The Effects of Centella Asiatica

Centalla asiatica, more commonly known as gotu kola, is a small herbaceous plant that grows along ditches and in wet areas throughout India and Asia. It’s been used in folk medicine for thousands of years to heal wounds, treat skin conditions and promote long life. New studies are proving that many of these traditional uses have merit, and Centalla asiatica may hold promise for treating everything from depression to venous insufficiency, with relatively few side effects.

Antidepressant and Anti-anxiety

Compounds found in gotu kola known as triterpenoids may decrease anxiety, according to the University of Maryland Health Center. One study demonstrated that human subjects given gotu kola were less startled by noises, which can be an indicator of anxiety. Drugs.com also reports that several studies performed on rats have indicated that gotu kola also has antidepressant effects that may be related to regulation of alpha-2-adrenergic receptors.

Anti-inflammatory

A study published in the December 2004 issue of the Indian Journal of Pharmacology reported that Centella asiatica extracts showed significant anti-inflammatory effects in laboratory animals, statistically similar to aspirin and more effective than the non-steroidal drug mefenamic acid. The researchers concluded that these findings justified the traditional use of this plant in the treatment of inflammatory conditions or rheumatism.

Blood Vessels

Venous insufficiency occurs when blood vessels lose their elasticity and fluid leaks out. A human trial found that gotu kola provided a marked improvement in these symptoms and helped to reduce swelling and improve circulation, while another study showed improvement in vascular tone in varicose vein patients.

Cognition

Several studies have tested Centalla asiatica’s effects on learning and memory. One published in Neuroanatomy in 2005 showed that rats treated with the supplement improved their learning ability and memory retention, while two others, reported on Drugs.com, found positive benefits in treating the cognitive decline and amyloid beta plaque formation associated with Alzhiemer’s disease. Centalla has even been shown to improve the age-related decline in cognitive function in healthy middle age and elderly adults.

Psoriasis and Skin Disorders

Psoriasis is a chronic and difficult-to-treat skin condition which causes thick silvery scales and itchy, dry, red patches. One human trial treated psoriasis patients with extracts of Centella asicatica leaves daily, and within three to seven weeks the patients showed a complete clearance of lesions. A double-blinded clinical study found that an herbal gel extract containing Centella increased skin firmness and elasticity, while other research indicates products containing such extracts may benefit chronically sun-damaged skin.

Ulcers

A study in China published in 2004 in Life Sciences demonstrated that Centella asiatica extracts reduced the size of gastric ulcers within three to seven days in laboratory animals.

Wound Healing

A 2006 study from the “International Journal of Lower Extremity wounds” indicated that gotu kola leaf extracts had significant wound-healing properties. Researchers at Thailand’s Mahidol University Faculty of Dentistry showed that local delivery with a combination of C. asiatica and P. granatum extracts, plus scaling and root planing, significantly reduced signs of chronic periodontitis.

Side Effects

Gotu Kola may increase blood sugar and cholesterol in some patients, according to the Physicians’ Desk Reference. Skin may also become sensitive and burn more easily. There have also been three cases reported where women taking Centella asiatica for 30, 20 and 60 days developed jaundice, so if you have liver disease or are on medications that can harm the liver, you should avoid taking this supplement.

About this Author

Bonnie Vanaman is a freelance writer who has written on a wide variety of subjects for various newspapers and national magazines. Vanaman worked for Discovery Channel Online, including the Health and Travel Channels, for more than a decade. She holds a degree in musicology from Florida State University and is a member of American Independent Writers.