Gotu kola has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years in India,
China and Indonesia. Its ability to heal wounds, improve mental clarity, and
treat skin conditions such as leprosy and psoriasis were important reasons for
its extensive use in these countries. It has also been called one of the
"miracle elixirs of life" because legend has it that an ancient Chinese
herbalist lived for more than 200 years as a result of using the herb.
Historically, gotu kola has also been used to treat syphilis, hepatitis,
stomach ulcers, mental fatigue, epilepsy, diarrhea, fever, and asthma. Today,
American and European herbalists use gotu kola for disorders that cause
connective tissue swelling, such as scleroderma, psoriatic arthritis (arthritis
occurring in conjunction with psoriasis), anklylosing spondylitis (arthritis of
the spine), and rheumatoid arthritis. Recent studies confirm some of the
traditional uses and also suggest possible new applications for gotu kola, such
as lowering high blood pressure, treating venous insufficiency (pooling of blood
in the veins, usually in the legs, boosting memory and intelligence, easing
anxiety, and speeding wound healing.
Gotu kola should not be confused with kola nut (Cola nitida). Kola nut
is an active ingredient in Coca Cola and contains caffeine. Gotu kola has no
caffeine, and is not a stimulant.
Gotu kola is a perennial plant native to India, Japan, China, Indonesia,
South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the South Pacific. It is a tasteless, odorless
plant that thrives in and around water. It has small fan-shaped green leaves
with white or light purple-to-pink flowers and it bears small oval fruit. The
leaves and stems of the gotu kola plant are used for medicinal
Medicinal Uses and Indications
Wound Healing and Skin Lesions
Gotu kola contains triterpenoids, compounds that have been shown to aid in
wound healing. For example, animal studies indicate that triterpenoids
strengthen the skin, increase the concentration of antioxidants in wounds, and
restore inflamed tissues by increasing blood supply. Because of these
properties, gotu kola has been used externally for burns, psoriasis, prevention
of scar formation following surgery, recovery from an episiotomy following
vaginal delivery of a newborn, and treatment of external fistulas (a tear at or
near the anus).
Venous Insufficiency and Varicose Veins
When blood vessels lose their elasticity, blood pools in the legs and fluid
leaks out of the blood vessels, causing the legs to swell (venous
insufficiency). In a study of 94 people with venous insufficiency, those who
took gotu kola reported a significant improvement in symptoms compared to those
who took placebo. In another study of people with varicose veins, ultrasound
examination revealed improvements in the vascular tone of those who took gotu
High Blood Pressure
In a study of people with heart disease and high blood pressure, those who
took abana (an Ayurvedic herbal mixture containing gotu kola) experienced a
significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure (pressure on blood vessels
when the heart is at rest) compared to those who took placebo. Further studies
are needed to determine whether gotu kola alone, some other herb in the
Ayurvedic mixture, or the particular combination of all the herbs in the remedy
is responsible for the beneficial effect.
Triterpenoids(active compounds in gotu kola) have been shown to
soothe anxiety and boost mental function in mice.A recent study found
that people who took gotu kola were less likely to be startled by a novel noise
(a potential indicator of anxiety) than those who took placebo. Although the
results of this study are somewhat promising, the dose used in this study was
extremely high, making it difficult to draw any conclusions about how gotu kola
might be used by people with anxiety.
One study involving 13 females with scleroderma found that gotu kola
decreased joint pain, skin hardening, and improved finger movement.
Because of sedative effects demonstrated in animals, gotu kola has been used
to help people with insomnia.
Dosage and Administration
Gotu kola is available in teas, as dried herbs, tinctures, capsules, tablets,
and ointments. It should be stored in a cool, dry play and used before the
expiration date on the label.
There is currently no information in the scientific literature about the use
of gotu kola for children. Therefore, it is not recommended for those under 18
The adult dosage of gotu kola may vary depending on the condition being
treated. An appropriately trained and certified herbalist, such as a naturopath,
can provide the necessary guidance.
The standard dose of gotu kola varies depending on the form:
Dried herb—to make tea, add ¼ to ½ tsp dried
herb to a cup of boiling water (150 mL) for 10 minutes, 3 times a day
Powdered herb (available in capsules)—1,000
to 4,000 mg, 3 times a day
Tincture (1:2, 30% alcohol)—30 to 60 drops
(equivalent to 1.5 to 3 mL - there are 5 mL in a
teaspoon), 3 times a day
Standardized extract—60 to 120 mg per day;
standardized extracts should contain 40% asiaticoside, 29% to 30% asiatic acid,
29% to 30% madecassic acid, and 1% to 2% madecassoside; doses used in studies
mentioned in the treatment section range from 20 mg (for scleroderma) up to 180
mg (in one study for venous insufficiency; although, most of the studies for
this latter condition were conducted using 90 mg to 120 mg per day).
The recommended dosage for people with insomnia is ½ tsp of dried herb in a
cup of water taken for no more than 4 to 6 weeks.
The use of gotu kola for more than 6 weeks is not recommended. People taking
the herb for an extended period of time (up to 6 weeks) should take a 2-week
break before taking the herb again.
Asiaticoside, a major component of gotu kola, has also been associated with
tumor growth in mice. Though more studies are needed, it is wise for anyone with
a history of precancerous or cancerous skin
lesions—such as squamous cell, basal cell skin cancer,
or melanoma—to refrain from taking this
Side effects are rare but may include skin allergy and burning sensations
(with external use), headache, stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, and extreme
drowsiness. These side effects tend to occur with high doses of gotu kola.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Pregnant women should not take gotu kola because it may cause spontaneous
abortion. There is little or no information regarding the safety of this herb
during breastfeeding, so nursing mothers should refrain from taking this
Gotu kola is not recommended for children.
People older than 65 years should take gotu kola at a lower than standard
dose. The strength of the dosage can be increased slowly over time to reduce
symptoms. This is best accomplished under the guidance of an appropriately
trained and certified herbalist such as a naturopathic
Interactions and Depletions
There have been no reports documenting negative interactions between gotu
kola and medications to date. Since high doses of gotu kola can cause sedation,
individuals should refrain from taking this herb with medications that promote
sleep or reduce anxiety.
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Review Date: March 2001
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Jacqueline A. Hart, MD,
Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University
and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh
(Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, MA; Steven
Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's
Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; David Winston, Herbalist, Herbalist
and Alchemist, Inc., Washington, NJ.
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guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information
provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare
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regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed