The Herbs Section
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Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica [Latin]), also known as centella and Indian pennywort, is a creeping vine found growing in tropical and subtropical climates in Africa, Asia, Australia, India and South America, and even the southeastern United States. It has been used for thousands of years in ayurvedic medicine to improve memory and maintain a healthy central nervous system, and recent clinical studies support this tradition.
Gotu kola protects the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the brain, which helps increase the brain’s oxygen supply. Clinical studies have shown that gotu kola improves concentration; in one study students’ test scores improved after taking gotu kola. Gotu kola has also been shown to have a calming affect on individuals prone to anxiety, and may also be useful in individuals suffering from depression.
Indian ayurvedic tradition also recommends gotu kola to treat a wide range of skin diseases, from mild inflammation to leprosy. Surprisingly, modern research supports the use of gotu kola as a treatment for leprosy. This herb not only acts as an anti-inflammatory, but also helps strengthen the veins and capillaries that supply blood to new tissue at the injury site, two qualities that make this an excellent treatment for skin ulcerations.
In addition, gotu kola contains an active ingredient called asiaticoside, which helps dissolve the protective coating around leprosy bacteria so that the immune system can destroy them.
Studies suggest that gotu kola may be an effective treatment for other skin disorders as well. In one study, participants suffering from scleroderma (a condition that causes tissues to harden) reported that taking 20 milligrams of gotu kola extract three times a week made their joints and skin more flexible. Gotu kola has also demonstrated an ability to improve the appearance of cellulite by increasing the body’s production of glycosaminoglycans, compounds needed to form the connective tissues that hold fat in place.
Glycosaminoglycans are also needed to strengthen the connective tissue that surrounds the veins of the legs, and numerous studies have shown that gotu kola is an effective treatment for leg pain and swelling in people that suffer from varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Additionally, studies have shown that gotu kola lowers blood pressure, which may be helpful to both people with CVI and people struggling with high blood pressure.
Topical preparations containing gotu kola regulate collagen production and inhibit excessive scar formation. Studies have reported that gotu kola speeds wound healing and the body’s assimilation of skin grafts. Gotu kola has also been used successfully to promote healing from episiotomy, and to relieve the red welts of psoriasis.
Gotu kola is available in liposome tablets or tinctures, and is included in many commercial topical creams used to promote wound healing, collagen production, or to reduce the appearance of cellulite. The usual dosage is 60 to 120 milligrams in capsules, or 1 teaspoon of liquid extract, each day. You can also buy the dried leaves or powdered form of this herb and make yourself a tea—two cups each day is said to relieve anxiety. Keep in mind that it takes up to three weeks to see results with this herb.
Gotu kola should be avoided by women who are pregnant or nursing women. It may have a narcotic effect, so it should not be taken if you are already taking tranquilizers, and those taking blood pressure lowering medications should avoid the use of this herb as well. Reported side effects include skin rash, and there are some concerns that repeated topical use could cause skin cancer.
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