Article by Joseph P. Kauffman
Known as the “herb of longevity,” gotu kola is a perennial plant indigenous to the tropical wetlands of Southeast Asia, where it is one of the most commonly used green leafy vegetables. Gotu kola is known to have antimicrobial, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and memory-enhancing properties. It is a staple in traditional Chinese, Indonesian, and Ayurvedic medicine, where practitioners claim this medicinal plant has the power to boost brainpower, heal skin issues, and promote liver and kidney health.
Among alternative practitioners, gotu kola has also been attributed with many health benefits, ranging from the treatment of infections (such as the common cold, shingles, flu, and cholera) to the prevention of Alzheimer's disease, blood clots, and even pregnancy. Others assert that gotu kola can treat or prevent anxiety, asthma, depression, diabetes, diarrhea, fatigue, indigestion, and stomach ulcers. When used topically, gotu kola may help speed the healing of wounds and reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars.
Scientific Research on Gotu Kola
While gotu kola has been used effectively for these purposes for thousands of years, not all of them have been verified by modern scientific studies. There are however, many studies on gotu kola that do reveal its powerful medicinal properties—primarily as an effective herb for improving cognitive functioning, enhancing memory and nerve function, reducing stress and anxiety, helping in the treatment of depression, and improving blood circulation.
Gotu kola has the ability to enhance memory and nerve function, which gives it potential in treating Alzheimer’s disease. According to a 2012 study on mice, gotu kola extract had a positive effect on behavioral abnormalities in mice with Alzheimer’s disease. The extract was shown, in lab and animal studies, to have a modest effect on protecting brain cells from toxicity. This could also protect the cells from forming the plaque that is often associated with Alzheimer’s.
Many people living today’s modern lifestyle suffer from sleep deprivation, which has been shown to cause anxiety, oxidative damage, and neuroinflammation. Researchers in an animal study from 2016 found that gotu kola had an anti-anxiety effect on male mice that were sleep deprived for 72 hours. Mice that were given gotu kola for five consecutive days before undergoing sleep deprivation experienced significantly less anxiety-like behavior. They also experienced improved loco-motor activity and less oxidative damage.
Gotu Kola and its Effects on Depression
Gotu kola’s positive effect on brain function may also make it an effective antidepressant. A review from 2016 supports these findings, in part due to a study on 33 people with generalized anxiety disorder. The participants were asked to take gotu kola in place of their antidepressant medication for 60 days. They self-reported decreased stress, anxiety, and depression.
Another study discussed in the review assessed the effect of gotu kola on rats induced with chronic depression. The herbal remedy had a positive effect on certain elements of behavioral depression, including body weight, body temperature, and heart rate.
Research from 2001 found that gotu kola can reduce problems with fluid retention, ankle swelling, and circulation tied to taking flights that last longer than three hours.
Participants who experienced mild-to-moderate superficial venous disease with varicose veins were asked to take gotu kola for two days before their flight, the day of their flight, and the day after their flight. Researchers found that participants who took the supplement experienced significantly less fluid retention and ankle swelling than those who didn’t. Older research has also shown that gotu kola can be useful in treating varicose veins. This may be because gotu kola has a positive metabolic effect on the connective tissue of the vascular wall.
So, whether you’re interested in gotu kola for its anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, or stress relieving properties, it is a powerful herbal medicine with thousands of years of traditional use, as well as numerous modern scientific studies to support it, making it a powerful herbal alley on your journey of healing, and one medicine certainly worth having in your herbal tool-kit.