Herbs & Botanicals
What is gotu kola? What is it used for?
Gotu kola is a type of creeping vine indigenous to India, China, Pakistan, Madagascar, South Africa, and parts of northeastern Europe. It is tasteless and odorless, with small, fan-shaped green leaves, flowers that range in color from purple to pink, and small, oval fruit.
In Sri Lanka, the plant's leaves are consumed as food by both humans and animals, especially elephants. The leaves and stems of the plant or also used in herbal medicines.
Gotu kola has historically been reported to enhance mental activity and help a variety of illnesses, ranging from rheumatism, fevers and high blood pressure to syphilis and stomach ulcers. It is a staple in ayurvedic medicine; some of its more common uses are for cardiovascular disease, water retention, bronchitis and coughs. Practitioners also make a poultice out of gotu kola, which is used to treat many skin conditions.
The primary active ingredients of gotu kola are asiaticoside, madecassoside and madasiatic acid. These compounds have been shown to inhibit the production of collagen, especially in conjunction with scar tissue. Other studies have shown that gotu kola can help treat burns and wounds, and that it may be helpful in preventing and treating keloid scars.
How much gotu kola should I take?
The amount of gotu kola to be taken depends on the condition being treated. The standard dose of gotu kola also depends on the form of the herb being taken. Generally, the standard doses for gotu kola are as follows:
- Dried herb - one-quarter to one-half teaspoon per cup of boiling water, which can be drunk three times per day.
- Powdered herb - 1,000 milligrams to 4,000 milligrams, taken in capsule form, up to three times per day.
- Tincture - 30 to 60 drops of a gotu kola tincture (in a 1:2 ratio, 30 percent alcohol content), which is equivalent to between 1.5 and 3 milliliters.
- Standardized extract - 60 to 120 milligrams per day; standardized extracts should contain 40 percent asiaticoside, 29 percent to 30 percent Asiatic acid, 29 percent to 30 percent madecassic acid, and 1 percent to 2 percent madecassoside.
What forms of gotu kola are available?
Dried gotu kola leaf can be found at many Asian markets and specialty stores. Some nutritional stores sell gotu kola supplements; others offer fluid extracts and tinctures.
What can happen if I take too much gotu kola? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?
The American Herbal Products Association has given gotu kola a class 1 rating, meaning that it can be safely consumed when used appropriately. In rare instances, however, people who are allergic to gotu kola have reported an adverse reaction after taking the herb, such as a burning sensation on the skin or headaches. These reactions are usually associated with high-dose use of gotu kola. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take gotu kola; persons aged 65 years or older should take gotu kola at lower doses than normal.
As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions associated with gotu kola. However, because gotu kola can cause sedation in high doses, it should be avoided by people who take medications designed to promote sleep or treat anxiety. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking gotu kola or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.
- Bradwejn J, Zhou Y, Koszycki D, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of gotu kola (centella asiatica) on acoustic startle response in healthy subjects. J Clin Psychopharmacol 2000;20(6):680-684.
- Cauffield JS, Forbes HJM. Dietary supplements used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Lippincotts Prim Care Pract 1999:3(3):290-304.
- DerMarderosian A (ed.) Gotu kola. In: Facts and Comparisons The Review of Natural Products. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Co., 1999, pp.1-3.
- McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 26.
- Peirce A. Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York: Stonesong Press Inc., 1999, pp. 317-318.