Other Common Names:
The other common names for the herb gotu kola are indian pennywort, chi-hsueh Ts'ao, man t'ien hsing and brahmi.
Gotu Kola has been used as a medicine in the Ayurvedic tradition of India for thousands of years. It is regarded as one of the most spiritual and rejuvenating herbs in Ayurveda and is used to improve meditation. It is said to develop the crown chakra, the energy center at the top of the head, and to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which the leaf is said to resemble. Its fan shaped leaves are about the size of an old British penny - hence its common names Indian pennywort, marsh penny and water pennywort.Gotu Kola is also one of the largest cultivated crops and thrives under organic farming conditions. While popularly used as a food source in the form of leafy greens within Bangladesh, Thailand and Sri Lanka it also has been internationally recognized within many countries pharmacopoeias and has been a valid, recognized, botanical medicine since 1884.Gotu Kola is considered "food for the brain".
In the nineteenth century, Gotu Kola and its extracts were incorporated into the Indian pharmacopeia,wherein addition to being recommended for wound healing, it was recommended in the treatment of skin conditions such as leprosy, lupus, varicose ulcers, eczema, and psoriasis. It was also used to treat diarrhea, fever, amenorrhea, and diseases of the female genitourinary tract.Gotu Kola was first accepted as a drug in France in the 1880's.Gotu kola has been widely used for a number of conditions, particularly in traditional Eastern health care. In Ayurveda Gotu kola is one of the chief herbs for revitalizing the nerves and brain cells. It is said to fortify the immune system, both cleansing and feeding it, and to strengthen the adrenals.
Gotu Kola is a perennial plant native to India and other tropical countries. Its appearance changes, depending on growing conditions. In shallow water, the plant puts forth floating roots and the leaves rest on top of the water. In dry locations, it puts out numerous small roots and the leaves are small and thin. Typically, the constantly growing roots give rise to reddish stolons. The leaves can reach a width of 1 inch and a length of 6 inches. Usually 3 to 6 red flowers arise in a sessile manner or on very short pedicels in auxiliary umbels. The fruit, formed throughout the growing season, is approximately 2 inches long with 7 to 9 ribs and a curved, strongly thickened pericarp.
Gotu kola is a slender, creeping plant that grows commonly in swampy areas of India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, South Africa and the tropics. The gotu kola grows native in most of the tropics, though it is believed to be a native species of India; it also grows in the wild in the southern US states. At the same time, wild populations of the gotu kola herb are also seen growing in the tropical and subtropical parts of Australia, the Southern parts of Africa, as well as the South American tropics.
This ground cover species is weed like especially, in parts of India and Hawaii where it grows prolifically in unusual conditions, such as drainage ditches, gutters and neglected areas. Centella grows along ditches and in low wet areas.
The gotu kola herb tends to prefer marshy areas and riverbanks in the tropics. While it is hard to grow, the gotu kola is cultivated from seeds during the spring season, while commercially it is usually gathered from the wild. Although usually gathered wild, gotu kola can be cultivated from seed in spring. Harvesting of the aerial parts of the herb is usually carried out throughout the year in many places.
Pests and Diseases
In Indian and Southeast Asian centella, the plant frequently suffers from high levels of bacterial contamination, possibly from having been harvested from sewage ditches. Because the plant is aquatic, it is especially sensitive to pollutants in the water, which easily are incorporated into the plant.
The entire plant is used medicinally.
- Gotu kola is an excellent vasodilator and blood vessel strengthener.
- The herb is also often used as a diuretic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory, and facilitates the actions of the antioxidants vitamins C and E in areas where there is damage.
- Gotu kola is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine and TCM to rejuvenate both mind and body.
- Gotu Kola is a rejuvenative nervine recommended for nervous disorders, including epilepsy, senility, and premature aging.
- It aids intelligence and memory. It is used as an aid for meditation that is said to balance the two sides of the brain.
- It strengthens the adrenal glands while cleansing the blood to treat skin impurities.
- Gotu Kola stimulates the central nervous system, rebuilds energy reserves, relieves high blood pressure, and helps the body defend against various toxins.
- It is used to treat rheumatism, blood diseases, congestive heart failure, urinary tract infections, venereal diseases, hepatitis, and high blood pressure.
- It is a mild diuretic that can help shrink swollen membranes and aid in the elimination of excess fluids.
- It has been used successfully to treat phlebitis, leg cramps, and abnormal tingling of the extremities.
- It reduces scarring when applied during inflammatory period of the wound.
- It is the best rejuvenative herb for brain cells and nerves, promotes intelligence.
- The leaves of this swamp plant have been used around the world for centuries to treat leprosy, cancer, skin disorders, arthritis, hemorrhoids, and tuberculosis.
- The herbs calming properties make it well suited for overcoming insomnia and making one calm for yoga and meditative practices.
- Gotu kola is an excellent herb for children with A.D.D. because it has a stimulating effect on the brain that increases one's ability to focus while having a soothing and relaxing effect on an overactive nervous system.
- Gotu kola affects various stages of tissue development, including keratinization (the process of replacing skin after sores or ulcers), the synthesis of collagen (the first step in tissue repair), the stimulation of hair and nail growth, and support for the repair of cartilage.
- The herb has been used successfully to treat phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), varicose veins, as well as leg cramps, swelling of the legs, and "heaviness" or tingling in the legs. In modern health care it has been used for venous insufficiency, localized inflammation and infection, and post-surgery recovery.
- It has an energizing effect on the cells of the brain, relieves high blood pressure, mental fatigue, senility, and helps the body defend itself against various toxins.
- It works as a blood purifier and in strengthening the heart, as well as with bowel problems, rheumatism, skin problems, and also promotes blood circulation in the lower limbs and reduces the pain and swelling due to phlebitis.
- When taken over time, gotu kola may also support the endocrine system, which may lead to increased vitality.
- Centella is used as a leafy green in Sri Lankan cuisine. A variation of the extremely nutritious porridge known as Kola Kenda is also made with Gotukola by the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka. Gotukola Kenda is made with very well boiled redrice, cococnut milk and Gotukola which is liquidised. The porridge is accompanied with Jaggery for sweetness.
- Centella leaves are also used in the sweet "pennywort drink."
- In Vietnam, this leaf is used for drink or can be eaten in raw form.
- It is one of the constituent of Indian summer drink "thandaayyee"
Quotes from scriptures and religions
It is listed in the historic Susruta Samhita, an ancient Indian medical text. The herb is also used by the people of Java and other Indonesian islands. In China, gotu kola is one of the reported "miracle elixirs of life". This was attributed to a healer named LiChing Yun who, legends say, lived 256 years by taking a tea brewed from gotu kola and other herbs. Gotu Kola is prominently mentioned in the Shennong Herbal compiled in China over 2000 years ago.Gotu Kola is a minor feature in the longevity myth of the Tai Chi Chuan master Li Ching-Yun. He purportedly lived to be 256, due in part to his usage of traditional Chinese herbs including Gotu Kola.A popular folklore tale from Sri Lanka speaks of a prominent king from the 10th century AD named Aruna who claimed that Gotu Kola provided him with energy and stamina to satisfy his 50-woman harem.
Folklore and Myths
Gotu kola got the nickname tiger's herb because injured tigers often rub against it to heal their wounds. Gotu Kola features in both Chinese and Indian myths and folklore. The Tai Chi Chuan master Li Ching-Yun purportedly lived to an advanced age of over 200 years old, due in part to his use of Gotu kola and other Chinese herbs. In Sri Lanka there is a tale of a 10th century king who claimed gotu kola (In sinhalese Gotu = conical shape and Kola= leaf), provided the energy and stamina to satisfy his extensive harem.