The Herb Gotu Kola: Calms the Body, Enhances Mental Clarity


The herb gotu kola—which is not related to the kola nut and contains no caffeine—is known for its cooling and sedative effect on the human nervous system. It may help some people manage anxiety, depression, and ADD.

Also known as Indian pennywort, gotu kola is a creeping plant with fan-shaped leaves. It thrives in swampy areas of Sri Lanka, India, South Africa, Madagascar, and in tropical regions.

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) has been used for thousands of years in China, India, and Indonesia to enhance mental functioning, memory, and longevity. This member of the parsley family was also used to treat many afflictions such as wounds, arthritis, tuberculosis, and skin diseases such as leprosy.

Supporting Research for Gotu Kola

The research data for gotu kola, though limited, validates its sedative, anti-stress, and mental clarity effects.

  1. In a study at the University of Maryland Medical Center, participants taking 1,000 milligrams of gotu kola every day for two months reported a reduction in anxiety. The researchers confirm that this herb has a sedative effect and should not be combined with other sedatives—prescription or herbal.
  2. In another investigation, high doses of gotu kola plant extract enhanced the mood and working memory of healthy elderly research participants.
  3. A double-blind clinical study found that taking gotu kola can calm the startle response. This does not prove that the herb reduces anxiety, only that it reduces an indicator of anxiety (the startle response).

Today, in Europe and the U.S., gotu kola is frequently used to treat varicose veins and venous insufficiency, a medical condition causing blood to pool in the legs. The herb seems to stimulate blood circulation and strengthen veins and capillaries.

Using Gotu Kola

Gotu kola is available in several forms: dried leaves, capsules (powdered), tablets, and tinctures or extracts. Before using this herb, consult an herbalist about gotu kola standards of quality and dosages; talk to your physician if you are pregnant, have liver problems, diabetes, skin disease, or are taking other medications.

Gotu kola tea. Steep a teaspoon of dried gotu kola leaves in one cup of boiling water; sweeten with honey to taste. Drinking this tea before bedtime can induce a sound, restful night’s sleep. The tea may also relieve indigestion and headaches.

Gotu kola oil for itchy or irritated skin. Boil 1/2 cup dried gotu kola leaves in 2 cups water until the water volume reduces by half. Remove the leaves and add 1 cup sesame or almond oil to the remaining water. Let the mixture simmer until all the water has evaporated. You are left with an herbal infused oil that will soothe your skin.

Photo by Harry Rose

Sources:; ncbi; ncbi; Herbal Information Center


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