Gotu Kola

Help for varicose veins and more

Gotu kola's (Centella asiatica) popularity as a medicinal herb is mostly due to its reputation as a brain stimulant. Since ancient times, the leaves have been used in India to sharpen memory, focus the mind and enhance meditation. However, these are not gotu kola's only claims to fame.

Gotu kola has effectively been used for centuries in India's Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of skin disorders, including eczema and lupus. Its ability to mend broken skin is so powerful, that a salve made from the leaves is even used to heal lesions caused by leprosy. Researchers have found that gotu kola rebuilds injured skin tissue, speeds up the healing of burns and incisions after operations and helps prevent scars from forming.
Skin Healer

Compounds in gotu kola called triterpenoids build up collagen in the skin to strengthen it. A glycoside called asiaticoside repairs burns and wounds. A potent antioxidant, asiaticoside increases important antioxidant agents to promote growth of new skin at the initial stage of healing. A third compound, madecassoside, reduces swelling.

Gotu kola shows promise for psoriasis. In one small study, a cream containing gotu kola completely cured this difficult problem within a couple months. The same skin-healing properties make gotu kola useful in improving conditions like acne and herpes.

It is included in some commercial cosmetics and skin creams to help stop skin eruptions, irritations, and itching, as well as to regenerate aging complexions.
Make varicose veins vanish

Several studies have found that gotu kola encourages healing of varicose veins and inflamed veins caused by phlebitis. This is no surprise considering that collagen strengthens connective tissue in the blood vessel wall, as well as the skin. Strong connective tissue means blood vessels don't brake or become too porous. Since hemorrhoids are a type of varicose vein, gotu kola is also a good remedy for this condition. In either case, the leaves can be taken both internally and applied topically. In addition, gotu kola helps prevent ankles, feet and legs from swelling due to poor circulation from weak veins.

When using gotu kola, follow the instructions on the package. A typical dose is 30 to 60 drops of tincture or one to two capsules/tablets taken two to three times daily. Apply creams and ointments several times a day. Go easy for the first couple days by using the lowest suggested dosage and discontinue if any problems arise. There are seldom problems from using it, except that a very few people find the dry or fresh leaves irritate their skin. Researchers have found that most people can use gotu kola continually for months at a time, if necessary.

Arpaia, MR., et al. "Effects of Centella asiatica extract on mucopolysaccharide metabolism in subjects with varicose veins," International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Research 10(4):229, 1990.

Aziz-Fam, A. "Use of titrated extract of Centella asiatica in bilharzial bladder lesions," Internal Surgery 58:451-2, 1973.

Cesarone, MR, et al. "Activity of Centella asiatica in venous insufficiency," Minerva Cardioangiol 40(4): 137-43, 1992.

Karawya, MS, et al. "Gotu kola in preventing scar formation," Fitotherapia 4:175, 1981.

Kim, YN, et al. "Enhancement of the attachment on microcarriers and TPA production by fibroblast cells in a serum-free medium by the addition of the extracts of Centella asiatica," Cytotechnology;13(3):221-6, 1993.

Montecchio, GP, et al. "Asiatic acid was only component for collagen synthesis stimulation," Haematologica 76(3):256-9, 1991.

Natarajan, S, and PP, Pally. "Effect of topical Hydrocotyle [Centella] asiatica in psoriasis," Indian Journal of Dermatology 13(5):310, 1990.

Shukla, A., et al. "Asiaticoside-induced elevation of antioxidant levels in healing wounds," Phytotherapy Research 13(1):50-4, 1999.

Tenni, R., et al. "Effect of triterpenoid fraction of Centella asiatica on macromolecules of the connective tissue matrix in human skin fibroblast cultures," Italian Journal of Biochemistry 37(2):69, 1998.

Yoosook, C,. et al. "Anti-Herpes Simplex Virus Activities of Crude Water Extracts of Thai Medicinal Plants," Phytomedicine 6(6)411-9, 2000.


By Kathy Keville

Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and author of 11 books, including the comprehensive Women's Herbs, Women's Health, with Christopher Hobbs (Interweave, 1998), and Aromatherapy for Dummies (IDG Books, 1999).


The Amala Cancer Research Center in India found that a dried plant tincture of gotu kola (Centella asiatica) effectively destroyed all of the cultured tumor cells but produced almost no damage in the normal white blood cells. Researchers are particularly interested in finding substances like this that work selectively on tumorous cells. Previous studies reported in this newsletter show it may have anti-cancer properties and also help with mental retardation and skin problems.

Babu, TD, et al. 1995. Cytotoxic and anti-tumor properties of certain taxa of Umbelliferae with special reference to C.a. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 48:53-57.

The American Herb Association.

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