Don’t let its name fool you. No, it has nothing to do with Cola as we think of it. It is a low-growing, vine-like plant that grows in abundance in Africa, Australia, and Asia. Gotu Kola has fan-shaped leaves that resemble the two hemispheres of the brain, and ironically, its shape matches what it does most effectively: benefit brain health.
The Chinese and Ayurvedic people use the plant in their medicinal systems, and many Asian and African cultures use it in soaps, beverages, and salads. While you can use the stalk for simple remedies, the leaves can be made into anything from creams and gels to capsules and tablets. Let’s look at some of the benefits Gotu Kola can have on your body.
1. Helps Heal Wounds
Gotu Kola has two specific chemicals in it—triterpenoids and saponins—that help improve the skin’s appearance and heal wounds. The saponins help the appearance of the skin by reducing scars, wrinkles, and other blemishes. It is also used quite often to prevent scar tissue after surgeries and to reduce stretch marks.
The triterpenoids stimulate the healing process, allowing wounds to heal faster. They do this by strengthening the skin, boosting the number of antioxidants in your body, and increasing the flow of blood throughout your body. Burns and psoriasis are only two of the things that you can use Gotu for when it comes to improving your skin’s appearance or healing a wound.
2. Improves Cognition
The same triterpenoids that help heal wounds also act as nootropics, or, cognition-enhancing drugs. The main difference, though, is that because Gotu is a natural substance, you can take it without experiencing all the negative side effects that come with stimulants and other nootropic drugs.
Increased blood flow is partly the reason why Gotu has nootropic capabilities. The increased blood flow results in better oxygenation and circulation, which allows for better cognitive function. The increase in antioxidants that Gotu supplies also contributes to improving cognition. The antioxidants reduce plaque and oxidative stress in the brain, which stimulates the neural pathways in the brain.
One study looked at how Gotu Kola affected mentally disabled children. After administering the herb every day for six months, the reevaluation showed that the children had significant improvements in cognition and attentiveness.
3. Helps Relieve Anxiety
While this is a field that is still being widely studied, there is surmounting evidence that Gotu can have positive results when someone with a general anxiety disorder (GAD) takes it. Researchers believe that this is because the herb binds itself to cholecystokinin receptors in the brain, which regulate anxiety. Research suggests that this herb may decrease both the frequency and the severity of anxiety attacks.
A study showed that people who took Gotu Kola had a bigger decrease in acoustic startle responses than those who received the placebo. Since “startle noise” responses can be a way to tell if someone is anxious, the results revealed that taking Gotu Kola may reduce one’s anxiety symptoms. It can also be used as a supplement with medications to treat numerous neurological disorders and depression.
4. Increases Calmness
Going hand-in-hand with relieving anxiety, Gotu Kola, when you take it on a regular basis, can also increase calmness. Two of the compounds that make up the medicinal plant, called brahmoside and brahminoside, work to quiet the body and the mind by restoring healthy nerve function. This, like the acoustic startle response study suggested, helps reduce and prevent anxiety attacks.
But brahmoside and brahminoside don’t only help to reduce anxiety attacks; they also help when you are trying to meditate. Meditation relies on you being able to reach a state of relaxation, and Gotu Kola can help you achieve that state without any—or, at least, very few—distractions.
5. Protects Veins and Blood Vessels
Venous insufficiency occurs when blood vessels lose their elasticity. As a result, blood pools in the veins of the legs and fluid leaks out. This collection of blood in the legs can lead to spider veins, varicose veins, leg sores, and even potentially dangerous blood clots.
Two compounds in Gotu Kola, asiaticoside and madecassocide, may help reduce swelling, improve blood flow, and prevent veins and blood vessels from leaking by strengthening their walls. One study found that, out of 94 people with venous insufficiency, those treated with Gotu Kola saw better improvements in their symptoms than those who received the placebo.
Other studies of the herb revealed less fluid leakage in people with varicose veins and less leg swelling in people who ingested Gotu before a flight. Because of the evidence that Gotu strengthens blood vessels, researchers say that it may also be effective in:
- Slowing the progression of retinopathy
- Relieve Hemorrhoids
- Treating ulcers
6. Boosts and Rebuilds the Nervous System
Gotu Kola is not only a medicinal herb that heals the skin; it also heals the nervous system. Its status as an adaptogen enables it to increase the body’s coping abilities, specifically how the body copes with stress and worry. A study of the herb in rats has shown that it can repair and restore axons, which are nerve fibers that send electrical impulses away from the brain.
Here are only some ways it may help the nervous system:
- Helps prevent nervous breakdowns
- Improves reflexes
- Rebuilds energy reserves so that the nervous system is energized
- Helps alleviate stress-related insomnia
One of the main reasons Gotu is so rejuvenating to the mind and body is likely because of its circulation-increasing and blood-quality-improving qualities. Blood brings much-needed nutrients and oxygen all over the body, and higher-quality blood means a higher-quality life.
7. Increases Longevity
Sri Lankans call Gotu Kola “the promoter of long life.” This is because it can increase longevity, and while the reasoning for that could be because of all the previous benefits, there is still one major benefit that fits under this category more than the others do. Well, really, two things wrapped into one: Gotu Kola is a diuretic and has anti-microbial properties.
As a diuretic, it stimulates the release of any excess materials in the body such as salt, water, fat, and toxins through urination. This helps relieve the tension on your kidneys and removes toxins quickly, all while keeping our energy levels up and maintaining an equilibrium between our fluid balances.
With its anti-microbial properties, it helps treat parasites and bacterial, fungal, and viral infections by weakening them, making them easier for your immune system to fight off. So, while Gotu Kola won’t prevent you from dying in a car accident, it may still increase your lifespan by helping you fight off certain illnesses.
Gotu Kola is called the fountain of life by natural healers, and for a good reason. It helps heal the body and the nervous system, relieves anxiety, increases calmness, and improves cognition and memory. You can ingest Gotu Kola in many ways, but the easiest way is probably by using a powder supplement so that you can mix into your drink to make tea.
If brain-boosting power is what you are looking for, then Gotu Kola is the “go-to.” But be sure to talk to your doctor first, though, because even though you can heighten its effects by pairing it with other nootropic herbs such as ginkgo biloba, it may not play nice with certain medications.