Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is a plant that has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine in India for thousands of years to primarily treat a variety of skin conditions.
Its found in some wrinkle creams.
Known as one of the “miracle elixirs of life,” gotu kola has traditionally been used to heal wounds and a range of skin conditions, including leprosy, varicose ulcers, eczema and psoriasis. This medicinal plant has also been valued for its ability to treat non-skin related conditions such as venous insufficiency, depression and anxiety, cognitive decline and gastric ulcers (1).
Gotu kola promotes wound healing. Mounting research strongly substantiates the claim that extracts of the plant help to heal wounds. A preclinical study found that applying an aqueous centella extract in the form of ointment, cream or gel to the open wounds in rats (three or four times a day for 24 days) helped heal the skin in numerous ways.
Researchers found an increase in cellular production and collagen synthesis at the wound site. Collage plays a vital role in the healing of wounds of the skin as it restores the physical strength of the skin.
In addition to stimulating the production of collagen synthesis, the extract increased the tensile strength of the newly formed skin, furthering the healing of the wounds.
The extract was shown to inhibit the inflammatory process which helps prevent hypertrophy in scars, or the excessive accumulation of collagen resulting in a raised scar.
The authors of the study report that healing was more prominent with the gel product.
Gotu kola may be helpful in the treatment of veinous insufficiency. Veinous insufficiency is a condition in which the valves in the leg veins do not properly send blood from the limbs back to the heart. When blood doesn’t flow back properly to the heart, it causes blood to pool in the veins of the legs. Symptoms include pain, swelling in the lower legs, skin changes to the skin and a feeling of heaviness.
In a double-blind versus placebo study, 94 patients with veinous insufficiency were separated into three groups. Groups were treated with either 120 mg of a titrated extract of centella asiatica, 60 mg or placebo. At the end of the two month study, researchers noted an improvement in heaviness and edema in the legs of the groups treated with the extract of centella asiatica (2).
In another report published in the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, researchers suggest that centella asiatica might also have the ability to assist in the maintenance of connective tissues of the vascular wall and improving circulation parameters (3).
Gotu kola may be used in the future to treat anxiety disorders. A study published in the Nepal Medical College Journal, revealed promising results in the ability of this plant to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Thirty-three male and female participants with the average age of 33 were medicated with centella in a fixed dose regime (500 mg/capsule, twice daily, after meals). They were thoroughly investigated using standard questionnaires based on a psychological rating scale at baseline (day 0), day 30 and day 60. They were also asked a number of questions about current levels of experienced stress.
The results revealed that not only did centella alleviate symptoms of anxiety, it also significantly reduced stress and its correlated depression (4).
Gotu kolahas cognitive-enhancing effects in animal studies. Male rats were used to study the effects of centella on learning and memory. Aqueous, methanolic and chloroform extracts of the plant were administered to the rats. Results revealed that only the aqueous extract of the plant showed an improvement in learning and memory (5).
Gotu kola may prove to be an effective anti-gastric ulcer treatment. A gastric ulcer is a localized area of erosion in the lining of the stomach. Symptoms include stomach pain, bloating, nausea and other gastrointestinal issues.
In a study published in Life Sciences, the healing effects of gotu kola water extract and asiaticoside (an active constituent of centella extract) on acetic acid induced gastric ulcers in rats were examined. Different concentrations of both extracts were orally administered. At the conclusion of the study, both reduced the size of the ulcers at day three and seven in a dose-dependent manner.
These results suggest the potential use gotu kola and its active ingredient as anti-gastric ulcer drug (6).
A separate study showed the power gotu kola leaf extract to protect the gastric mucosa — the protective mucous membrane layer of the stomach — against ulcers (7).
While further studies are required to determine the active ingredients responsible for the mechanism of anti-ulcer of centella extracts, the results of studies thus far have caught the attention of researchers.
No serious side effects have been reported with the use of gotu kola. An acute toxicity study of standardized extract was conducted by administering an oral
dosage of 10.0 g/kg extract into 10 male and 10 female mice. The extract at the given dose did not cause any toxic signs and death within the observation period of 14 days (8).
In a sub-chronic toxicity study where rats were given an oral dose of 10, 100 and 1,000 mg/kg per day, results showed that the extract did not affect body weight, food consumption and health.
Mild side effects may include nausea, stomach upset or drowsiness.
It should not be used by people who have liver disease or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
When applied topically, it has the potential to cause skin irritation. It is best to first do a skin patch test.
The proper dosage of this plant extract depends on the condition being treated.
Various studies show that doses of 30 to 90 mg/day are effective for venous insufficiency.
Currently, 500mg of centella asiatica twice daily has shown anxiety reducing effects in humans and 750mg of a 5 percent asiaticoside extract has enhanced mood effects.
For wound healing, follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for proper use of topical application (9).
Gotu kola is a plant that has been used for thousands of years in India to treat a variety of skin conditions. Researchers have found that in addition to healing wounds, extracts of the plant are efficacious in treating veinous insufficiency, alleviating anxiety and depression, improving cognitive function and helping prevent gastric ulcers.
When used as directed, no serious side effects have been reported with its use.