Gotu Kola for Brain Health?
Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatica, Indian Pennywort) is one of the many plants that draw worldwide attention for their role in the treatment of illnesses, for memory enhancement, for promoting longevity and other health benefits. This medicinal herb has been used in the orient for thousands of years to cure diseases such as high blood pressure, syphilis, hepatitis, stomach ulcers, mental fatigue, epilepsy, diarrhea, fever, and asthma, to name a few.
Several pharmacological and phytochemical studies made on Gotu Kola show that the active constituents of the plant are the same components used in many drugs and cosmetic preparations in the modern times. One example is saponins, also known as triterpenoids, which are mainly responsible for the medicinal activity of the plant. More than 70 other constituents have also been found in Gotu Kola, including polyacetylenes, flavonoids, flavones, sterols, and lipids, and small amounts of at least 14 different polyacetylenes, amino acids, flavonols, fatty acids, alkaloids, sterols, saccharides, and inorganic salts.
Photo by Carmela_Alcoseba
Effects on Cognition
Mental clarity is one benefit that has long been attributed to gotu kola. In Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayuvedric traditions of India, the extract of gotu kola has been used to improve learning ability, enhance memory, and even counteract memory loss. In a study in mice made by the Neuropharmacology Laboratory in the Department of Pharmacology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, it has been demonstrated that an aqueous extract of Gotu Kola is effective in preventing the cognitive deficits, as well as the oxidative stress. Moreover, as compared to any other plants that have been previously examined, Gotu Kola contains higher B-complex vitamins which may account for its positive effects on the brain. It is especially high in thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), and pyridoxin (B6), which are also found in nootropic supplement Naturamin Brain Booster.
B complex is being used by the body to convert carbohydrates into glucose, and is responsible for the normal functioning of the nervous system. A healthy nervous system is vital in promoting brain functions.
Effects on Mood
The ancient people of the orient ascribed life-extending benefits to gotu kola, especially in treating anxiety and depression. In Indian literature, it was described to possess stimulatory-nervine tonic, rejuvenant, sedative, tranquilizer and intelligence promoting property. The brahmoside and brahminoside constituents and cholecystokinin receptors found in Gotu Kola are postulated to be responsible for these effects. In the 1984 study made by Dr. John Heinerman entitled “An Herb for Our Time: The Scientific Rediscovery of Gotu Kola,” he documented the relationship between hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels, and mood swings, mental illness, fatigue, depression, confusion and schizophrenic tendencies. He believes that the ‘memory enhancing’ attributes of Gotu Kola may be attributed to the herb’s ability to elevate blood sugar levels markedly.
Effects on Wounds and Burns
Gotu Kola extract have been traditionally used to heal wounds. This is due to the plant’s active component saponins, an antioxidant that is responsible for faster wound healing and cardiovascular benefits. Another constituent of Gotu Kola, asiaticoside, has also been reported to possess wound healing activity. In one study conducted by the Pharmacology Department, Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow, India, it has been found that asiaticosides may enhance the induction of antioxidants at an initial stage of wound healing, which is attributed to increase in collagen formation and angiogenesis.
Other Major Uses
Nowadays, Gotu Kola is becoming popular in Western countries. Taking gotu kola extract by mouth for 4-8 weeks seems to improve blood circulation and reduce swelling in people with poor blood circulation in the legs. In the U.S. and Europe, it is most often used for treating varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency, psoriasis and minor wounds. One of the reasons for this benefit is that the components in the extract called triterpenes go to work on the veins, improving their tone and making them less susceptible to the degenerative processes that can lead to varicosity and other problems.
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