Centella asiatica, also known as gotu kola and pennywort

What Is Gotu Kola?

Gotu kola, or pennywort, is a well-known herb used in traditional herbal medicines.

Commonly known as gotu kola and pennywort, Centella asiatica is a perennial herb native to tropical regions.1,2 It has been used in Ayurvedic1 and native medicines throughout the world, and gotu kola extracts have found their way into modern pharmaceutical and cosmetic/personal care applications.3 Studies show that gotu kola also has insecticidal properties against the mosquitos that carry malaria and encephalitis, and against parasites that infect cattle and cause human illness.4

Laboratory, animal experiments, and some human clinical trials have demonstrated that gotu kola may offer a number of preventive and therapeutic effects for a variety of health issues, including:

There are various ways to take gotu kola (each with different dosages) and it is generally considered safe with some precautions.

Historically, 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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