Gotu Kola | Centella Asiatica

Photo Credit: Indigo Herbs

Photo Credit: Indigo Herbs

Gotu Kola has been called "a pharmacy in one herb".  It is classified as one of the Brahmi herbs for its brain enhancing and anti-aging, longevity-producing properties.  It is also known as the elixir of life. This plant retains "doctrine of signature" status ("like cures like")[6] as the leaf looks like the cerebellum and is used for intellectual promoting properties and the roots which are used for numerous ailments throughout the body resemble the torso of the human body.

In addition to a reputation as a brain and nerve tonic, Gotu Kola is also used for chronic and degenerative diseases and to treat numerous ailments such as tuberculosis, arthritis, leprosy and other skin conditions.  Textual reference and outcomes of experienced-based use support the medicinal and rejuvenative claims of this amazing herb.

Research Process

Information on Gotu Kola is prevalent as it has been used for centuries throughout India and its availability and medicinal properties are also well known in Chinese medicine.[13]  Classical texts document its use as a meditation aide and healing remedy.  Contemporary peer-reviewed articles and research support the importance of this herb in the modern-day herbal pharmacy.  However, since Ayurvedic medicine treats individuals through the interaction of the organs of digestion, the tissues and the carrying channels, in addition to how the herbs are grown, harvested and prepared, the subtle results recognized from traditional use may be hard to replicate in dissected clinical studies.  Therefore, attempt has been made to substantiate the beneficial claims of Gotu Kola through information gathered from classical texts:  Caraka Samhita, Astanga Hrdayam, Susruta Samhita, and Textbook of Dravyaguna.  In addition, other modern-day resources were consulted such as Ayurvedic Medicine by Sebastian Pole and internet research of several referenced websites, including peer-reviewed articles quoting modern clinical studies.

Botany and Ethnobotany

The Latin name for Gotu Kola is Centella Asiatica-Folium (Apiaceae).  There are numerous plants that resemble Gotu Kola due to their similar habitat, leaf formation and ground-covering nature and although they may have medicinal benefits of their own, they fall short of its claims, lacking all the qualities of this particular medicinal champion.  Gotu Kola is also commonly confused with Bacopa Monnieri (Linn.) Pennell.  Though the physical characteristics are noticeably different, it is also a swampy ground creeper and used interchangeably for some ailments.  The Ayurvedic energetics are slightly different however, and the confusion possibly stems from both being used as brain tonics and both commonly known as Brahmi.

Adding to the confusion, as with many plants, are the aliases used in reference.  Though the most common Sanskrit name is Brahmi, it is also known as Manduka-parni (referring to its leaf shape resembling the webbed feet of a frog), Brahamamanduki, Divya, Jalneem, Thankuni and several other variations.   Some of the English synonyms are:  Asian Pennywort (the leaves also resemble the shape of a penny or coin), Asiatic Coinwort, Asiatic Pennywort, Horse-hoof, Indian Ginseng, Indian Pennywort, Indian Water Navelwort, Marsh Penny, Marsh Pennywort, Pennyweed, Sheep-rot, Spadeleaf, Thick-leaved Pennywort, Water Pennywort, and White rot.  As a point of interest, it is commonly known as Gotu kola in Chinese.

Gotu Kola does well in sun or shade and is a tropical perennial which is also grown as an annual in temperate zones.  It is difficult to start from seed as the seeds can remain dormant for decades until conditions are conducive to germination.[7]  However, as it creeps along the ground in marshy, swampy soil, it continually re-roots itself at nodes (leaf intersections) creating an ever increasing mat of ground cover.  When grown in greenhouses, the plants sneak down and root under the benches where the water drains from the plants above.  In cooler climates, plants can be potted and brought inside to a sunny window in the fall and then sent back outside when warmer weather returns.  Gotu Kola bears a small oval fruit and delicate pink, white or light blue flowers can be found hidden beneath the leaves.  The leaves have culinary uses and are often eaten as a "preventative" food source in salads or side dishes.  The entire plant is used for medicinal purposes.  It is essential to identify the source of plants used for curative purposes because it is harvested where it grows (along ditches) and is susceptible to absorbing water contaminants. 

Plant Nomenclature

Latin name:  Centella Asiatica-Folium; Synonym: Hydrocotyle Asiatica L.

Kingdom:  Plantae

Order:  Apiales

Family:  Mackinlayaceae (Umbelliferae)

Subfamily:  Mackinlayaceae of family Apiaceae

Genus:  Centella

Species: C. Asiatica

Ecological Status

Gotu Kola is a native plant of warmer areas of Africa, Asia, northern Australia, Central America, India, and even the southern United States.  It has a long history of use as a folk medicinal herb, especially in India and China.

The entire plant is used for medicinal purposes.  The whole plant, including the root can be dried and powdered and taken orally or used as a topical ointment.  Also, juice can be extracted from the aerial parts of the plant and the leaves can be eaten whole.

Throughout history, Gotu Kola has been referred to as a rasayana (rasayana = rejuvenative measures that impart biological sustenance to bodily tissues) used to revitalize brain and nervous system function and combat the effects of aging.  Several folklore legends give Gotu Kola partial credit for claims of longevity and stamina.  One famous one involves Li Ching-Yun, who is recorded to have lived to the unbelievable age of 256).[6]  Though these claims seem farfetched and are difficult to convincingly prove, the existence of these stories does demon-strate the fact that this herb has been in use as a medicinal rejuvenative throughout history.

Ayurvedic Herbal Energetics

Rasa: Madhura, Katu, Tikta, Kasaya

Guna: Laghu, Sara

Virya: Shita

Vipaka: Madura

Karma: Balya, Dipana, Hrdya, Kaphapittahara, Medhya, Varnya, Visaghna, Svarya, Rasayana, Ayuṣya, Smrtiprada

Dosha: -KP -V(when taken in proper dose with other Vata reducing herbs)

Dhatu (tissues): Rasa, Rakta, Mamsa, Meda, Asthi, Majja

Srotas (channels): Nervous, Circulatory, Digestive

Ayurvedic Use

In India, Gotu Kola has been used as a Medhya Rasayana.  Medhya Rasayana slows brain aging and regenerates neural tissues in addition to providing anti-stress, adaptogenic and memory enhancing properties. [12]   Gotu Kola has also been used for leprosy and other skin conditions, lupus, varicose ulcers, urinary conditions and female genital issues. 

Below are quotes from Classic Texts: 

The twenty-eighth Chapter of the Cikitsita-Sthāna in the Suśruta Saṁhitā deals with elixirs and remedial agents for improving the memory and intellect and increasing longevity.

Verse 4:  Manduka-parni:  Prepare by stirring the expressed juice of Manduka-parni  with milk and recite the proper Mantras over it a thousand times.  A portion can be drunk immediately.   This drink and a special diet should be continued for three successive months.  "This will ensure a long life of a hundred years in the full vigor of retentive memory and intellectual faculties, and would impart a god-like effulgence to the complexion." 

Verse 5:  Brami Rasayana:  Taking the expressed juice of Brami as instructed.  "Continuous use for one week improves memory, intellect and "imparts a celestial glow to the complexion".  Taking for a second week revives old forgotten memories and increases the ability to write books.  Continuing to take the juice for a third week, allows one to repeat from memory up to one hundred words if heard or read in a single sitting.  In addition, this continued use for twenty-one days "removes all inauspicious features whether of the body or of the mind, the goddess of learning appears in an embodied form to the (mind of the) user, and all kinds of knowledge comes rushing into his memory.  A single hearing is enough to make him reproduce (verbatim from memory a discourse however lengthy)", oh and by the way, he is enabled to live for five hundred years.

Verse 6:  Brahmi Ghrta:  Two Prastha measures of the expressed juice of Brahmi and one Prastha measure of Ghee cooked with one Kudava measure of Vidanga seeds, two Pala weight of each of Vaca and Trivrt, and twelve (in number) of each Haritaki, Amalaka and Bibhitaka well pounded and mixed together and cooked into a Ghrta.  "This preparation would give a favorable turn to one's fortune; impart a lotus-like bloom (to the cheeks) with perpetual youth, unparalleled intellectual faculties and a life that would cover a period of three centuries of song and sunshine.  This Rasayana affects cutaneousdiseases (Kustha), chronic fever, epilepsy, insanity, effects of poisons and evil spirits and all other dangerous diseases.

The first chapter of Caraka-Samhita, Chikitsasthanam 1:30-31 states, "The use of juice of mandukaparni," ... "- these rasayana drugs are life-promoting, disease-alleviating, promoters of strength, agni, complexion, voice and are intellect-promoting. ... {Thus are the intellect-promoting rasayana drugs}."[1]

Folk Use

Isabell Shipard, How Can I Use Herbs in my Daily Life? has identified 104 uses for Gotu Kola.[6]

  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Peptic Ulcers
  • Auto-immune Diseases
  • Stress
  • Gynecological Disorders
  • Asthma
  • Low Thyroid
  • Neuritis
  • Male Tonic
  • Menopausal Problems
  • Eczema
  • Scrofula
  • Venereal Diseases
  • Cirrhosis
  • Diarrhea
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Laryngitis
  • Stomach Ache
  • Muscular Atrophy
  • Fatigue
  • Sore Throat
  • Schizophrenia
  • Thrombosis
  • Brain Tonic
  • Respiratory Ailments
  • Influenza
  • Blood Purifier
  • Food Poisoning
  • Vaginitis
  • Diabetes
  • Baldness
  • Wounds
  • Age Spots
  • Nervous Breakdown
  • Poor Circulation
  • Insomnia
  • Retinal Detachment
  • Dysentery
  • Liver Problems
  • Increase Energy
  • Epilepsy
  • Pleurisy
  • Premenstrual Pain
  • Hair Loss
  • Blood Disorders
  • Mycosis Fungoides
  • Dementia
  • Infections
  • Periodontal Disease
  • Colds
  • Coughing Blood
  • Vomiting Blood
  • Senility
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Prickly Heat Rash
  • Measles
  • Poor Appetite
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Depression
  • Skin Ulcers
  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Candida
  • Tuberculosis
  • Mental Retardation
  • Sexual Debility
  • Elephantitis
  • Fibrocystic Breasts
  • Gastric
  • Hypochondria
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Skin Ulcers
  • Failing Eyesight
  • Abscesses
  • Mouth Ulcers
  • Impotence
  • Stomach Upsets
  • Bruises
  • Scleroderma
  • Herpes
  • Cramps
  • Exam Tonic
  • Lupus
  • Bowel Disorders
  • Fluid Retention
  • Hepatitis
  • Swollen Glands
  • Intestinal Worms
  • Convulsions
  • Surgical Wounds
  • Dermatitis
  • Joint Mobility
  • Bowel Disorders
  • Anemia
  • Hardening of Arteries
  • Tingling in Legs
  • Stimulate the Liver
  • Bladder
  • Kidneys
  • Central Nervous System
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Lower Serum Cholesterol Levels
  • Immune System
  • Leprosy
  • Arthritis

Modern Clinical Use

Gotu Kola is mainly used for leprosy, venous insufficiency and studies suggest it may be beneficial in regression of inflammatory infiltration of the liver in cirrhosis, though it is cautioned that further testing is needed.

Kartnig[16:4] has compiled a list of clinical applications with references.  The three categories highlighted are:

1.     Diseases of Skin - Healing of skin wounds, burns, surgical scars, chronic skin lesions such as ulcers and leprosy wounds.[16:6]

2.     Diseases of Veins (Venous Insufficiency) - Scientific studies of patients with venous hypertension and diabetic microcirculation showed significant difference in capillary filtration rate, decrease in ankle circumference and ankle edema and other symptoms.

3.     Diseases of Liver

Additionally, several clinical trials are quoted for:

1.     Mental Abilities - Developmentally disabled children exhibited better overall adjustment, attentiveness and concentration on assigned tasks.[14:3]  Testing of adult acoustic startle response showed statistically significant lower results after ingestion of Gotu Kola which supports anxiolytic activity.[14:1] 

2.     Anticancer - Gotu Kola destroyed cultured cancer tumor cells with no toxic effects detected in normal human lymphocytes.

3.     Anti-anxiety/Anti-stress/Sedative - Studies on mice and rats have show Gotu Kola to have tranquilizing, anti-stress and anti-anxiety qualities.[17-3]

Gotu Kola is recorded to have the following properties:[8]

  • Adaptogen (increases the body's resistance to stress, trauma, anxiety and fatigue)
  • Anti-viral (inhibit development of viruses)
  • Antibacterial (antiseptic that acts against bacteria)
  • Anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation)
  • Anxiolytic (treat anxiety)
  • Diuretic (increases rate of urination)
  • Antipyretic
  • Antifungal
  • Sedative
  • Antispasmodic
  • Antioxidant
  • Tonic
  • Digestive
  • Vulnerary
  • Antibiotic
  • Nervine
  • Blood Purifier
  • Adrenal Strengthener

Major Chemical Constituents

"The major principles in Herba Centellae are the triterpenes asiatic acid and madecassic acid, and their derived triterpene ester glycosides, asiaticoside and madecassoside."

This leaf of this plant is used as a salad green to retain youthfulness and as a quick pick me up.  It is common to eat two to three leaves each day as a preventative.  Juice of Gotu Kola leaves is also used as a general tonic and to relieve hypertension.  Poultice of leaves can be used to treat open sores as it reduces inflammation and scar tissue development.

Modern cautions suggest Gotu Kola not be given to children and to elderly only at a lower dosage.  Side effects are reported as rare but skin rash and liver reaction are cautioned.  At high doses, headache, stomach upset, nausea, dizziness and drowsiness have been mentioned.  Because Gotu Kola's medicinal benefits are similar to those anticipated from some prescription and nonprescription drugs, medications should be screened for possible interaction.  Some to consider are:  cholesterol-lowering drugs, diuretics and sedatives (see Constituent section of this paper).


  • Triterpenoids:  Asiatic Acid, Madecassic Acid (connective tissue modulation-collagen and other tissue proteins in vein and venous wall.)
  • Asiaticoside (Triterpene Glycoside) - Antibiotic (wound healing, leprosy, tuberculosis)
  • Brahmoside and Brahmioside (Saporin Glycosides) - Diuretic and Sedative in large doses
  • Madecassoside (Glycoside) - Anti-inflammatory
  • Gamma-amniobutyric acid(GABA) - Anxiolytic, anti-stress, depressant on central nervous system by increase of GABA in brain[17-3] 
  • Vitamin K, Magnesium, Calcium, Sodium, Chromium, Cobalt, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Silca, Zinc
  • Unrelated to Kola nut and does not contain caffeine

In Addition to

  • Volatile Oil Containing Vallerin                                    Camphor
  • Cineole                                                                        N-dodecane
  • Terpene Acetate                                                            Tran-B Farnesene
  • Germacrene-D                                                                        B-Caryophyllene
  • P-Cymol                                                                        A-Pinene
  • Methanol                                                                        Ally/mustard oil
  • Flavonoids                                                                        Kaempferol
  • Resin                                                                                    Alkaloid hydrocotyline                       
  • Asiatic                                                                                    Betulic
  • Brahmic                                                                        Centellinic
  • Isobrahmic                                                                        Madecassic acid
  • Quercetin                                                                        Tannin
  • Sugar                                                                                    Asiaticoside
  • Oxyasiaticoside                                                            Brahmoside
  • Braminoside                                                                        Centellaside
  • Madecassoside                                                            Thunkuniside
  • Bitters                                                                                    Sterols
  • Pectin                                                                                    B-sitosterol


Enough evidence exists to validate the benefits of Gotu Kola are widespread.  Though many claims have yet to be accepted by modern science, many foretold in classic text and seen from current use provide enough substance to accept this herb as a stable Rasayana in every Ayurvedic Pharmacy.  As far as the longevity claims of a long healthy life of at least 100 years, I'm halfway there, I think I'll fix myself a nice cup of Gotu Kola tea.

Research References

[1]                  Caraka Samhita

[2]                  Astanga Hrdayam

[3]                  Susruta Samhita

[4]                  Textbook of Dravyaguna, Dr. K. Nishteswar

[5]                  Ayurvedic Medicine, by Sebastian Pole

[6]                  How Can I Use Herbs in My Daily Life? By Isabell



[9]                  Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (Department of Ayush, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Gov of India)


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[13]                  hong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao. Chemical components of Centella asiatica and their bioactivities, Zheng, CJ, Quin LP, 2007 May;5(3):348-                  51, Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai 200433, China, PMID:                    17498500 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


Scientific Studies Reference

[14]   Mental - Learning, Memory

1.      Bradwejn J, Zhou Y, Koszycki D, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) on acoustic startle response in healthy subjects. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2000;20:680-684.

2.      Nalini K, Aroor AR, Karanth KS, et al. Effect of Centella asiatica fresh leaf aqueous extract on learning and memory and biogenic amine turnover in albino rats. Fitoterapia. 1992;63:232-237.

3.      Appa Rao MVR, Srinivas K, Koteshwar Rao T. "The effect of Mandookaparni (Centella asiatica) on the general mental ability (medhya) of mentally retarded children". J. Res Indian Med. 1973;8:9-16.

4.      Mohandas Rao KG, Muddanna Rao S., Gurumadhya Rao S.  Enhancement of Amygdaloid Neuronal Dendritic Arborization by Fresh Leaf Juice of Centella asiatica (Linn) During Growth Spurt Period in Rats.  Melaka Manipal Medical College, Manipal 576 104, India.  Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2009 Jun;6(2):203-10. Epub 2007 Aug 13.

5.      Ram Harsh Singh Æ K. Narsimhamurthy Æ  Girish Singh, Neuronutrient impact of Ayurvedic Rasayana therapy in brain aging Received: 2 April 2008 / Accepted: 26 September 2008 / Published online: 18 October 2008, Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 200

6.      Singh RH, Narsimhamurthy K, Singh G. Neuronutrient impact of Ayurvedic Rasayanatherapy in brain aging.  Biogerontology. 2008 Dec;9(6):369-74. Epub 2008 Oct 18. Review. PubMed PMID: 18931935.

[15]   Venous Insufficiency

1.      Belcaro GV, Grimaldi R, Guidi G. Improvement of capillary permeability in patients with venous hypertension after treatment with TTFCA. Angiology. 1990;41: 533-540.

2.      Belcaro GV, Rulo A, Grimaldi R. Capillary filtration and ankle edema in patients with venous hypertension treated with TTFCA. Angiology. 1990;41:12-18.

3.      Cesarone MR, Laurora G, De Sactis MT, et al. The microcirculatory activity of Centella asiatica in venous insufficiency. A double-blind study [translated from Italian]. Minerva Cardioangiol. 1994;42:299-304.

4.      Pointel JP, Boccalon H, Cloarec M, et al. Titrated extract of Centella asiatica (TECA) in the treatment of venous insufficiency of the lower limbs. Angiology. 1987;38:46-50.


[16]  Skin Ailments and Wound Healing

1.      Shukla A, Rasik AM, Jain GK, et al. In vitro and in vivo wound healing activity of asiaticoside isolated from Centella asiatica.J Ethnopharmacol. 1999;65:1-11.

2.      Bradwejn J, Zhou Y, Koszycki D, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) on acoustic startle response in healthy subjects. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2000;20:680-684.

3.      Klovekorn W, Tepe A, Danesch U. A randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled, half-side comparison with an herbal ointment containing Mahonia aquifolium, Viola tricolor, and Centella asiatica for the treatment of mild-to-moderate atopic dermatitis. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2007;45:583-591.

4.      Kartnig T. Clinical applications of Centella asiatica (L.). Herbs Spices Med Plants. 1988;3:146-173. (Scar Tissue)

5.      Bosse JP, Papillon J, Frenette G, et al. Clinical study of a new antikeloid agent. Ann Plast Surg. 1979;3:13-21. (Scar Tissue)

6.      Bonte F et al. Influence of asiatic acid, madecassic acid, and asiaticoside on human collagen I synthesis. Planta medica, 1994, 60:133-135.

[17]  Other Studies

1.      Agrawal A, Dubey M, Dubey G. Effects of Mentat on memory span, attention, galvanic skin resistance (GSR) and muscle action potential (EMG) among normal adults. Pharmacopsychoecologia. 1990;3:39-42.

2.      Sharma AK, Agrawal A, Agrawal U, et al. Influence of Mentat (BR-16A) on memory and mental fatigue in cases of anxiety neurosis and depression. Ind J Cancer Res. 1990;3:27.

3.      Chatterjee TK, Chakraborty A, Pathak M. Effects of plant extract Centella asiatica L. on cold restraint stress ulcer in rats. Indian journal of experimental biology, 1992, 30:889-891.

By  Gloria G. Garrett

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