Gotu kola is an herbaceous plant closely related to the carrot, parsley, and celery families. It is a native to the moist climate of Southeast Asia where it has been used for millennia as a culinary ingredient and medicinal herb.
It has also been called Jal Bahmi, Indian or Asiatic Pennywort and hydrocotyle, but perhaps its most descriptive name is “herb of longevity.” As we will discover in the following article, this creeping herb has an uncanny capacity to extend life and preserve vitality.
Gotu Kola Nutrition
Gotu kola is used in certain regional dishes where it provides a bitter-sweet aspect to stir-fry dishes. As a tea, gotu kola is mild and soothing with a flavor remotely similar to ginger without the sharp spiciness.
Traditional Chinese and Indian (Ayurvedic) Medicine extolled its use for cooling the body, promoting circulation, releasing mucus, and soothing the nervous system. Many of its benefits can be attributed to its highly nutritious set of organic compounds.
Sri Lanka and other Asian countries include gotu kola as a dietary staple due to its high amounts of triterpenoids and carotenoids. Other nutrients found in gotu kola include several B vitamins, tannins, polyphenols, and a potent supply of the antioxidant Vitamin C.
This special combination of healthy constituents works to protect the body and brain at a cellular level keeping cells healthy and resistant to the effects of a disease. It is important to remember the way gotu kola is prepared may affect the nutritional value. While raw veggies are generally the most nutritionally-replete, gotu kola supplements provide a healthy alternative.
Health Benefits of Gotu Kola
Adaptogenic herbs are especially adept at controlling the stress response and reducing the harshness of its effects. These herbs work to restore chemical balance in the body and this can be either soothing or stimulating depending on the immediate needs.1
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In one study, subjects were being startled to measure their response to a major stressor in their environment. Those that were treated with gotu kola exhibited a lessened reaction to the sudden acoustics meant to cause a startle response. This exhibits the capacity of gotu kola to reduce the environmental stress factors.2
Gotu kola has special nutrients and antioxidants to keep skin youthful and vibrant. Free radicals are produced everywhere in the body. This includes the skin where their unique type of damage can ruin the structural integrity of the skin minimizing its bounce and causing wrinkles. Vitamin C is one of the most potent treatments to control this damage and is found abundantly in gotu kola.
Studies have shown that gotu kola applied topically can help to improve the healing process by increasing antioxidant activity in the area.3 Other studies have shown that topical application of this potent herb can stimulate collagen synthesis and cell reproduction. So far, these age-defying treatments have been conducted preclinically, but the implications for human beautification are encouraging.4
Gotu kola has been prescribed since ancient times to improve blood flow and act as a tonic for the circulatory system. Antioxidants are an important part of reducing the stress and strain placed on blood vessels through elevated activity. These free radicals cause oxidative stress to the lining of the heart and can increase the likelihood of heart failure or stroke.
Gotu kola has the nutrients needed to keep the heart and blood vessels functioning properly and keeping the entire body healthy as a result. In clinical studies on patients suffering from a disease in the blood vessels, microangiopathy, a treatment containing gotu kola was found effective in addressing this condition.5
There is both scientific and surprising anecdotal evidence that “the herb of longevity” can extend human life considerably. First of all, the healthy natural compounds in gotu kola have been studied for their unique capacity to accelerate nerve regeneration. Because the brain is subject to all types of attrition from environmental factors and regular wear and tear, a substance that repairs damaged neurons extends cognitive function.6
Secondly, there is the case of the only bicentennial man whose considerable lifespan is accredited in part to consuming this healthy herb as well as adhering to strict moral and physical discipline. Li Ching-Yuen lived an exceptionally long life as a military professional and martial artist. According to reports, he lived to be somewhere between the ages of 197 to 257 years old and reportedly kept good eyesight throughout his life.7
There is nothing better to have throughout a long life than a fully functioning memory. Gotu kola’s efficacy as a mental booster has served human needs for thousands of years and is just as reliable today. Gotu kola affects the way neurons are formed by their promotion of NGF, or nerve growth factors.
The capacity of gotu kola to improve memory was illustrated in a fairly recent study. One group was treated with gotu kola extract and then performed a series of tests. The results showed this group to have higher brain functioning and enhanced learning and memory.8
Cognition and Mood
When the mind is beset by worries, concerns, and despair, creativity, and inspiration are hard to come by. This is no condition for improved mental performance, but sometimes the most effective treatments are also the simplest.
Gotu kola has a profound effect on cognitive function and mood enhancement. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on healthy volunteers over the age of 60, gotu kola increased mood ratings and cognitive performance in a variety of tests.9
Risks and Precautions
The medical community considers gotu kola a “possibly safe” herb. It is used to treat a wide range of conditions, especially those relating to circulation. Still, there are some important considerations to keep in mind:
Pregnant and Breastfeeding Mothers
There is still not enough research on gotu kola to ascertain its safety when administered orally as some of these potent compounds can be passed to the developing child. To stay on the safe side, avoid oral use and apply gotu kola topically in a natural dressing or another topical agent.
There are some concerns about how gotu kola can affect an unhealthy liver. Those with liver conditions are advised to avoid this ingredient altogether.
Gotu kola may cause too much sleepiness and greatly improve the effects of anesthesia used in surgical procedures. Therefore it is not recommended to use this herb for at least 2 weeks prior to surgical procedures or immediately thereafter.10
Gotu kola seeds can be bought online or this tasty and nutritious herb can be grown and enjoyed from your own garden. There are also many teas, tinctures, and capsules containing gotu kola extract. Even though this organic compound is 100% safe for consumption, everyone is different. Contact a qualified medical professional if you have any questions about your conditions.
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