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Gotu Kola Benefits

Gotu kola (Hydrocotyle asiatica) has a long history of use in traditional Eastern herbal medicine. This plant gained a reputation for longevity when Sri Lankans saw elephants (animals known for their long and healthy lives) eating Gotu kola leaves. This creeping plant grows in swampy regions of India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, South Africa and tropical areas of the world.

This Asian species is reputed to bring long life to the user. According to the Sinhalese proverb: "Two leaves a day will keep old age away."

As the story goes, people in Sri Lanka noticed that elephants, animals known for their longevity, included Centella leaves in their diet. Extrapolation suggested that this creeping herb of Southeast Asian swamps might be good for almost anything that could aid a human, as well.

In Sri Lanka it is eaten as a salad, and in Vietnam it is considered an edible weed. It has been part of Ayurvedic medicine for a long time.

C. asiatica also grows in Madagascar, parts of southern Africa, and some parts of China. In Chinese medicine, it is known as luo de da or ji xue cao and is used to lower fever, promote urination, and "detoxify" the body.

The leaves and other aboveground parts of the plant are used.

Active Ingredients

C. asiatica contains several saponins, including brahmoside and brahminoside, and a number of alkaloids.

Madecassoside and asiaticoside appear to contribute to the plant's medicinal activity. It also contains flavones, amino acids, fatty acids, sterols, saccharides, and some mineral salts.

Uses

Gotu kola is traditionally used for high blood pressure and to treat nervous disorders.

Chinese research suggests that it slows heart rate as well as lowers blood pressure. It also has some antibacterial activity.

Gotu kola extract (as titrated extract of C. asiatica, or TECA) has been studied for its effect on varicose veins as well as on poor venous circulation in the legs.

The results suggest that the extract can stimulate the synthesis of collagen in the walls of the veins and help them hold their tone and function better.

Other traditional uses of C. asiatica include skin problems, rheumatism, jaundice, and fever. Tests of TECA in animals showed that topical application helped experimental wounds heal faster. Asiaticoside may be responsible.

TECA has also been observed in clinical settings, where it appears to speed healing of surgical incisions and skin ulcers. In one trial it was administered to patients with parasitic infections that damage the bladder. Three-fourths of these patients recovered well, with little or no bladder scarring.

Tantalizing test tube research suggests that a Centella extract can destroy cultured cancer cells. It is far too soon, however, to determine whether it will be useful as an anticancer agent. Animal and eventually clinical studies will be needed.

Madecassoside has anti-inflammatory properties. In a small French study, a few patients with chronic liver disease had measurable improvement while using TECA. The majority of the patients in this group did not benefit, however.

High doses of the extract have a sedative effect on small animals.

Animal research also indicates that some gotu kola constituents can reduce fertility. Although the plant has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, no research supports this use.

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