Gotu kola may not be all that well known to westerners, but it enjoys legendary status in Asia, where it’s sometimes referred to as the “fountain of life,” thanks to the story of an herbalist who was said to have extended his life by more than 200 years by taking it daily.
This plant that comes from Asian wetlands, contains a high concentration of unique triterpenoid compounds, also referred to as saponins, that are responsible for its many healing powers. The stems and leaves can be used on their own, or it can be taken as an extract. Gotu kola extract is an ingredient found in many different ointments, gels, creams and capsules to treat a variety of ailments.
While we’re not claiming that it will help you live hundreds of years, there is little doubt that it offers multiple health benefits, including these.
1. Speed Wound Healing
Gotu kola has long been used across Asia for treating wounds, thanks to its triterpenoids and other compounds. Scientific research has found that it’s these compounds that help to strengthen antioxidant levels in the body and improve blood circulation to affected areas for faster healing.
Studies have discovered that creams which include gotu kola can actually help minimize scarring following a burn, as well as reduce the risk of infection.
2. Eliminating Stretch Marks & Cellulite While Supporting Younger, Healthier Skin
As gotu kola also helps to strengthen skin, it’s been used for reducing stretch marks and the appearance of cellulite. Studies have confirmed that creams that contain the plant, or an extract of the plant, may be able to lessen the appearance of stretch marks, which are typically caused by pregnancy or weight gain due to the stretching of the skin. Research has also shown that it may reduce cellulite, which occurs when fat cells push through collagen layers.
This may also result in skin that has a more youthful appearance, thanks to improved collagen strength. Doses of 120 milligrams per day have specifically been used for this purpose, and the herb can also be incorporated into a skin cream and applied topically.
3. Reducing Stress & Anxiety
Gotu kola is classified as a rasayana, or rejuvenate, in Ayurvedic medicine because of its ability to restore balance and better functioning to many parts of the mind and body. It’s ideal for strengthening the nervous system and has even been shown to help repair axons that are used to transmit nerve impulses throughout the body. This makes it excellent as a natural anti-stress and anti-anxiety cure. In fact, research has shown that it managed to decrease the frequency and severity of anxiety attacks in volunteers who suffered from general anxiety disorder.
4. Boosting Mental Functioning
Research has directly linked consuming gotu kola consumption to strengthening cognitive abilities. This is likely due to its positive effect on the circulatory system, combined with its antioxidant properties, as the plant helps to stimulate neural pathways by eliminating plaque and free radicals in the brain. In one study, children with mental retardation who took a half gram of gotu kola extract in the form of a powder daily for a year, showed significant intellectual improvements. After six months, there were dramatic improvements in their ability to concentrate as well as cognitive functioning.
Studies have also discovered that gotu kola may have the potential to treat degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Research from India’s Kasturba Medical College demonstrated major improvement in the memory of rats who were given a gotu kola extract daily for two weeks. The experts believe that the plant contains certain acids that help protect against neural damage caused by free radicals, which could make it a potential Alzheimer’s treatment, though they say more research is needed to be certain.
Amyloid plaques are consistently found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Lowering the amyloid beta amino acid peptide, which is the main constituent of amyloid plaques, is what may make gotu kola particularly beneficial. Research demonstrated a significant decrease in amyloid beta following an eight-month treatment using the plant. The data indicated that gotu kola can impact the amyloid cascade altering amyloid beta pathology in the brains of mice and modulate components of the oxidative stress response that has been implicated in the neurodegenerative changes that occur with Alzheimer’s disease.
Gotu kola acts as a mild diuretic, which means that it can help trigger the release of excess toxins from the body through urination. That helps lessen the burden on a number of organs, including the kidneys and the liver. When the liver is forced to work harder than it should by becoming overly toxic, the entire mind and body suffer. It can result in weight gain, diminished sex drive, poor mood, fatigue, skin issues, brain fog, digestive problems and more. By taking gotu kola, it helps to rid the body of toxins to support better overall body functioning, including greater energy, a positive mood, better mental clarity, increased libido and improved well-being.
6. Increased Longevity
As mentioned at the start, gotu kola has long been considered a longevity herb. Daoist master and herbalist Li Ching-Yuen, a famous proponent and user of the plant during his time was even reported in ancient Chinese medical texts to have passed away at the age of 256, and his longevity was largely attributed to his daily gotu kola habit. While the accuracy of the reports is up for debate, scientific research has shown that it contains potent therapeutic properties that include the ability to prolong life as it affects the mind, body and spirit. The health benefits of the plant are very wide ranging, from the brain and blood to digestion and everything in between.
7. Managing Diabetes Symptoms
One of the many complications of diabetes includes deterioration of the capillaries. That can result in a slow down of the delivery of essential nutrients and oxygen to the tissues, a condition referred to as dysfunctional micro-circulation which can lead to serious problems like damage to the nerves, kidneys, and eyes, something commonly experienced by diabetes sufferers. Gotu kola is believed to help address this issue by lessening or eliminating these symptoms. Research published in 2001 from St Mary’s Hospital and Imperial College in London, gave gotu kola supplements to diabetic patients who were suffering from diabetic microangiopathy. The experienced significant improvements in symptoms as compared to a group who were given a placebo.
Volunteers who took gotu kola had reduced swelling in the ankles and much-improved blood flow, which led the experts to conclude the plant may help delay or even prevent these serious complications.
8. Relief From Joint Pain
As gotu kola is a powerful anti-inflammatory, it can also help provide relief for those suffering from joint pain related to problems like arthritis. It’s believed to improve joint function and alleviate common arthritis symptoms, according to research published in the June 2009 issue of the journal Phytomedicine. After taking an active constituent of gotu kola for 21 days, participants experienced decreased joint damage and lower levels of pro-inflammatory cyclooxygenase-2, or COX-2 enzymes, as well as reduced levels of inflammation, leaving researchers to conclude the plant may serve as an effective natural treatment for some forms of arthritis.
In another small study involving 13 women with scleroderma, gotu kola was demonstrated to decrease joint pain and reduce skin hardening, while significantly improving finger movement.
9. Supporting Heart Health
Gotu kola has also been found in studies to provide important benefits to the heart, something that was demonstrated in a 2007 study published in the journal Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica. The compound madecassoside was shown to inhibit the oxidation of lipids, prevent depletion of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, and prevent early death of heart cells. The experts say the plant may even help prevent stroke by preventing blood clot formation as well. It’s also known to aid in improving and preventing varicose veins and associated foot and ankle swelling by inhibiting fluid leakage from veins.
Further supporting heart health, gotu kola has also been shown to significantly reduce levels of “bad,” LDL cholesterol, while raising “good” HDL cholesterol in studies, including research published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health in March of 2009. The rats who were fed a diet supplemented with gotu kola powder had dramatically lower levels of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of HDL cholesterol, as compared to a control group that was not fed gotu kola. The rats who took the gotu kola powder also experienced a significant decrease in body weight.
10. Protecting The Veins & Vessels
Thanks to the plant’s asiaticoside and madecassoside content, it may help to prevent, delay or treat a condition known as chronic venous insufficiency. This occurs when valves in the veins that carry blood back to the heart are weak or damaged and blood collects in the veins of the legs. That collection of blood can lead to varicose veins or spider veins, or even more serious conditions like blood clots.