Gotu kola is considered to be the favorite food of elephants in South India and that is perhaps the reason behind the old saying that “an elephant never forgets”. Because of the effects it has on the brain, gotu kola is commonly deemed by most herbalists as a “brain food” or “brain tonic”. But its effects are not limited to the mind and central nervous system; gotu kola also improves blood flow, stimulates the growth of connective tissue and skin and balances the immune system.
In Ayurveda, gotu kola is seen as a spiritual herb and thus in India it is ordinarily used to improve meditation. It is said to develop the crown chakra and to balance the hemispheres of the brain. But there are also recent studies that confirm many of its traditional uses, and the chemical constituents that have been found in its leaves (from minerals and vitamins to pentacyclic triterpenoids) seem to justify its medicinal relevance. The beneficial effects of gotu kola fall into a few different categories:
Effects on the nervous system
– increases intelligence, memory, concentration and the ability to meditate;
– reduces fatigue, stress and anxiety;
– prevents insomnia and nervous breakdown;
– useful in Alzheimer’s disease, senile dementia, children’s ADHD, epilepsy and seizure disorders.
Effects on the circulatory system
– strengthens the arteries, veins and capillaries;
– improves blood flow and reduces high blood pressure;
– relieves leg cramps, leg sores and heavy legs;
– slows retinopathy;
– useful in phlebitis.
Effects on the connective tissue
– encourages collagen growth and cartilage repair;
– prevents scarring and speeds the healing time of wounds;
– useful in burn healing, including second- and third-degree burns;
– stimulates hair and nail growth;
– treats skin and stomach ulcers.
Effects on the immune system
– strengthens the adrenals;
– destroys tumor cells.
Gotu kola can be found as tea, capsules, tincture or dry powder. For tea, add 1-2 teaspoons to a cup of hot boiled water.
Precautions, side effects and interactions
Gotu kola may raise cholesterol and/or blood sugar levels. Among its possible side effects there are worth mentioning: photosensitivity, nausea, indigestion, itching, skin rash. In high doses it can cause headaches or elevate blood pressure. It is not to be used with sedative and antipsychotic drugs (as the effect may be cumulative), diabetes drugs and cholesterol-reducing drugs (as it may interfere with the biochemical actions of these drugs). Also, it is not to be used during pregnancy or by those suffering from an overactive thyroid.