Scientific Name: Centella asiatica
Also Known as: Pennywort, Centella, Hydrocotyle, Mandukaparni. Sometimes confused with Brahmi and Kola, which are different plants.
Native to: China, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, and parts of Africa
Some Traditional Uses: In India and Indonesia, used for lupus, leprosy, and wounds; in India and other parts of Asia, used for longevity and memory. Also used for fatigue, mental acuity, venous insufficiency, skin conditions such as scabies, psoriasis, and fungal infections, wounds, and much more. Also used in China.
Current Medicinal Uses and Purposes: Boosts immune system; protects against stress; improved learning and memory; good for wounds, some chronic ulcers and lesions, and skin conditions, including psoriasis
Side Effects and Contraindications: People with diabetes or high cholesterol should be careful using gotu kola and avoid high doses. Dermatitis possible from contact with fresh or dried plant. Not recommended for pregnant or lactating women.
Areas of Further Research: Gotu kola may be helpful in the treatment of varicose veins, cancer, and chronic liver disorders. Antifertility and blood-pressure-lowering effects observed in mice.
Listen to the Plant Detective radio show about Gotu Kola!
Gotu kola is totally unrelated to cola nut. The cola plant is a source of caffeine and cola drinks. Gotu kola, on the other hand, contains no caffeine.
Gotu kola is an ingredient in Chinese Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda, among other systems of medicine.
Gotu Kola is considered an adaptogen, a substance that helps the human body deal with all kinds of stress. Learn more about adaptogens...
Photos by Forest & Kim Starr (USGS)
In addition to their use in medicine, gotu kola leaves are rich in protein, carotene, and vitamin C. In Thailand and other places, people eat them as a leafy vegetable.
Here are two Gotu Kola recipes. Yum! The drink is great on a hot day.
Fresh Pennywort Drink
Wash the leaves well, pinch off stems and, for each handful of leaves, add 2 1/2 cups cold water and 1/2 cup simple syrup made with equal parts of sugar and water. (Boil to dissolve sugar, allow to cool, and store in a bottle.) Add 3 or 4 ice cubes and blend at high speed. Blend the drink just before serving, or it will lose its bright color.
Pennywort (Gotu Kola) Salad
Shredding these small leaves is much easier if the entire amount is rolled tightly within a larger leaf such as lettuce. Then it is a simple matter of slicing thinly through the bundle. This is how Asian cooks do it, without the aid of food processors.
2 bunches gotu kola–about 2 cups of leaves without stems 3 shallots or 1 small onion, finely chopped A good squeeze of lime or lemon juice 1 sliced chilli (optional) 1 cup fresh grated coconut Salt to taste 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Wash well and strip leaves from stems. Shred finely with a sharp knife, combine with other ingredients and serve immediately. The flavor is slightly sour, slightly bitter. Some people prefer this salad to be lightly cooked, if so bring a tablespoon of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the boil in a wok or pan, add all ingredients and toss over heat briefly, stopping before leaves lose their green color.
Gotu Kola References for The Plant Detective Radio Show
Anonymous. “Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola).” American Journal of Natural Medicine July/Aug 1996; 3 (6): 22-25 (via HerbClip, “Gotu Kola Monograph,” Feb 5, 1997. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council).
Emboden, William A. “The Ethnopharmacology of Centella Asiatica (L.) Urban (Apiaceae).” J Ethnobiol Winter 1985; 5 (2): 101-7.
Lawrence Review of Natural Products. “Gotu Kola.” St Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons, Aug 1996.
Leung, A., and Steven Foster. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. New York: Wiley, 1996.
McCaleb, Rob. “Research Reviews: Mental Function and Gotu Kola.” HerbalGram 1993 (28): 32.
Mowery, D. “Gotu Kola.” Let’s Live April 1995.
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