Herbal Meds

Gotu Kola, a therapeutic herbal medicine

Gotu kola is a favourite food of elephants and because elephants are notoriously long-lived animals, it might have led people to believe that it can prolong life.  Although research has not proven that it can indeed prolong your life, studies have found that this herbal medicine have important health benefits.

This herbal medicine had its origins in India and today still forms an important part of an ancient healing tradition called Ayurveda.  Ayurveda is defined as providing an integrated approach to preventing and treating illness through lifestyle interventions and natural therapies.   In France, gotu kola has been prescribed since the 1880's to treat burns and other skin wounds.

This herb with its bright red flowers thrives in hot, swampy areas and grows naturally in India, Madagascar, middle and southern Africa, Australia, China and the southern United States.  The leaves appearance depends on whether it is growing in water (large, fan-shaped leaves) or on dry land (small and thin leaves).  The leaves are the most important and most commonly used herbal medicine.

Gotu kola is also known as Centella asiatica, talepetrako, Indian pennywort, Indian water navelwort or hydrocotyle.  Although the names are similar, there is no relationship between gotu kola and the kola (or cola) nut, which is used in cola drinks.  Gotu kola is caffeine free and does not act as a stimulant.

Whether you take gotu kola internally or use it externally, there are many benefits to this herbal medicine.  Some of the common uses include treating burns and wounds, building connective tissue, strengthening veins and improving memory.  This herb's important compounds are called triterpenes, which appear to enhance the formation of collagen in cartilage, bones and connective tissue.  In addition, these compounds promote healthy blood vessels and help to produce neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers of the brain.

Gotu kola promotes the healthy development of connective tissue and prevents the formation of hardened areas.  This is what makes this herbal medicine so important for treating many skin conditions.  It is used as a therapeutic treatment for burns, keloids (overgrown scar tissue) and helps surgical incisions and skin ulcers to heal quicker. Applying gotu kola topically to psoriasis lesions will aid healing.

This herbal remedy is valuable in treating varicose veins by improving blood flow and strengthening cells in the walls of blood vessels.  Studies conducted show that 80 percent of patients with varicose veins had a substantial improvement.  

Patients with heart disease and high blood pressure show improvement when using gotu kola herbal remedies when compared to patients who took a placebo.

Gotu kola has been used for thousands of years to improve mental alertness.   Ongoing research has shown great benefit in using this herb to boost memory, improve learning capability and most importantly, reversing some of the memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease.  In one study, mentally disabled children were found to have better concentration and attention levels after taking this herbal supplement for a period of 12 weeks.  Children and adults who have ADD (attention deficit disorder) will also greatly benefit by using gotu kola herbal remedies.  

As a general herbal therapeutic and herbal tonic, gotu kola will improve circulation and boost your concentration levels, making it easier for you to retain information.  Students and school children benefit by taking this herbal medicine as they are able to concentrate for longer periods and retain more of the material studied.

What are the side effects of Gotu kola?

Please consult your medical practitioner prior to using any herbal medications should you be under their care.

Internally or externally, gotu kola has little side effects.  Skin rashes, light sensitivity and headaches are rare side effects, should this occur, reduce the dosage.

Pregnant and lactating women should not use gotu kola.

Taking gotu kola for an extended period of time is not recommended.  After taking the herb for a period of 6-8 weeks, stop taking the supplement for a period of 2 weeks and then continue regular use, following this pattern.

Gotu kola has a mild sedative effect and should therefore not be used in conjunction with prescription sedatives.

How do I use Gotu kola?

When purchasing gotu kola supplements, ensure that it is standardized to contain 10 percent asiaticoside, which is an active ingredient in this herb.  If you are unable to find the standardized extract, substitute 400 to 500 mg of the raw herb for each 200 mg dose.

To treat varicose veins, take 200 mg of the standardized extract three times a day.

For burns and other skin wounds, use 200 mg twice a day until the wounds are healed.

To improve memory, concentration and slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease, take 200 mg standardized extract three times a day.  

Gotu kola can be taken internally or externally with or without meals.  Gotu kola tea can also be applied externally to treat burns and wounds and psoriasis lesions.  You can use both the oral and the topical herbal treatments at the same time.  Make a paste of gotu kola by breaking open a capsule and mixing the dried herb powder in a small amount of water.  This can be applied externally to the skin.

Steep one or two teaspoons of dried gotu kola leaf in a cup of boiled water for 10 to 15 minutes.  Drink one or two cups a day.

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