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Herbal Monograph

Herb:  GOTU KOLA  (Centella asiatica; 

Hydrocotyle asiatica; Umbelliferae)               

Other Names:   Sinhalese — brahmi    (40)

Indian pennywort, marsh penny, white rot, thick-leaved pennywort, hydrocotyle.

Sheep rot, water pennywort     (62)

Character/Energetics:   bitter, sweet, cool    (6)

bitter, cool, sweet    (40)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:     heart, liver     (6)

Part(s) used:   aerial parts   (15);   root   (6)

Identification & Harvesting:   White to purple or pink flowers;  2-5 mm berry;  an umbelliferous plant with numerous creeping stems which have roots at the nodes.  Circular/reniform leaves to 2.5″ diam.  Almost tasteless and odorless.  Found in temperate/subtropic regions.   (2)

Efforts to domesticate often fail, because its apparent obstinance requires human persecution in order to spread.  When gotu kola is sprayed with herbicides, only the leaves die, while the root actually seems to thrive on these harmful chemicals.  After one good spraying the plant usually proliferates like crazy.    (65)

Active Constituents: Asiaticosides are vulnerary and antibiotic;  madecassoside is a strong anti-inflammatory.   (1)

Triterpene acids, incl. madasiatic acid;  triterpene acid esters from oligosaccharides:  incl. asiaticoside A and B   (2)

Contains theobromine, presumed to help increase oxygen to the brain.   (1b)

Actions: Studies show it stimulates collagen synthesis.   (1) 

Sedative and antidepressive.  Reduces ulcer formation.  Anti-microbial.  Vulnerary (accelerates healing).  Tones veins, demonstrably due to triterpene compounds.  Probably plays a role in collagen synthesis.   (2)

diuretic, sedating nervine, cooling, tonic     (15)

alterative, antipyretic, diuretic, antispasmodic, nervine, tonic   (6)

Has remarkable rejuvenating properties similar to fo-ti and ginseng.  Neutralizes blood acids and lowers body temperature    (14)

Nervine, rejuvenative, alterative, febrifuge, diuretic.  Main revitalizing herb for nerves and brains cells.  Increases intelligence, longevity, memory;  decreases senility and aging.  Fortifies immune system, both cleansing and feeding it, and strengthens adrenals.  A powerful blood purifier and specific for chronic skin diseases, incl. leprosy and syphilis, eczema and psoriasis.  Valuable in intermittent or periodic fevers like malaria.  Helps balance right and left hemispheres of the brain.     (40)

Anti-inflammatory, vulnerary when topically applied.    (61)

Sedative effect not yet confirmed by studies with humans.    (62)

Proven to increase mental activity.    (65)

Cayuga Botanicals R.D. Note — [We’re wary of claims made for herbs which an identifiable chemical action cannot be specifically shown to corroborate.  In this case there is some controversy about the accuracy of claims made concerning its effect on intelligence or longevity.  However, notice the reference in Active Constituents to theobromine and the claim it increases oxygen uptake;  an effect that renders the claims concerning intelligence and longevity creditable, esp. if the oxygen is not free to create free radicals.  Some further research seems to be required to clarify the action of theobromine.]

Conditions & Uses:  Used in SE Asia to treat skin diseases, syphilis, rheumatism, leprosy, epilepsy, post-op scarring;  applied internally or externally.  (2)

Gotu kola is an alterative for sore throat, measles, tonsillitis, hepatitis, venereal diseases and urinary tract infections. In Ayurveda is considered the prime nervine tonic and is used to treat insomnia, stress, nervousness and disturbed emotions, and many nervous system disorders. It promotes mental calm and clarity and assists in the practice of yoga and meditation. It possesses tonic properties and could be considered a yin tonic like eclipta. It is used with eclipta for strengthening the nerves and promoting the growth of hair.   (6)            

Treats depression, rheumatism, blood diseases and mental weaknesses.

Indicated uses — Brain food, endurance, longevity, mental fatigue, poor vitality, senility:  tincture, fluid extract, powder.  Hypertension:  tincture*, fluid extract*, powder*.    (14)

Useful as a brain food to rebuild energy reserves and stamina.  Can increase mental and physical power, combat stress and improve reflexes.  A known hypotensive;  said to be a valuable treatment for depression and mental problems by helping with mental fatigue, senility, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and memory loss.  Neutralizes blood toxins and helps balance hormones and relax the nerves.    (22)

Treats nervous disorders, epilepsy, senility, premature aging, hair loss, chronic and obstinate skin conditions, venereal diseases.  Decreases senility and aging;  specific for chronic skin diseases, incl. leprosy and syphilis, eczema and psoriasis.  Valuable in intermittent or periodic fevers like malaria.  (40)

In Ayurveda, an important rejuvenating herb, esp. for nerve and brain cells.  Increases intelligence, longevity, memory;  retards senility and aging.  Studies support its reputation for improving memory, intelligence;  may also help stress and fatigue.   (61)

Demonstrated effectiveness as a topical cream for psoriasis, in most cases curing entirely.  Also effective in British studies against Hansen’s disease (leprosy):  the bacteria that cause leprosy have a waxy coating that protects them against immune system mechanisms, but the asiaticosides in gotu kola dissolve this waxy coating.  Also promotes circulation and reduces swelling in lower limbs.    (62)

Reduces phlebitis, varicose veins.    (65)

Combinations:   Use as a simple or mix with lavender or chamomile to enhance calming action.   (15)

With basil and black pepper, it is good for fever.    (40)

Precautions:  A slight potential for sensitization through skin contact.   (2)

High doses can cause headaches or aggravate itching.  Best taken for 4-6 weeks, followed by a 2-week break.  Do not exceed stated dose.     (15)

May aggravate itching; large doses may cause headaches or temporary loss of consciousness.(40)

Asiaticosides appear to be weakly carcinogenic.  A concentrated solution was applied to skin of mice twice weekly for 18 months, and 2.5% developed skin tumors.  People with family history of skin cancers might consider different treatments, esp. for chronic skin conditions.   (62)

Tincturing Process: Vita Mix: Speed 5. Place  gotu kola in VM container just above blades. 

      Process 120 seconds. Alcohol 50%    (1a)

Applications:   Powder may be used externally as a paste for chronic skin conditions.    (40)

Steep 1 tsp dried herb in 1 c. hot water 10-15 min.   (61)


Dosage:  .6 g. dried leaves, 3 x daily.   (2)

  6‑15 gms.    (6)

Tincture in 5-10 ml doses.   (15) 

General Notes:   Perhaps the most important rejuvenative herb in Ayurvedic medicine.    (40)

No evidence it causes “foot rot” in sheep.  Not related to kola or cola nuts.    (62)

First noted when Indians discovered it is a favorite food of elephants, renowned for long memory and life span.    (1c)



(1) Cayuga Botanicals Research Data, “Nature’s Field”, vol. 14, no. 6, Nov/Dec ’98, p. 1

(1a) as above “Gotu Kola Tincture” file

(1b) as above Research Data, “Nature’s Field”, Nov/Dec ’96, p. 11

(1) as above Research Data, “Nature’s Field”, Aug ’95 pamphlet

(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 729-30

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D.,  pg. 200

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, p. 128

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody,  pgs. 165, 181

(22) Herbs and Herbal Formulas (booklet) by Mark Hershiser, p. 10

(40) The Yoga of Herbs  by  Dr. David Frawley &  Dr. Vasant Lad, pgs. 170-72

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 106-7

(62) The Healing Herbs by Michael Castleman, pgs. 205-8

(65) Miracle Healing Herbs by John Heinerman, Ph.D., pgs. 266-67


PHOTO: Wikipedia