Photo by Funaki (Self-photographed)
Gotu kola is a perennial plant that is indigenous to Asia, South Africa and the South Pacific. A member of the parsley family, it grows in wetland areas and bears white, purple or pink flowers and oval fruits. Also known as centella or Asian pennywort, gotu kola has been used in the Orient for thousands of years to heal wounds, improve mental clarity and treat skin conditions such as leprosy and psoriasis. The plant has an interesting medical history, having also been prescribed over the centuries to treat unrelated ailments ranging from syphilis, hepatitis and stomach ulcers to mental fatigue, epilepsy, diarrhoea, fever and asthma. It is also used in traditional African medicine. Modern practitioners recommend gotu kola to treat varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency, a condition where blood pools in the legs.
The leaves and stems of the gotu kola plant are used as medicine.
Gotu kola contains compounds called triterpenoids that appear to stimulate the production of collagen in bones, cartilage and connective tissue, which is helpful in the healing of wounds. Triterpenoids also improve the health of blood vessels and enhance the chemical messengers – the neurotransmitters – in the brain.
Gotu kola is advised in the treatment of the following conditions:
- Varicose veins. Gotu kola strengthens blood vessel walls and therefore helps in the treatment of varicose veins and venous deficiency. (One study found that people who took gotu kola before flying had less ankle and leg swelling than those who didn’t take it.)
- Burns, wound healing and skin ulcers. Trials suggest that the compounds in gotu kola promote healthy connective tissue and prevent the formation of hard tissue.
- If applied in cream form, gotu kola may ease psoriasis, eczema and acne and help to prevent stretch marks caused by pregnancy.
- May help in cases of diabetes-related cardiovascular disease.
- The triterpenoids in gotu kola may reduce anxiety and depression, act as a sedative and help prevent seizures.
Flora Force Products containing Gotu Kola
Domestic & culinary uses
Although gotu kola does appear in traditional South African cooking, it is not in general culinary use. In Sri Lankan cuisine, Gotu kola is used to accompany curries and rice and can be made into a nutritious porridge. Other Asian cultures eat the leaves young raw in a salad. Their spicy flavour combines well with fish and vegetables, and is a good addition in stir-fries, curries and soups.
Plant gotu kola in wet, temperate areas and keep moist. The plant is especially sensitive to pollutants in the water, which are easily incorporated into the plant.
Acknowledgements & References
Compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer