from The Herbalist,
newsletter of the
Botanic Medicine Society
BOX 82, STN. A, WILLOWDALE,
ONTARIO, CANADA. M2N 5S7
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Gotu Kola Irene Yaychuk
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica, Hydrocotyle asiatica) is an herb often
confused with another plant, the dried cotyledon (seed leaf) of
commonly known as kola nuts, a well-known ingredient of Coca-Cola containing
Gotu Kola is not a stimulant, but rather a very nutritious
herb indigenous to hot, humid climates.
Dr. John Heinerman, Medical Anthropologist, presented an address on
Gotu Kola to the Second International Congress for the Study of Traditional Asian
Medicine, held at Airlanggu University in Surabaya, Indonesia, September
2-7, 1984. He stated that Gotu Kola is used as a nourishing food and a
valuable medicine in many cultures. The Hosa and the Mfengu tribes in
Africa have used it for both purposes.
In the Philippines, the leaves are
either consumed raw in salads or as a tea for tonic and stimulant benefits
to the body. The leaves have been employed medicinally in the French West
Indies, and Brazil to cure uterine cancer, leprosy and elephantiasis. In the
People’s Republic of China, Gotu Kola is used for fevers, common cold
influenza, sore throat and liver ailments such as cirrhosis and jaundice.
Folk and traditional medicine have deemed this plant to be a brain food,
beneficial for memory and senility. Pharmacist Varro E. Tryler states that
there is currently no evidence to support the use of Gotu Kola as a
longevity promoter or to substantiate the extravagant claims made for it as
a revitalizing and healing herb. Substantial data on its safety and efficacy
are, in his opinion, simply non-existent.
However, separate clinical studies to substantiate folk claims for its
alleged memory enhancing properties have been done in the United States and
In India, Gotu Kola, an Ayurvedic herb, is called Mandookaparni. There, an
impressive study dealt with the effect of Gotu Kola on general mental
ability of mentally retarded children. Whole plants were dried in the shade,
powdered, and made into ˝ gram tablets. Half of the thirty children studied
were given one Gotu Kola tablet and half a placebo tablet daily. Apart from
nutritional deficiencies, the children had no major illnesses.
test was administered and the children’s Intelligence Quotients were
recorded. Separate tests were also administered to record any changes in the
children’s co-operation, memory, concentration, attention, vocabulary and
overall adjustment. After three months, the tests were repeated.
The findings showed that youngsters taking Gotu Kola had
increased their powers of concentration and attention.
Another Indian study showed that Gotu Kola extracts administered over a
period of 42 months to normal healthy adults in the 45-50 age group had
several benefits: haemoglobin increased by a significant percent, and the
mean levels of blood urea and serum acid phosphatase were decreased.
Subsequent examinations have revealed that this herb has brought about a
steady increase in blood sugar level (statistically significant).
relationship between hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels, and mood
swings, mental illness, fatigue, depression, confusion and schizophrenic
tendencies is well documented. Dr. Heinerman feels that perhaps the ‘memory
enhancing’ attributes of Gotu Kola may be attributed to the herb’s ability
to elevate blood sugar levels markedly.
Gotu Kola is higher in the B-complex vitamin group than any other plant
previously examined. This again may account for its effects on the brain.
It is especially high in thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), and pyridoxin (B6).
B complex is necessary in providing energy for the body, by converting
carbohydrates into glucose, a usable form of sugar for the body to burn. The
B complex is responsible for the normal functioning of the nervous system as
well. A healthy nervous system allows for a better functioning and
(Other nutrients include numerous free amino acids, especially aspartate,
glutamate, serine, threonine, alanine, lysine, histidine, and aminobutyrate
found in greater quantities in the roots, but also present in leaves.
leaves also contain measurable amounts of provitamin A or carotene.)
Isolated constituents of Gotu Kola were applied locally on wounds in
laboratory rats. This resulted in healthy new connective skin tissue and
increased the tensile strength of the flesh, as well as decreased the size
of the would area. Asaticoside, a constituent of Gotu Kola was injected
intra-muscularly or implanted directly into mice, rats, guinea pigs, and
rabbits. It produced a rapid thickening of the skin, an increased production
of white blood cells, increased growth of new blood vessels of the
connective tissue, and an increased growth of hair and nails. Lupus erythematosus was helped by extracts of Gotu Kola.
Other studies have indicated Gotu Kola to be effective for gastric ulcers,
phlebitis and varicose veins. It has been used for leprosy and related skin
disorders, eye lesions, and muscular atrophy.
One investigation of Gotu Kola was conducted in Provo Utah at
University by a research psychologist who wanted to demonstrate Gotu Kola’s
amazing ability to overcome the negative effects of fatigue and stress when
used in conjunction with cayenne pepper (Capsicum frutescens) and Siberian
Rodents were fed the three herbs by means of a surgical technique in which
tubing was inserted under the skin, a couple of centimeters below the
junction of the esophagus and stomach. Fatigue and stress situations were
set up. One involved swimming in a bucket of cold water, and another was to
jump a barrier in order to avoid a mild foot shock.
Within 24 hours of
administration of the three herbs, the animals could successfully clear the
barrier after being dried off from the cold water treatment. Without the
herbs, they required up to 72 hours to recuperate in order to jump the
barrier. Dr. Mowrey concluded that a combination of capsicum,
ginseng and Gotu Kola did have a beneficial effect on behaviour of stressed or fatigued
animals whose metabolism are similar in many respects to that of man.
From this research carried out in 1975, several large American herbal
companies developed an “energy and stamina” formula utilizing
Some of these can be obtained at your local health food store.
1. Varro E. Tyler, op.cit., p. 113
2. John Heinerman, An Herb for Our Time: The Scientific Rediscovery of
Gotu Kola, unpublished paper, (Sept., 1984)
3. Varro E. Tyler, op.cit., p.113
4. John Heinerman, An Herb for Our Time”, op.cit.
5. M.V.R. Appa Rao, et.
al, The Effect of Mandookaparni (Centella Asiatica) on the General Mental
Ability (Medhya) of Mentally Retarded Children, Journal of Indian Medicine
(August 25, 1973), p.9-12.
6. M.V.R. Appa Rao, et.al, The Study of Mandookaparni and Punarnava for
their Pasayan effect on Normal Healthy Adults”, Nagarjun, (JUly, 1969) p.41
7. John Heinerman, An Herb for Our Time, op.cit.
8. John Heinerman, Natural
Nutrition, (Provo Utah: Woodland Books, 1984).p.85.
9. John Heinerman, ed.
Gotu Kola, The Herb Report, (March 1984),
10. Ibid., p.2
11. Ibid., p.2
12. John Heinerman, An Herb for Our Time, op.cit.