Gotu kola is the common name of a small herbaceous plant, known as Centella asiatica. It is a member of the family, Mackinlayaceae, and is also known as Indian pennywort, pennywort, and Indian ginseng. This herb can be widely found in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Northern Australia, and several other parts of Asia. It has a long history of being used as a medicinal plant in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine.
The main active compounds found in this herb are, saponins and triterpenoids. It is mainly regarded as a tonic for the nervous system. It is also known for its antibacterial, anti-viral, diuretic, and anti-inflammatory properties. The following are some of the important health benefits of this herb:
- Indian pennywort is known to be a mild adaptogen, as it can enhance the body's resistance to stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
- It can improve the functioning of the nervous system. It can help improve memory and concentration, and provide relief in certain nervous disorders like epilepsy.
- In the past, it was mainly used as a remedy for conditions like scleroderma, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, which cause swelling or inflammation of the connective tissues.
- Gotu kola can accelerate wound healing. This benefit can be attributed to the presence of 'triterpenoids' in this herb. These compounds have been found to be effective in increasing blood supply to the affected area, and thus promote faster healing.
- It can prove beneficial in several skin conditions like psoriasis, scars, and stretch marks.
- It can also help reduce fever, as well as congestion associated with upper respiratory tract infections.
- It can have a positive effect on circulation as well, which is why it can help reduce the swelling caused by venous insufficiency. People having varicose veins can benefit from this herb.
- It can reduce the appearance of cellulite by toning the blood vessels, improving blood circulation, and strengthening the connective tissues.
- Apart from these, Indian pennywort is known as a herbal remedy for insomnia, muscle pain, joint stiffness, depression, asthma, tonsillitis, edema or fluid retention, diarrhea, abdominal pain, stomach ulcer, indigestion, eczema, high blood pressure, blood diseases, and urinary tract infections.
Like other herbs and herbal supplements, gotu kola and its extracts can cause a few side effects, if not used with caution. An excessive and prolonged use of this herb can affect the liver, and therefore, people with liver diseases should not use this herb without consulting their health care provider. However, this herb is not known to cause any serious side effects. Nevertheless, its excessive use can cause an upset stomach, nausea, headaches, drowsiness, and dizziness.
One of the compounds found in Indian pennywort is known as 'asiaticoside', which has been found to be associated with tumor growth in mice. Therefore, people having precancerous or cancerous skin lesions are usually advised to avoid this herb and its extracts. In addition to these, this herb can interact with certain medications, such as diabetes medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, sedatives, and diuretics. So, individuals using these medications should not take gotu kola without consulting their physicians.
So, the side effects of this herb can be avoided by using it in moderation. The best way to avoid the side effects is to take this herb and its extracts only in the appropriate dosage, and under the supervision of a physician or health care provider.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.