Gotukola is a tropical plant that is used in culinary as well as in traditional medicine such as Ayurveda in India, Chinese traditional medicine, and traditional African medicine. It is native to the Southeast Asian subcontinent and found commonly in India in mostly wet and damp lands.
Botanical and common names:
The botanical name of Gotukola is Centella asiatica. In Sanskrit, it is known as Mandukparni which translates to ‘leaves shaped like a frog’. Another name, Manduki in Sanskrit which means ‘found in moist places’ that shows similarities in the natural habitats of frogs and Gotukola herb. In English, it is commonly known as the Indian Pennywort or Asiatic Pennywort, or Centella.
Physical Structure and useful botanical parts:
Gotukola is a perineal plant that thrives in moist, damp tropical areas. It belongs to the Apiaceae family which is a family of aromatic plants, and herbs like Parsley, Celery, and Carrot belong to the same. Centella or Gotukola has small, fan-shaped leaves and light pink or white flowers. The leaves and the stem are commonly used parts for therapeutic purposes in traditional medicine.
Ayurvedic properties and therapeutic benefits:
Gotukola is dominant in Tikta rasa, that is Bitter taste and has Laghu (light) properties. It particularly helps to balance Vata Dosha in the body. Also it has a Madhura Vipaka that is a sweet effect post digestion that promotes strength and vitality. It is a good Pitta Dosha balancer and also balances Kapha to a certain extent. Gotukola has a Prabhava that is by virtue of its natural properties, it acts as a Medhya Rasayana that is a potent nervine tonic. The active ingredient in Centella is known as Triterpenoids such as Tannins, Saponins, and some essential oils. Saponins are known to improve the formation of collagen tissues, promoting wound healing.
Gotukola is known to have tremendous health benefits for all age groups. It is used in various Ayurvedic and herbal health tonics especially useful for the geriatric population. Some prominent health benefits of this herb are:
- Nervine tonic – Gotukola is highly used as a cognition improvement herb which supports the nervous system. It is known as a Medhya Rasayana in Ayurveda, which means a tonic to improve memory and intelligence. It is commonly used as a supplement for conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia and memory impairment in elderly population.
- Anxiety and Stress – Gotukola helps to reduce oxidative damage, which is often seen due to poor sleep quality. It helps to promote restful sleep and has an anti-anxiety effect.
- Respiratory health – Centella is a commonly used herb as a remedy in traditional medicine for breathing difficulties, wheezing, conditions like Asthama due to its bronchodilation properties. It is also known to be used to improve hoarseness of voice and sore throat.
- Useful in bleeding disorders – Gotukola is known to help in reversing bleeding disorders such as Epistaxis, bleeding through rectum etc. It is known to accelerate wound healing process.
- Helps in skin conditions – Chronic skin conditions that cause itching, rashes like in Eczema, Gotukola helps in reducing the mild to moderate symptoms.
- Metabolic disorders – Diabetes and frequent urinary tract infections are often reversed by using Gotukola along with other herbal combinations. It is also being clinically studied for its positive effects on improving liver and kidney functions.
- Improves Strength – Gotukola is Balya herb, that helps to regain strength especially for those who have recovered from a long illness.
- Cardiac tonic – Ayurveda mentions Gotukola as Hrudya, that is a good cardiac tonic that improves the functions of the circulatory system and helps to reduce swelling too.
- Anti-inflammatory – Regular consumption of Gotukola helps to reduce inflammation in the body and promotes antioxidant activity. It is often seen to be useful in relieving joint pain.
Clinical Studies on Gotukola and outcomes:
Various clinical studies have been conducted on Gotukola to understand this nootropic herb for its health benefits. Gotukola is clinically studied and proven to be beneficial as a nervine tonic useful for conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, and insomnia. It is also beneficial as supportive therapy for Alzheimer’s and memory loss to improve cognitive functions. Gotukola is also known to show anti-epileptic as well as anti-convulsant properties. consequently, it is an active ingredient of various nervine therapeutic formulations.
An excerpt from a notable research publication states that,
“C. asiatica, widely known as “gotu kola,” is a reputed medicinal plant for its various pharmacological effects favorable for human health. Besides its potent wound healing property, a number of studies described the noteworthy protective effect of the plant against several diseases of CNS. Biological effects of C. asiatica have been generally attributed to the major triterpene derivatives including asiatic acid, madecassic acid, asiaticoside, madecassoside, and brahmic acid. The neuroprotective effect of the plant has been suggested to result from different mechanisms, most of which have referred to positive influences on oxidative stress parameters.”
Traditional remedies, applications and uses of Gotukola:
- Pennywort is used often in Asian cuisines in salads or curries, especially in Sri Lankan cuisine.
- Fresh Gotukola is often used as cilantro or parsley as a food product. In Ayurveda, fresh leaves are used to make a decoction. It should be consumed immediately or in an hour of preparation. Such decoction is used for acute conditions such as bleeding disorders, fever etc.
- Gotukola is gaining popularity globally based on its incredible health benefits. It is consumed in the form of capsules and tablets that contain its extracts, as a powder, tincture or even as a decoction or tea.
- External application of Gotukola is seen in the form of local ointments for wounds. That has Gotukola as a major ingredient along with other herbs and a soothing base like petroleum jelly.
- Tradionally, a poultice of Gotukola fresh leaves paste was used to treat local skin infections and minor cuts and wounds.
- In Ayurveda, Gotukola is used in treatment of inflammatory conditions such as Rheumatism, water retention, bronchial asthma, and cough especially in children.
- Gotukola dietary supplement is also useful in improving blood circulation for varicose veins.