Dr. Rawls is a licensed medical doctor in North Carolina and a leading expert in integrative health. He has extensive training in alternative therapies, and is the Medical Director of Vital Plan, a holistic health and herbal supplement company in Raleigh, NC.
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is an herb from the carrot family that is closely related to parsley, cilantro, and fennel. A perennial herb that grows low to the ground and spreads quickly, gotu kola has small, round green leaves that are edible. It grows in tropical and subtropical climates, including Australia, the south Pacific, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, South Africa, and South America. Gotu kola is commonly eaten as a leafy green in India and Sri Lanka, where it is lauded for its nutritional profile, including vitamin C, numerous essential minerals, triterpenoids, and carotenoids.
Bitter, sweet, and cooling, the herb has been used for thousands of years in both traditional Chinese medicine and in ayurveda, the primary traditional medicine system of India. The above-ground parts of gotu kola are used in herbal preparations.
In ayurveda, gotu kola is considered a rasayana, or a general tonic for increasing lifespan, as well as a brain tonic.* It supports healthy aging and promotes brain health.* Gotu kola is also considered to be a blood purifier, and it has been used to support healthy skin and connective tissues.*
Gotu kola is primarily known as a tonic for the brain and nervous system, and it has adaptogenic qualities as well. Tonics are herbs that promote overall well-being of the entire body or a specific system. Adaptogens aid the body in adapting to stresses and normalize functions within the body.* Traditional uses and modern research suggest that gotu kola:
Clinical research — including a 2012 review published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine — supports gotu kola’s traditional uses, which includes revitalizing the central nervous system and brain and promoting healthy memory and concentration. It also promotes production of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter that supports a healthy mood by inhibiting neuron excitability, thereby supporting calm and relaxation.
Gotu kola has long been used as an herb to promote healthy aging due to its tonifying properties within the brain. Research supports gotu kola’s ability to naturally inhibit certain enzymes that influence the brain, encourage mental alertness and cognition throughout all stages of life, promote healthy levels of dopamine, and offer antioxidant support.*
Gotu kola is considered to be a secondary adaptogen for its normalizing influence on the nervous and immune systems.* The herb helps increase stamina, supports the body’s natural stress resistance, and modulates immune function.*
In addition, gotu kola supports healthy cell growth and turnover in the skin.* It has a long history of use — supported by a wide body of clinical research as documented in a 2010 pharmacological review — for various aspects of skin and connective tissue health.*
Gotu kola has been used for thousands of years, and in recent decades, as interest in herbs has resurged, clinical research has been shown to support many of the herb’s traditional uses, specifically as related to skin and brain health.*
Aging is a natural part of life, and it influences every system and organ in the body. Cognition, memory, and concentration rely on healthy circulation and blood flow within the brain.
As a tonic herb, gotu kola works to promote overall well-being of the brain and central nervous system.* Among the phytochemicals found in gotu kola are triterpenes, glycosides, and asiaticosides. Triterpenes possess strong antioxidant properties, while glycosides support healthy skin.* Asiaticosides naturally stimulate formation of protein and lipids necessary for skin and connective tissue health.*
With regards to skin health and healthy cell turnover, gotu kola provides antioxidant support, promotes capillary permeability, and encourages healthy circulation. Those same mechanisms support its use as a brain tonic.*
Side effects: In normal doses, gotu kola is very safe with few potential side effects. However, since the herb promotes blood flow and stimulates menses, it is contraindicated for pregnancy.
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