Multitasking Gotu Kola for Mind & Body
One of the most legendary herbs in the Ayurvedic herbal tradition of India, with a history of use stretching back more than one thousand years, has some of the most disparate and interesting properties ascribed to it. Gotu kola (Centella asiatica, Hydrocotyle asiatica), also known as Indian pennywort, is a creeping perennial plant growing in and around water and swampy areas in India, China, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Indonesia. Sri Lankan folklore has it that this herb will confer a long life. This legend arises from the native Sinhalese of Ceylon noticing that the plant is a preferred delicacy of elephants, known for their longevity. As an herbal rasayana (rejuvenative tonic substance) in India, it has been used traditionally to increase vitality, prolong life, and enhance learning and memory.
A lesser-known benefit of gotu kola in this country is its profound ability to increase the integrity and healing of connective tissue, skin and gums. The triterpene compounds support the vascular system, increase collagen production, and inhibit sclerosis (hardening) of tissues. Famous research decades ago showed that centella extracts were able to dissolve the waxy covering of skin in leprosy patients, leading to eventual healing of the leprous lesions and nodules. Wound healing in general is hastened, essentially through an increase of the body's ability to build new skin in areas of infection and injury. Numerous studies have shown centella's use in healing gynecological/obstetric tears and incisions, especially relating to childbirth. Episiotomy incisions and lesions show rapid healing and a lessening of infection around sutures when gotu kola is consumed, before, during, or after childbirth. In Europe, centella preparations are used to hasten the healing of bedsores.
Also popular in Europe are cosmetic preparations featuring centella, whether internal or topical. (See newsletter.) In addition to stimulating hair and nail growth, the asiatocoside compounds increase the tensile strength of the dermis by improving the synthesis and deposition of collagen. This translates to less sagging and wrinkles, hurray! Here's an herbalist's secret for ageless skin, shhh. Consume gotu kola to build/increase collagen, and grape seed extract, which binds to collagen and inhibits its breakdown. Dust off that license, you'll be needing it at the liquor store!
Centella's compounds also have an affinity for the vascular structure, one of the mechanisms by which they speed healing of tissues. Veins and capillaries are strengthened and circulation is improved as well. Conditions benefiting from this are venous insufficiency, varicose/spider veins/hemorrhoids, and phlebitis (a direct inflammation of the veins). Gotu kola increases synthesis of hyaluronic acid (see newsletter) and chondroitin sulfate, in addition to collagen proteins, and thus seems to be a veritable tonic for the connective tissues of the body.
Learning & Memory Aid
Probably the most famous property of gotu kola is its support of the brain. It has long been a staple of brain/memory supplement formulas, and is often combined with Ginkgo biloba, another famous brain herb. In traditional Ayurveda gotu kola is considered a nervine, said to relieve insomnia, stress, and disturbed emotions. It has been shown to do much more than this with regard to the mind. It appears to lower brain levels of certain neurotransmitters which if increased interfere with learning. There have been animal and human studies conducted which showed increased learning, retention and cognitive ability after gotu kola administration. Most of these studies were done in India, where the herb is used interchangeably with another herb, bacopa, for increasing memory and concentration. Depression and anxiety may benefit from gotu kola, and it may increase alertness, making it an all-around brain support herb.
Evergreen carries this multitasking herb as a liquid extract or in capsules and in a variety of blends for brain health, vein support, oral health and skin care. Its support of healthy body and mind make gotu kola a true herbal superstar.
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