History of Gotu Kola

GotuKolaPlantHistorically, it is believed that Rakoto Ratsimamanga, a scientist from Madagascar, popularized knowledge about the medicinal properties of gotu kola when he first published results (in the 1950s) of a small clinical trial utilizing the herb.3 In fact, two of the most biologically active constituents of gotu kola (madecassic acid and madecassoside) are named for Madagascar.3 Other beneficial phytochemicals include additional triterpene glycosides (i.e., asiaticoside) and asiatic acid (which also forms in the human body from asiaticoside).1 These components exhibit antioxidant3 and anti-inflammatory5 properties.

Malagasy traditional healers utilized the dried leaves of gotu kola to treat a variety of conditions, including asthma, leprosy, bronchitis, and syphilis.3 It was also used for insanity in Brazil,1 and to improve brain function, metabolism, and the immune system in India.3

In Sri Lanka, gotu kola has a reputation for promoting longevity—possibly because it is a diet staple of Sri Lankan elephants, who are long-lived.3 This animal connection is reflected in India as well, where gotu kola is also called tiger’s grass because tigers are known to roll themselves on it after fighting—presumably because of the herb's wound-healing properties.3

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