Scientific name: Centella asiatica
Gotu Kola also known as Pennywort is undoubtedly one of the most powerful weeds known to (wo)man. Known as a “herb of longevity”, this tenacious creeper is referred to in numerous ancient pharmacopoeias, and it is cherished in many ancient medicinal systems, including Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Known as “Brahmi” which means “godlike”, shows just how revered this herb is in India, where it is used to aid in meditation. It is considered a rejuvenating tonic for the brain, and it is said to revitalize the nervous system, increase attention span, support the immune system and graceful ageing.
Gotu Kola falls under a well sought after category of herbs known as adaptogens. As the name suggests, adaptogens help your body to adapt to everyday stressors which include biological, emotional, environmental and physical factors. Adaptogens restore overall balance and strengthen the function of an individual organ or the body as a whole.
Gotu Kola is the food of elephants – renowned for their longevity and excellent memories!
I’ve done some research on this remarkable plant, looking at the ethnobotany uses as well as scientific studies on it. I find it incredible that the scientific findings on the plant support the old traditional and historical uses. I would love to share my findings with you.
Here is what Gotu Kola can help you with:
A Brain Tonic
Gotu Kola has been considered as one of the most powerful brain tonics in Ayurvedic practices. According to Dr Akhilesh Sharma, Ayurvedic Expert, “Brahmi (Gotu Kola) is excellent for improving your brain functions and strengthening your memory. It enhances the three aspects of memory which include long term memory, short term memory and the retaining capacity.”
Gotu Kola has a positive effect on the hippocampus part of the brain that is responsible for intelligence, concentration and memory. Interestingly, the leaf of the Gotu Kola has a similar shape to that of the cerebellum – part of the brain which helps in controlling concentration and memory.
Gotu Kola also protects your brain from damage incurred by the assaults of everyday life.
Studies show that it protects the brain from neurotoxins like lead, arsenic, aluminium, and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a ubiquitous food additive that causes brain fog, migraines, and mood swings.
A Peaceful Creator
Gotu Kola was described in Indian literature to possess Central Nervous System effects. These effects resulted in the herb being useful in modulating anxiety and improving moods as it is believed to increase neurotransmitter production.
Research indicates that Gotu Kola increases levels of the feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine while reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also counteracts the effects of stress by regulating hormones involved with the stress response.
By bringing balance to these brain chemicals, Gotu Kola can help alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression as well as promote sound sleep. Additionally, Gotu kola protects the brain from inflammation which is thought to be an underlying cause of depression.
In human studies, Gotu kola has increased calmness, contentedness, and alertness as well as significantly reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In both Chinese and Ayurvedic traditions, Gotu Kola is considered a supreme Shen (spiritual) and Sattva (reality enhancing) tonic herb. It has been shown to harmonize trans-hemispheric communication in the brain, which is likely why it is used by yogis, monks and meditators for its awareness-enhancing effects.
Taken long term, Gotu Kola may increase intuitive awareness, an idea that is certainly supported by thousands of years of anecdotal evidence. What an incredibly useful plant for our times!
A Stomach Lining And Gut Protector
Gotu Kola prevents gastric ulceration caused by stress, as well as heals present gastric ulceration. Numerous studies showed that Gotu Kola also protected the stomach against ulceration by strengthening the mucosal defence as well as owing to the plant’s anti-inflammatory and anti-stress effects.
Research has concluded that Gotu Kola strengthens the gastric mucosal barrier and reduces the damaging effects of free radicals. A study showed that Gotu Kola significantly increases cellular mucus. It also reduces cell shedding, indicating fortification of the mucosal barrier.
Many auto-immune conditions begin in the gut, starting with chronic inflammation (often related to sensitivities/allergies) in the intestine. This can easily lead to conditions such as leaky gut, which leads to an over-reactive, hyper-sensitive immune system. The cooling and anti-inflammatory properties of Gotu Kola helps to heal damaged intestinal lining. This, along with its immunomodulatory effects, makes Gotu Kola useful for Celiac’s disease, IBS, as well as any condition with red, hot and inflamed tissues.
This healing action applies to internal or external wounds, speeding the healing of ulcers and burns and preventing scarring from surgery.
A Connective Tissue Strengthener
Research suggests that Gotu Kola helps to maintain connective tissues. As a connective tissue tonic, it can be helpful in conditions involving damaged or inflamed tendons, ligaments and joints, such as arthritis, rheumatism and tendinitis. The anti-inflammatory effects of Gotu Kola help to amplify this relief. Herbalist David Winston teaches that Gotu Kola is specific for “connective tissue disorders and skin conditions where the tissue is red, hot, and inflamed”. He uses Gotu Kola in many formulas for auto-immune conditions and skin conditions, including lupus, scleroderma, psoriasis and eczema
A Blood Supporter
Gotu Kola nourishes and strengthens weakened veins. According to the renowned herbalist Matthew Wood, Gotu Kola stimulates blood flow in the capillaries, reduce venous stagnation, helps to break down aged red blood cells, improve cholesterol balance, reduce urea (acidity) in the blood as well as improve circulation to the extremities and brain. This allows for Gotu Kola to be useful in any condition involving vascular insufficiency including oedema, varicose veins, haemorrhoids or hypertension.
Also, just so that you know, I make and sell an African Wormwood Tincture. If you would like to try it?
Delay and possibly prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia
Studies have demonstrated cognitive-enhancing and antioxidant properties of Gotu Kola in rats, supporting the idea that Gotu kola could help prevent and slow down the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive deficits that result from oxidative damage, ageing and neurotoxicity.
A study also showed that Gotu Kola is known to help ease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by protecting the brain neurons from beta-amyloid toxicity which is responsible for damaging the brain. The bio-chemical known as bacosides in Gotu Kola helps in rebuilding brain tissues by influencing the brain cells.
Research has also shown that Gotu Kola is a magnificent healer of topical injuries, cellulitis, dermal tuberculosis, leprosy, septic wounds (external), and herpes simplex viruses. Additionally, it can help relieve diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, varicose veins, oedema, dry skin, cold extremities, poor digestion and weight gain.
It can be useful for mental and physical fatigue, senility, loss of memory, Parkinson’s disease, low thyroid function contributing to depression as well as preventing radiation damage.
Gotu Kola is also a diuretic and purgative herb that clears toxins, reduces inflammation and fevers, boosts the immune system and increases energy when suffering from little endurance.
Properties and Actions
Adaptogenic, Alterative, Anodyne / Analgesics, Anthelmintics, Antibacterial, Anticonvulsant, Antidepressant, Anti-fungal, Antihistamine, Anti-inflammatory, Antipyretic (fever), Anti-ulcer, Antiviral, anxiolytic (reduce anxiety), Astringent, Cytotoxic (anti-cancerous), Diuretic (urination), Febrifuge (reduce fever), Hypotensive (lower blood pressure), Immunomodulator, Mood elevator, Nervine, Neuroprotective, Purgative, Rejuvenating, Sedative, Stimulant, Tonic, Vulnerary (heals wounds)
Respiratory, Digestive, Nervous, Immune, Urinary, Circulatory, Exocrine / Lymphatic System, Reproductive
I also use African Wormwood in my
- Roberts, M. 2017. Indigenous Healing Plants. Page 152 – 153
- Van Wyk, B. Van Oudtshoorn, B. Gericke, N. 2017. Medicinal Plants of South Africa. Page 86
- Mountain Herb Estate. Pennywort.
- NCBI Pharmacological Review on Centella asiatica: A Potential Herbal Cure-all:
- Tonic Herb shop:
- Yvette van Wijk’s ethnobotany research.