Gotu Kola is one of many “miracle herbs” from traditional Chinese Medicine. As a food, Gotu Kola is sometimes used in Sri Lankan dishes sprinkled over rice, or as a refreshing cold tea nam called bai bua bok from Thailand.
You may have heard Gotu Kola referred to as Indian pennywort, marsh penny, or water pennywort. It is a creeping perennial since it likes to spread over the ground. The typically pink flowers are very small and the plant’s seeds grow in pairs of tiny brown seeds. The above-ground parts of the plant are used for medicine and hygienic products.
General Health Benefits
One of Gotu Kola’s most revered benefits in Eastern culture is for spiritual uses. Taking the herb is said to develop the crown chakra, which is the energy center located at the top of the head in Ayurvedic medicine. The crown chakra is believed to balance the brain hemispheres, promote longer life, boost the immune system, and promote restful sleep.
When it comes to skin benefits, Gotu Kola has been used for treating small wounds, mild burns. and hypertrophic wounds, which are raised wounds caused by excess collagen. The herb is also used to treat psoriasis – a condition caused by a build-up of too many skin cells that results in a feeling of itchiness – as well as scleroderma, which can be a tightening of the skin that affects mostly women. The saponins in Gotu Kola allow the collagen levels the body produces to be kept in check.
Using Gotu Kola for Youthful Skin
The fountain of youth is ever elusive. Since the saponins in Gotu Kola are indeed helpful in healing damaged skin, it is thought the herb may be also used to promote healthy looking skin. Triterpene saponins, which are found in many plants, are said to firm and tighten the skin’s appearance. Being rich in flavonoids does mean the herb may protect the skin against environmental factors. It is thought Gotu Kola may even have better antioxidant potential than grapeseed oil and vitamin C.
Like many skin products out there, Gotu Kola is not to be taken without proper advisory. There are potential side-effects to be considered. A University of Maryland study found nausea, upset stomach, headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness to be linked to high doses of the herb. More studies are needed to better understand what the benefits of the herb are as well as its deterrents.
Perhaps Gotu Kola is better perceived as an overall healthy herb than as a fountain of youth skin cream. After all, Centella asiatica has been used for a wide range of uses in traditional medicine. It has been used to treat bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections. The herb is commonly taken to support cognitive health, including memory and intelligence. It even has garnered the nickname, “herb of enlightenment.”
There is a Sri Lankan legend which attributes the long life and memory of elephants to their favorite snack, Gotu Kola. There is much mystique surrounding the herb, some of which is fabricated. Using a Gotu Kola as a nightly salve, for instance, may help your skin feel better but it doesn’t have the power to roll off the years. But there is plenty else Gotu Kola may help you with, including clearing your mind and helping you to manage stress. Next time you want a refreshing and healthy herbal tea, Gotu Kola may be a perfect choice.