medicine
In western herbal medicine, gotu kola was used mainly as a nervine, depurative, and vulnerary. It was especcially useful in connective tissue and skin healing. .
In Australia, the laves were consumed from a similar species for arthritis .
Gotu kola is one of the highly esteemed rasayana herbs of the Ayurvedic medical system. This means it is used to improve the mind body and spirit in much the same way as a tonic herb from China, or an adaptogenic herb of western herbal medicine.
The sanskrit name brahmi means "from Brahma", who is a central diety in the Hindu pantheon . This shows the level of distinction gotu kola has in this medical system.
+ Traditional Chinese Medicine
Gotu Kola was used in the traditional Chinese medical system for its ability to clear "damp-heat", cool the blood, stop bleeding, and clear the liver. It was also suggested to brighten the eyes. .
Many of the medical systems of South Asia used gotu kola for skin conditions and infections .
The leaves are edible, light yellow-green, and reniform, orbicular in shape which resembles a human brain which has resulted in many folk stories describing this herb's effect on the brain. Its leaves grow in an alternate pattern. It is an evergreen, creeping perennial herb.
Habitat, Ecology, Distribution:
Centella asiatica is native to Southeast Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, and is also found in South Africa and Madagascar .
Also cultivated for its medicinal value in some countries including turkey .
Harvesting, Collection, and Preparation:
Still compiling research.
Centella asiatica contains triterpene saponosides (asiatic acid, madecassic acid, asiaticoside,madicassoside, madasiatic acid, betulinic acid, thankunic acid, isothankunic acid, brahmic acid, centellin, centellicin, asiaticin, bayogenin, terminolic acid, centellasapogenol A, centellasaponins A-D, ursolic acid, promolic acid,), flavonoid derivatives (quercetin, kaempferol, patuletin, rutin, apigenin, castilliferol, castillicetin, myricetin), polysaccharides, polyacetylenes, sterols, phenolic acids, isochlorogenic acid [2, 4].
The essential oils mostly involved monoterpene, and sesquiterpene derivatives. Ilkay Erdogan Orhan, (2012) suggests the major component is α-copaene. .
Pharmacology and Medical Research:
Methanol and ethyl acetate extracts of C. asiatica have been shown to reduce anxiety in mice .
Centella asiatica has been shown to produce antioxidant effects significantly in multiple studies .
Shown to produce anticonvulsant effects . (Still compiling research).
The positive effects on brain aging, as reported by Ilkay Erdogan Orhan, (2012), is generally attributed to its 2 major triterpene saponosides (asiatic acid, madecassic acids), and their heterosides, and is due to multiple mechanisms.
The hydroalcoholic extract of Centella asiatica was shown to inhibit acetylcholinesterase (50% inhibition rate at 150μg/ml concentration of extract). This has been the target of many medications for alzheimer's, as an increase in acetylcholine has been found pertinent to the progression of the disease .
Tyrosinase has been linked with parkinson's disease through its role on neuromelanin formation in the brain, and may be associated with dopamine neurotoxicity associated with the neurodegeneration associated with parkinson's disease. Centella asiatica ethanol extract has been shown to produce inhibitory effects against this enzyme .
The succas and fresh leaf extract of this plant has been shown to augment dendritic arborization in neurons, and reduce levels of β-amyloid plaques in the hippocampus in mice .
Additionally, relevant actions found in Gotu Kola include:
- Shown to produce protective effects against mitochondrial damage .
- Shown to produce anticonvulsant effects .
- Reduces lipid peroxidation .
- potentiated the effects of sleep inducing drugs (pentobarbital) .
- Increased activity of Na+/K+/ATPase .
Neuroprotective effects are likely result of decreasing protein carbonyl, and lipid peroxidation in the brain, dendritic arborization augmentation, increased Na+/K+/ATPase activity, inhibition of tyrosinase and acetylcholinesterase . N. Giribabu et al., (2014) reports C. asiatica has the ability to stimulate nerve cell regeneration in vitro (a significant finding) . This study was able to prove in their research that this botanical provides protective effects in the hippocampus against diabetes induced damage, and suggested this was through anti inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. these effects were reflected by ATPase activity in this region of the brain.
The hippocampus of the brain is involved in both short, and long term memory. Both hyperglycemia, and hypoglycemia has been shown to cause hippocampal injury which may lead to amnesia, or other memory disorders such as alzheimer's.
Centella asiatica has also been shown to increase activity of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), which is an enzyme responsible for GABA metabolism .
Centella asiatica succas has been shown to reduce liver tumors, and may prove useful in preventing and treating liver cancers. A few studies have shown this botanical has an ability to induce apoptosis in many types of cancer, and produces cytotoxic effects on fibroblast cells [1, 3].
Centella asiatica extracts (including succas) also offers its chemoprotective effects through a change in the expression of c-myc (promotes cell cycle progression), c-fos (cell cycle regulation, differentiation, and transformation), and c-erbB2 (induces changes carried out by c-fos) oncogenes in exposed cells. .
The antioxidant actions of chemoprotection may also play a significant role in chemoprotection .
+ Gastrointestinal Tract
Strengthens the gastrointestinal barrier . (Still compiling research)
F. Hussin et al., (2014) suggested that Centella asiatica juice (succas) can prevent, and treat hepatocarcinomas, and maintain the overall health of this organ.
Reported to produce modulatory effects on the immune system .
The sedative effects of Centella asiatica are mainly attributed to brahmoside and brahminoside (triterpene derivatives).
Contact dermatitis and other skin irritations have been reported though are rare, infertility in mice has also been reported in earlier studies, and may induce spontaneous abortion after chronic use, therefore should not be taken during pregnancy or while attempting to become pregnant, may increase blood sugar levels so care is advised with diabetic patients. .
This herb is generally regarded as safe, and can be used long term. The above cautions are extremely rare, and little other evidence has been found for the negative effects of gotu kola aside from some mild gastrointestinal discomfort or dermatitis. In fact it is commonly a food herb in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and South Africa, with no reported negative side effects .
The Sunlight Experiment
Updated: June 2017
Recent Blog Posts:
- Faridah Hussin, Sima Ataollahi Eshkoor, Asmah Rahmat, Fauziah Othman and Abdah Akim. (2014). The centella asiatica juice effects on DNA damage, apoptosis and gene expression in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 14:32.
- Ilkay Erdogan Orhan (2012). Centella asiatica (L.) Urban: From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine with Neuroprotective Potential. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. doi:10.1155/2012/946259
- Nelli Giribabu, Nelli Srinivasarao, Somesula Swapna Rekha, Sekaran Muniandy, and Naguib Salleh.(2014). Centella asiatica Attenuates Diabetes Induced Hippocampal Changes in Experimental Diabetic Rats. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
- Bone K, Mills S. (2013). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Elsevier health. China. (Pg. 657-670).