Centella asiatica, commonly referred to as gotu kola, is a swamp plant that grows naturally in India and South Africa, where it is often referred to as “the fountain of youth.” Its leaves and stems are dried and it has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Gotu kola may affect the liver or interact with certain medications however, and you should speak with your health-care practitioner before supplementing with it.
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Gotu kola contains numerous nutrients including the phytochecmicals beta-carotene, camphol and campesetol. It is also a source of the minerals calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc; and the vitamin C, B-1, B-2 and B-3. The American Cancer Society says however, that the compound most likely responsible for its benefit as an herbal remedy, is a compound known as “saponins.” For therapeutic purposes, gotu kola can be taken as a supplement in capsules, extracts or powders, as an ingredient in certain eye drops or made into a tea.
List of Purported Benefits
Gotu kola has a wide range of purported benefits. According to the University of Maryland Medical School, or UMMC, it has been used historically to treat syphilis, hepatitis, stomach ulcers, epilepsy, diarrhea, fever and asthma. Phyllis Balch says in her book “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” that it also stimulates the central nervous system and may work as a mild stimulant improving mental clarity, reducing mental fatigue and increasing energy. Other potential uses include treating respiratory infections such as colds, reducing fluid retention, stimulating the appetite, increasing sex drive and supporting healthy heart and liver function. It may also increase mental well being, by reducing depression and anxiety, and helping to prevent insomnia. However, most of these benefits are based on anecdotal evidence and not on scientific research.
Gotu kola is also used topically as an ointment to treat a variety of skin conditions. UMMC says that it contains chemicals called triterpenoids which have antioxidant properties that help to heal wounds and minor burns and to prevent scarring after an injury or surgery. Due to the triterpenoids it may also help to strengthen the skin, increase blood flow to it, and consequently to treat skin disorders such as acne and psoriasis. In addition, gotu kola may be beneficial for the prevention and reduction of stretch marks. Balch warns however in that certain individual’s gotu kola may cause dermatitis when applied topically.
To Treat Poor Circulation and Leg Swelling
According to the American Cancer Society, some preliminary clinical trials have found that gotu kola may improve poor blood flow to the legs and help to reduce swelling. Individuals with a condition called chronic venous insufficiency, characterized by swelling of the legs and feet due to varicose veins and poor circulation, were given an extract of gotu kola. The gotu kola extract seemed to reduce the leakage of blood vessels that contribute to swelling, and the herb was deemed more helpful than the placebo. The American Cancer Society warns however that more research needs to be done, and herbs do not always produce the same benefits as extracts made from them.