Gotu Kola (Pennywort or Centella asiatica) is claimed to possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Evidence suggests it helps heal burns and improves blood flow. Does it have any other health benefits and side effects? Read on to see what the science says.
What is Gotu Kola?
Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatica) is one of the alleged longevity herbs used in the Tai-Chi tradition. This herb is also used in Ayurvedic and Chinese Traditional Medicine.
The plant itself may soak up heavy metals from the soil. As such, ensuring the source you are consuming is organic, or at least doesn’t contain dangerous heavy metals, is important. Copper accumulates in its roots; manganese and lead accumulate in the leaves .
Gotu kola supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use. Supplements generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.
- centellasaponins A, B, C, and D
- madecassoside (brahminoside)
- asiaticoside A, B, C, D, E, and F
- sceffoleoside A
- asiatic acid
- madecassic acid (brahmic acid)
- isothankunic acid
- germacrene B/D
Alleged Health Benefits of Gotu Kola
Possibly Effective For:
According to some evidence, applying gotu kola to second-degree burns may decrease the time that it takes for burns to heal .
Asiaticasoide, found in Gotu Kola, increased skin strength and skin collagen to better heal wounds in pigs and rats .
Asiatic acid, also in Gotu Kola, increased collagen production, further benefiting the healing of wounds .
Further, Gotu Kola has been traditionally used for stretch marks, raised scars, inflammation (phlebitis and cellulite), and leprosy. Evidence does not back up this practice .
2) Poor Circulation & Vein Problems
Oral gotu kola supplements and extracts (Centellase) may improve blood flow and reduce swelling in people with poor blood circulation in the legs (venous insufficiency) after 4-8 weeks, according to a recent systematic review of eight clinical studies .
The terpenes in Gotu Kola may increase collagen production, which might lower blood pressure and help with swelling (edema) .
Insufficient Evidence For:
The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of gotu kola for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking gotu kola, and never use it in place of something a doctor recommends or prescribes.
There is insufficient evidence to support the use of gotu kola for anxiety.
In one small human study, gotu kola reduced the startle response to abrupt sounds in healthy people 30 and 60 minutes after treatment. This study suggests gotu kola has some anti-anxiety potential that should be further researched .
Gotu Kola also improved anxiety in one rat study .
Lacking Evidence For:
No clinical evidence supports the use of gotu kola for any of the conditions listed in this section.
Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
4) Hair Loss
Gotu Kola increased hair growth in rats, increasing the number of hairs per area and the length of each hair. Its combinations with the following herbs were also researched: Aloe Vera, Eclipta alba (false daisy), Ocimum sanctum (holy basil), and Emblica officinalis (Amla) .
Evidence is lacking to support this traditional use. Gotu Kola has only been studied in cells (inhibits skin cell reproduction) .
6) Stomach Ulcers
Gotu Kola leaf increased the cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) .
8) Inflammation & Free Radicals
The phenols in Gotu Kola had antioxidant properties in mouse cells .
9) Effects on the Brain
In rats, Gotu Kola lowered their version of cortisol (corticosterone) and increased serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine .
Gotu Kola prevented nerve cell death in test tube models of Alzheimer’s by reducing the negative effects of amyloid beta .
However, many substances have anti-cancer effects in cells, including downright toxic chemicals like bleach. This doesn’t mean that they have any medical value. On the contrary, most substances (natural or synthetic) that are researched in cancer cells fail to pass further animal studies or clinical trials due to a lack of safety or efficacy.
Supplementing with Gotu Kola
The following doses were used in clinical trials:
- 60-180 mg of gotu kola extract daily for poor circulation and vein problems
- 3% gotu kola cream, to be applied to the burns daily until they heal
- 5% gotu kola, 2.5% aloe vera gauze dressing wrapped around the burns, to be changed every 3 days until the burns heal
No dosage of gotu kola has been established for other uses due to a lack of clinical data.
Anecdotally, people take around 1,000 mg of Gotu Kola per day in capsules. Other people drink gotu kola tea, 1-5 cups per day (1 g of the herb per cup).
No side effects of gotu kola extract dosed at 300 mg per day for 21 days in humans were reported .
Orally, gotu kola may cause:
- Stomach pain
- Low blood pressure
- Liver problems (rare)
Applied on the skin, some people have reported itchiness, redness, or burning.
Gotu kola should not be used with sedative medications (CNS depressants) and any medications that can harm the liver (Hepatotoxic drugs).
Gotu Kola inhibits CYP2C9, CYP2D6, and CYP3A4. All three enzymes are involved in drug metabolism, therefore the use of Gotu Kola can increase the potency and effect duration of many drugs .
CYP2C9 inhibition decreases the metabolism and increases the effects of ibuprofen, THC, ketamine, and others .
CYP2D6 inhibition decreases the metabolism and increases the effects of opioids, antipsychotics, beta-blockers, amphetamines, and others .
CYP3A4 inhibition decreases the metabolism and increases the effects of sex hormones, benzodiazepines, statins, chemotherapy, caffeine, cocaine, and others .
Gotu kola is an Asian herb with a history of use in Chinese and Ayurvedic traditional medicine. Clinical trials on its effectiveness and safety are sparse.
Some evidence suggests that applying a gel with gotu kola to burns may speed up healing. Gotu kola extract may also help with chronic vein problems from poor blood flow. Other alleged benefits of this plant, such as its anti-aging and anti-psoriatic potential, remain unproven.
Gotu kola can interact with many medications. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider before supplementing.