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Gotu Kola

Centella asiatica syn. Hydrocotyle asiatica

Gotu Kola
Man-t'ien-hsing

Parts used
Uses
Habitat and cultivation
Research
How much to take
Side effects and cautions

Herbs gallery - gotu_kola.jpg


This slender perennial is found throughout tropical regions of the world. Its nearly smooth surface and kidney-shaped or heart-shaped leaves accompanied by dark-purple flower petals make for a somewhat exquisite plant. But efforts to domesticate it have often failed, because its apparent obstinance requires human persecution in order to spread. Thus, 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.

Gotu kola -  a slender creeping plant that is especially abundant in the swampy areas of India and Sri Lanka, South Africa, and the tropical regions of the New World. It is commonly called gotu kola but is also known as hydrocotyle or Indian pennywort.

In Sri Lanka, it was observed that elephants, noted for their longevity among beasts, fed extensively on the plant. This gave rise to the reputation of the herb as a longevity promoter for people. Eating a few leaves daily was thought to "strengthen and revitalize worn out bodies and brains." Gotu kola has also been recommended as a treatment for mental troubles, high blood pressure, abscesses, rheumatism, fever, ulcers, leprosy, skin eruptions, nervous disorders, and jaundice. More recently, gotu kola has acquired a considerable reputation as an aphrodisiac, an agent that stimulates sexual desire and ability. The crushed leaves are commonly consumed by people in Sri Lanka, either in the form of a salad or as a hot beverage.

Scientific studies have shown that in relatively large doses the medication has a definite sedative effect in small animals. This activity comes from two saponin glycosides, designated brahmoside and brahminoside. Another glycoside, known as madecassoside, exhibits some anti-inflammatory activity, and still another, asiaticoside, apparently stimulates wound healing. However, there is currently no evidence to support the use of gotu kola as a longevity promoter or to substantiate any of the other extravagant claims for its use as a revitalizing and healing herb. Substantive data on its safety and efficacy are simply nonexistent.

PARTS USED

Aerial parts.

USES

Leprosy & skin disorders - Gotu kola has been used for thousands of years in India and still has a central place in Ayurvedic medicine. Gotu kola is used specifically to treat leprosy, skin ulcers, and other skin problems.
Tonic herb - Gotu kola has a longstanding reputation in India as a "rejuvenator," helping concentration and memory. It is also taken for fertility and as a tonic for poor digestion and rheumatism.
Other Indian uses - Fresh leaves are given to children for dysentery. The plant is also thought helpful for fevers, abdominal disorders, asthma, and bronchitis. An oil extract is used to promote hair growth.
Western uses - Despite its reputation as a tonic herb, gotu kola is used mainly for skin problems and wounds. Gotu kola is now also considered to have an anti-inflammatory effect and is given for rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, and poor venous circulation.
Other medical uses - Chronic venous insufficiency, Swollen Ankles.

HABITAT AND CULTIVATION

Gotu kola is native to India and the southern US. Gotu kola also grows in tropical and subtropical parts of Australia, Southern Africa, and South America. It prefers marshy areas and riverbanks. Although usually gathered wild, gotu kola can be cultivated from seed in spring. The aerial parts are harvested throughout the year.

RESEARCH

Fertility - Research in the rnid-1990s suggests that asiaticocide and thankuniside may reduce fertility, a finding that contrasts with one of the herb's traditional uses -in India it is taken to improve fertility.
Other research - Gotu kola is known to thin the blood, and, in large dosages, it helps to lower blood sugar levels.

HOW MUCH TO TAKE

Dried gotu kola leaf can be made into a tea by adding 1-2 teaspoons to 150 ml of boiling water and allowing it to steep for ten to fifteen minutes. Three cups are usually drunk per day. Tincture can also be used at a dose of 10-20 ml three times per day. Standardized extracts containing up to 100% total triterpenoids are generally taken as 60 mg once or twice per day.

SIDE EFFECTS AND CAUTIONS

Except for the rare person who is allergic to gotu kola, the only problems encountered are occasional nausea if excessively high doses are used. Gotu kola should be avoided in pregnancy and while breast feeding.


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