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Gotu Cola: The Amazing Brain Tonic

by Anne McIntyre(more info)

listed in ayurveda, originally published in issue 115 - September 2005

Gotu cola (Centella asiatica/ Hydrocotyle asiatica) is one of the best known Ayurvedic herbs and is increasingly popular among Western herbalists. It is also known as Indian Pennywort. Its Sanskrit names are Mandukaparni and Brahmi, the latter being after Brahma, the all-pervading consciousness, because of its central action on the brain. Not only is Guto cola an excellent nerve tonic with anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, and analgesic properties, but it is also a good cardio-tonic, immune stimulant, febrifuge, alterative, diuretic, anthelmintic, vulnerary and rejuvenating. Its major indications include skin problems, cuts and wounds, post operative healing, poor memory, learning problems, childhood infections, urinary problems, insomnia and fever. Gotu cola is considered a Sattvic (calming) herb that enhances wisdom and intelligence and is especially useful for children. In Nepal a leaf of Gotu cola is given to children as a symbol of the plant's ability to aid memory and concentration and help them in their school work.[1] It has the ability to balance all three doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha).

Constituents of aerial parts of Gotu cola include essential oil, fatty oil, ß-sitostenol, tannins, resin, an alkaloid hydrocotylin, a bitter principle called vellarine, pectic acid, polyphenols, saponins (braminoside, brahmoside) and flavonoids.

One of the best brain tonics, Gotu cola reputedly protects against the ageing process and Alzheimer's. It can improve memory and concentration and is excellent for children with learning difficulties including ADHD and mental problems,[2] autism and asperger. It is also recommended for stress and anxiety, insomnia[3] and depression. An anticonvulsant, it reduces the duration of epileptic fits.

Due to its positive effect on microcirculation and capillary permeability,[4] [5] [6] Centella has produced very positive results in the treatment of oedema and venous insufficiency as well as varicose veins.[7] It is also an excellent wound and scar healer and has become increasingly popular for post-operative use.[8] It stimulates synthesis of collagen and the production of fibroblasts[9] [10] [11] and helps to protect the skin against radiation. Gotu cola is also used to prevent bleeding and other circulatory problems associated with high Pitta, including anaemia. In India, Gotu cola is a household remedy for skin problems, including boils, acne, ulcers and chronic eczema. It cools heat and reduces inflammation in the skin. As a keratinocyte antiproliferant, it is a promising remedy for psoriasis.[12] It has also been shown to be active against the Herpes simplex virus.[13]

Gotu cola also has the ability to enhance immunity. It has been demonstrated to be effective against bacteria, including Pseudomonas and Streptococcus spp, as well as against viruses, including Herpes simplex II. It is used to clear toxins from the system and allay inflammation is used in the treatment of arthritis and gout. It clears heat and is good for eruptive fevers. In the respiratory system Gotu cola is used for chronic coughs and as a decongestant for catarrh.

Its benefits also extend to the digestive tract. Gotu cola is used in the early stages of dysentery in children,[14] often with cumin. Its cooling and anti-inflammatory properties can be put to good use for indigestion, acidity and ulcers. Its antibacterial action could contribute to its anti-ulcer properties.

Externally the juice of the fresh leaves mixed with turmeric can be applied to wounds to speed healing. Prepared in coconut oil Gotu cola is used on the head to calm the mind, promote sleep, relieve headaches and prevent hair loss. Gotu cola oil can also be applied to skin conditions such as eczema and herpes.
Dosage and Formulations: Infusion/ decoction: 30-60mls; Powder Fresh leaves: 1-3gms twice daily. Leaf juice: 10-15 ml. twice daily.[15] Drug interactions: none known. It may potentiate the action of anxiolytic medications.[16]


1. Tillotson AK et al. The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook. Kensington Publishing Corps. New York. 2001.
2. Rao MVR, Srinivasan K and Rao KT. Effect of Mandukaparni on general mental ability of mentally retarded children. Journal Res. Indian Medicine: 8, 9. 1973.
3. Ramaswamy AS et al. Pharmacological studies on C.
asiatica. Journal Res. Indian Medicine. 4: 160. 1979.
4. Cesarone MR, Laurora G, De Sanctis MT et al. The microcirculatory activity of Centella asiatica in venous insufficiency. A double-blind study. Minerva Cardioangiol. 42 (6): 299-304. 1994.
5. Belcaro GV, Grimaldi R and Guidi G. Improvement of capillary permeability in patients with venous hypertension after treatment with TTFCA. Angiology. 41 (7): 33-40. 1990.
6. De Sanctis MT, Belcaro G, Incandela L et al. Treatment of oedema and increased capillary filtration in venous hypertension with total triterpenic fraction of Centella asiatica: a clinical, prospective, placebo-controlled, randomized, dose-ranging trial. Angiology. 52 Suppl 2: S55-9. 2001.
7. Cesarone MR, Laurora G, De Sanctis MT et al. Activity of Centella asiatica in venous insufficiency. Minerva Cardioangiol. 40 (4): 137-43. 1992.
8. Widgerow AD, Chait LA, Stals R et al. New innovations in scar management. Aesthetic Plast Surg. 24 (3): 227-34. 2000.
9. Bonte F, Dumas M, Chaudagne C et al. Influence of asiatic acid, madecassic acid, and asiaticoside on human collagen I synthesis. Planta Med. 60 (2): 133-5. 1994.
10. Kim YN, Park YS, Kim HK et al. Enhancement of the attachment on microcarriers and tPA production by fibroblast cells in a serum-free medium by the addition of the extracts of Centella asiatica. Cytotechnology: 13 (3): 221-6. 1993.
11. Tenni R, Zanaboni G, De Agostini MP et al. Effect of the triterpenoid fraction of Centella asiatica on macromolecules of the connective matrix in human skin fibroblast cultures. Ital J Biochem. 37 (2): 69-77. 1988.
12. Sampson JH, Raman A, Karlsen G et al. In vitro keratinocyte antiproliferant effect of Centella asiatica extract and triterpenoid saponins. Phytomedicine. 8 (3): 230-5. 2001.
13. Yoosook C, Bunyapraphatsara N, Boonyakiat Y et al. Anti-herpes simplex virus activities of crude water extracts of Thai medicinal plants. Phytomedicine. 6 (6): 411-9. 2000.
14. Bakhru HK. Herbs that Heal. Orient Paperbacks. Delhi. 1998.
15. Chopra D and Simon D. The Chopra Centre Herbal Handbook. Rider. London. 2000.
16. Kuhn MA and Winston D. Herbal Therapy & Supplements. Lippincott, Philadelphia. 2001.


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About Anne McIntyre

Anne McIntyre FNIMH MAPA is a fellow of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and a member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners' Association. She has been practising as a herbalist for 30 years and has also trained in remedial massage, aromatherapy, counselling, homoeopathy and Ayurvedic medicine. She is the author of several books on herbal medicine, including The Complete Woman's Herbal (Gaia), The Complete Floral Healer (Gaia), The Herbal Treatment of Children (Elsevier), The Top 100 Remedies (Duncan Baird), The Complete Herbal Tutor (Gaia) and Healing Drinks (Gaia). Anne's latest book Dispensing with Tradition: A practitioner's Guide to using Indian and Western Herbs the Ayurvedic Way has recently been published. She teaches regularly in the UK and USA and spends as much time as she can in her herb garden which she opens to the public by appointment. She practises at Artemis House, Great Rissington, Gloucestershire, (Tel: 01451 810096) and in London and Wales once a month. She may be contacted on Tel: 01451 810096

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