In nature, form follows function. Then, it should come as no surprise that one of the Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine’s most treasured herbal medicines, known as Gotu Kola (Sanskrit: Brahmi, Latin: Centella Asiatica), is actually highly reminiscent of the shape of the human brain. After all, it has been revered for thousands of years for being able to enhance cognitive function.
But, the impressive list of benefits of Gotu Kola goes much further than that. In every sense, this is a herb which is a veritable panacea for healing. It is also a true adaptogen. This term describes herbs which have a balancing and harmonizing effect on the mind, body, and spirit. Because of this, it was highly prized in both ancient India and China, with references to the plant showing up in classical Ayurvedic and Daoist medical texts.
1. Improved brain function and longevity.
In both these countries, and across Asia on the whole, the herb Gotu Kola was known as a longevity herb. The Daoist master and herbalist named Li Ching-Yuen in his time was known as a famous proponent and user of the plant. According to the reports of some ancient Chinese medical texts, this man died at the ripe age of 256 years old. He attributed his longevity in large part to the use of Gotu Kola every day.
Of course, the accuracy of these records is up for debate. However, the fact is actually that Gotu Kola is a well — studied herb. The vast majority of its healing, as well as therapeutic properties, which also include the ability to measurably prolong life, have been documented and validated by the scientific community. It also has life-extending properties. This is due to a synergistic combination of its powerful effects on the mind, as well as on the body and spirit, in every sense, the whole person. The benefits of the plant range from greatly improving memory and restoring brain cell and nerve function to improving the quality of the blood and circulation, restoring digestion, as well as speeding the healing of wounds.
2. Increased intelligence and cognitive functioning.
Of particular interest, as well as important in our fast-paced, the intellectually demanding modern world is the ability of Gotu Kola to enhance nearly every aspect of mental functioning. Typically, those herbs or substances which have the ability to achieve such feats are actually highly stimulating. However, Gotu Kola is centering. This makes it ideal for anyone that is looking for a cognitive boost without any of the unwanted, as well as unbalancing side effects of stimulants. According to the findings of one study, those children that took a half gram of Gotu Kola extract powder every day for one year noticed some significant improvement of their intellectual level. After 6 months, there was also a substantial improvement in the intelligence. In addition, there was an improvement in the cognitive function and concentration as well.
3. Rebuilds the nervous system and reduces anxiety and stress.
In Ayurvedic medicine, Gotu Kola is classified as a Rasayana or rejuvenator. This is because it has the ability to restore functioning, as well as balance and health to a lot of parts of our mind and body. For instance, Gotu Kola is an extremely healing herb for our nervous system. It also has the ability to repair and restore axons. Axons are actually used for transmitting nerve impulses throughout our brain and body. As such, it has also been used as an anti-anxiety and anti-stress medicine. Moreover, it was used as an anti-insomnia medicine throughout its long history of usage by humans.
One of the main components of the rejuvenating effects of Gotu Kola is its ability to improve the quality of the blood and circulation. Our blood nourishes nearly every single area of our mind and body, supplying oxygen and some other essential nutrients.
4. Psycho-spiritual effects: The herb of enlightenment.
Gotu Kola has been a favorite herb of Daoists, monks, yogis, and sages, for a long period of time. That is because of its unique cerebral effects. A lot of Ayurvedic texts reference the spiritually enhancing properties of the herb, poetically referring to it as the “Herb of Enlightenment”. Particularly mediators have sought the plant out of being able to harmonize the right and left brain hemispheres. This also produces a heightened state of awareness that is commonly seen in people. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has popularized this as flow states—states where one becomes intensely absorbed with the activity at hand, in which learning, as well as brain circuitry, are significantly enhanced.
Central Asia, as well as some parts of Africa, are the places where this herb actually grows.
Gotu Kola is native to China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and various islands in the South Pacific. It is actually a small green plant which is similar on a genetic level to carrots that thrive in wet areas. It is used in much the same way as one might use cilantro or parsley in the West. A lot of health conscious locals add Gotu Kola leaves to salads as a general life-enhancing tonic and preventative. People in Sri Lanka have noticed that elephants were eating leaves of this plant on regular basis. After trying it themselves, they have discovered the quite noticeable and profound effects that it had on memory and lifespan. It also gives credence to the fact that the elephant has been mythologically associated with these qualities throughout human history.
Choosing a quality supplement.
Because of the long history of safe use of Gotu Kola, as well as the massive amount of research supporting its sizeable list of health benefits, the herb is grown widely. Furthermore, it is readily available in most locations worldwide. However, as with any other herbal supplement, quality, freshness, and potency are of utmost importance. With much of the supply in the world originating in Asia, it is also important to look for the standard markets of herb quality. For example, the organic or wildcrafted label, as well as to only purchase products from reputable suppliers.
If you purchase some tablets or capsules, make sure to look for brands with minimal additives and fillers. However, this is less of concern when you purchase powdered herb. Gotu Kola has a very mild to slightly bitter taste. This means that it can be consumed as a tea or simply in a glass of water enjoyable. Ayurvedic had one traditional method of preparation of Gotu Kola. It is by mixing Gotu Kola powder with a teaspoon or so of ghee (clarified, medicinal butter). Ghee actually has a penetrating effect and it also helps the herb to move deeper into bodily tissues. It also has the ability to enhance the digestive healing properties of the herb. And for those people who are sensitive to taste, may make it more palatable.
It is highly recommended to start off slowly and work up to higher dosages, as with every new product. In that way, you will become familiar with the effects on your mind and body. The supplements of Gotu Kola are safe for long-term use. However, there are a lot of Ayurvedic practitioners who actually recommend taking a few days to a week break in between periods of extended use, ranging from two to four weeks at a time.
Even though it is not quite as widely known in the West as more popular herbs like Echinacea and Ginseng are, Gotu Kola is actually one of the true medicinal treasures on this planet, and it is well worth investigating for anyone looking to fine-tune their health.