Gotu kola is a perennial herb native to Asia. People have used gotu kola in traditional medicine for many years, due to its potential health properties.
Some people believe that gotu kola may help heal wounds, improve cognition, and lower blood pressure.
Despite the herb’s long history of use, very few clinical studies have found that gotu kola supplements have health benefits. People who take these supplements likely rely on anecdotal evidence.
In this article, we explore whether there are research-supported benefits of gotu kola, as well as possible adverse effects.
Gotu kola’s scientific name is Centella asiatica. The plant is native to tropical and subtropical parts of Asia.
According to an older review of studies, gotu kola contains compounds such as triterpenoid saponins. Researchers believe that these may be largely responsible for the plant’s purported health benefits.
Some traditional uses of gotu kola include:
- healing wounds
- relieving diarrhea
- boosting energy levels
- reducing anxiety
- enhancing sexual potency
- treating venereal diseases
- treating skin diseases
- treating menstrual disorders
- slowing leprosy progression
- prolonging life
There is limited clinical evidence, however, to support many of these uses.
In fact, the authors of a 2018 review of studies indicated that more research is necessary before the medical community can approve the widespread use of gotu kola. Their recommendations included:
- fully understanding the active ingredients
- fully understanding how gotu kola may affect medications
- determining how to best extract and stabilize the active compounds
- determining how likely the compounds are to reach the right areas of the body
Researchers have investigated the following uses of gotu kola:
According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, several studies claim that gotu kola can help treat varicose veins and venous insufficiency.
However, many of these studies date back to the early 2000s or earlier — more up-to-date research is necessary.
For example, an older study, from 2001, found that participants who received 60 milligrams of triterpenic fraction of gotu kola twice daily for 8 weeks experienced improvements in the health of their veins.
The participants all had conditions with significant vein involvement, such as severe venous hypertension and ankle swelling.
Another study from the same year, and from some of the same researchers, produced similar results.
The second study found that gotu kola extracts helped with diabetic microangiopathy by improving the function of the veins. This health issue affects people with diabetes and involves having unusually small blood vessels in various areas of the body.
According to a 2010 review of studies, some research supports the use of gotu kola to help wounds and burns heal.
The authors reported that many studies had found that gotu kola sped up wound healing.
However, most of these studies involved animals or artificial wounds created in labs. This means that the herb may not have the same effects in humans.
The authors also noted that a lack of medical supervision and knowledge about how gotu kola might react with medications made the herb potentially dangerous to use.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center also highlight the lack of trials in humans and call for further testing before the effectiveness of gotu kola as a wound treatment can be confirmed.
According to one review of studies, gotu kola may help support the functioning of the brain and nervous system, improve memory, and protect against aging.
However, more recent studies do not support some of these claims. A 2017 study found that gotu kola may improve alertness and reduce anger but did not substantiate the other findings.
Meanwhile, in a 2016 study, researchers looked at people who had experienced cognitive impairment following a stroke.
They found that few, if any, improvements were associated with using gotu kola, compared with folic acid. However, the authors noted that some participants experienced some improvement in long-term memory after taking the herbal extract.
Very little scientific evidence suggests that gotu kola may help reduce anxiety.
According to Winchester Hospital, an older study of 40 participants found that gotu kola helped improve the startle response. This is relevant because, as the hospital explains, easy startling is associated with anxiety.
Confirming whether the herb can relieve anxiety will require larger studies of better design.
Some reported side effects of gotu kola include:
- gastrointestinal discomfort
- skin problems
Although there is limited relevant data, it is possible that gotu kola can interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications.
It is crucial to consult a doctor before using gotu kola. Make sure that the doctor knows about all ongoing medications and treatments.
Gotu kola may provide some health benefits and may particularly support the functioning of the veins.
However, there is very little scientific evidence behind most claims that manufacturers make about gotu kola.
Always be cautious when starting a new supplement, and consult a doctor about potential drug interactions.