Gotu Kola, also known as Centella asiatica, is a medicinal herb that has been widely used in traditional practices and is growing in popularity among Western medical practices.
Modern medicine has begun to explore the potential uses of the Gotu Kola plant, and there is even research suggesting the potential for Gotu Kola to help stimulate hair regrowth, although the data is still very limited.
What is Gotu Kola?
Gotu Kola is a perennial plant native to many parts of the world and is able to grow in a variety of climates and conditions. All parts of this plant have been used for various reasons, including as a medicine.
There are a variety of treatments that utilize Gotu Kola in some fashion, depending on the specific intention of the treatment Gotu Kola can be applied topically or ingested in a variety of preparations.
Gotu Kola is has chemicals known as triterpenoids, which have been shown to be effective against several types of human diseases.
There are numerous groups of triterpenoids belonging to the lupine, oleanine, ursane, and cucurbitacin groups (See Fig. 1); and their beneficial aspects have been studied in laboratory, as well as clinical research.
Healing Properties of Gotu Kola
- Chronic skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis, acne)
- Venereal diseases
- Anxiety and other nervous disorders
- Inflammatory conditions
- Respiratory congestion
- Traumatic Injuries (facilitates wound healing)
- Edema or water retention
- Immune dysfunction
How Gotu Kola Can Impact Hair Loss
There are various properties of the Gotu Kola plant that serve to address underlying issues causing thin and receding hair. The benefits of numerous all-natural herbal preparations made with Gotu Kola range from stress reduction to actual stimulation hair growth.
There is limited research on Gotu Kola, but much of what is available suggests the potential of this plant and calls for further research of its properties and uses.
In a study published by the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Gotu Kola is postulated as having positive effects on issues of venous insufficiency.
The potential for Gotu Kola to maintain connective tissue and strengthen weakened veins may have a positive impact on the health of the hair follicle.
The health of the venous system and capillaries that supply the hair follicles with oxygenated blood. With adequate oxygen, hair growth is unable to sustain normal and healthy growth.
Gohil et. Al also review research on the antidepressant capacity of Gotu Kola, referring to two separate experiments with rodents. The actions and activities of rodents under stress were studied, as compared to those given a preparation of Gotu Kola triterpenes.
Another study measured the levels of neurochemicals present in rodents, with and without the Gotu Kola triterpenes.
Both of these studies referenced showed differences between the control group and the experimental group, suggesting the potential effectiveness of Gotu Kola as an antidepressant.
The mechanism of action may also prove useful as a treatment for anxiety, as well as depression.
The Mayo Clinic provides evidence to suggest that alopecia can be related to emotional stress, anxiety, and depression. The research also suggests that lost hair related to these issues may not be permanent, and once the underlying issue has been resolved the hair density and hair growth may return.
In 2011, Jain et. Al published the article Development and Evaluation of Polyherbal Ointment for Hair Growth Activity which covered their research on the potential for an ointment containing Gotu Kola to promote hair growth.
The hair length and hair density was studied on rodents, in a comparison of eight different types of ointment preparations. One of the preparations studied was an extract of Gotu Kola, which was applied to one of the test groups.
The most promising results of this study were from the polyherbal extract, however of the singular herbal extract the Gotu Kola showed the greatest increase in hair density and hair length.
Potential Benefits of Gotu Kola for Hair Regrowth
- Includes compounds that help heal wounds and strengthen skin
- Improves blood flow to area of application, helping reduce swelling
- Antidepressant abilities of Gotu Kola may reduce levels and stress, and help with related hair issues
- Gotu Kola extract may improve hair density and hair length when applied topically
Side Effects of Gotu Kola
While the herbal plant, Gotu Kola, has been used for centuries there is limited research from Western institutions on its effectiveness and the potential for harmful side effects.
What limited evidence there is on Gotu Kola suggests there are numerous side effects to the various uses of Gotu Kola.
Consult a medical professional prior to using Gotu Kola in any fashion, particularly in you are a person where any of the following applies;
- you are a woman who is, or may become, pregnant
- individuals with gastrointestinal issues, such as IBS or Chron’s Disease
- people who have a history of liver disease or Hepatitis
Symptoms of Gotu Kola Side Effects
- Drowsiness: Gotu Kola may cause you to experience tiredness and sleepiness, making it an effective treatment for insomnia and difficulty sleeping. This side effect generally occurs initially, but will begin to disappear as a tolerance is developed
- Photo-Sensitivity: Gotu Kola can cause a sensitivity to sunlight, making the sun seem brighter to your eyes and making your skin more susceptible to sun damage.
- Indigestion/Stomach Pain: ingestion of Gotu Kola can cause gastrointestinal irritation in some individuals
- Jaundice/Liver Damage: there is concern that Gotu Kola may cause damage to the liver, persons with liver disease or other liver problems should avoid ingesting Gotu Kola.
- Contact Dermatitis: minor allergic reaction has been shown in various clinical trials for topical applications
- Induced Menstruation: ingestion of Gotu Kola has been shown to have an effective on the menstruation cycle of some women
Growing Gotu Kola at Home
Gotu Kola is a resilient plant that will grow just about anywhere, and can thrive under a wide range of environmental conditions. It is possible to grow a robust plant from seed or purchase it already potted and re-soil (See Fig. 2).
For the best results Gotu Kola should be grown in indirect sunlight, at the base of a tree or at the edge of yard lines. If you plan to ingest the plant in any manner, then be sure you are growing it in soil that is free from any contaminants and that you clean it thoroughly prior to use.
Depending on how you plan to utilize the Gotu Kola, you may want to dry the leaves and roots after harvesting.
How to Use Gotu Kola at Home
-Made as a Tea: Take one teaspoon of dried Gotu Kola and steep in boiling hot water for the desired length of time (approximately 5 minutes).
Once the tea has been sufficiently steeped, you can add a sweetener such as honey or agave nectar if desired. Sipping on tea made with Gotu Kola can help promote restful sleep
-Made into Skin Balm: Add ¼ cup of the dried Gotu Kola leaves along with ¼ cup chamomile into approximately ½ cup boiling water. Allow mixture to continue boiling for eight to twelve minutes, then strain out the mash leaving behind just the infused water. Using cornstarch, create a paste with the infused water.
Apply the paste to your skin on areas that are swollen or irritated, wiping away once the paste has dried.
-As an Oil: Boil 2 cups of water and add ½ cup dried Gotu Kola leaves, allowing the mixture to continue boiling down until half of the water has evaporated.
Strain out the leaves and add one cup of an all natural oil, such as almond or sesame oil (which can help hair by itself). Allow the mixture to simmer on low heat until the majority of the remaining water has boiled off. The herbal oil can be used on itchy or irritated skin, and even makes for a useful massage oil.
Recipes Using Gotu Kola
Gotu Kola Sambal
- 1 bunch Gotu Kola (fresh, rinsed)
- 6 small shallot
- 1 medium green chili
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup coconut (freshly scraped)
- 1 medium tomato
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp. Maldive fish (optional)
- ½ tbsp. lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
Steps: Slice the Gotu Kola bunch, shallots, and green chili into thin slices and place in a large mixing bowl.
Chop the tomato and set it aside. Add the Maldive fish, ground black pepper, salt and mix.
Add the tomato and scraped coconut, then stir the mixture gently while drizzling in the lemon juice. Serve as a fresh side salad.
Gotu Kola Basil Pesto
- ½ cup Gotu Kola leaves (fresh, rinsed)
- ½ cup basil leaves
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 2-3 lemons, juiced
- salt, to taste
Steps: Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender, setting aside small amounts of the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Blend until fully combined, scraping the edges of the blender and add olive oil if necessary to fully combine.
Once mixed, taste the pesto, then add additional ingredients that have been set aside to your taste.
(Read more about garlic for hair here.)
Blend for a final time. The Gotu Kola Basil Pesto can be served as a spread, dip, sauce, or condiment. The pesto keeps for approximately two weeks in the fridge and freezes well.
The use of fresh ingredients, particularly those that have numerous associated benefits, can help improve overall physical health and wellness. Loss of hair can be associated with poor health, as well as negative emotional states. Ensuring a healthy diet, full of beneficial ingredients such as Gotu Kola may help prevent future thinning.
As a naturally growing herb, Gotu Kola offers a variety of potential benefits and there is continuing research into the efficacy of Gotu Kola as a treatment for numerous medical conditions.
Utilizing this plant topically may help improve skin health and even improve hair health, while preparing Gotu Kola for ingestion can address various underlying causes of hair including blood flow and stress levels.
While the evidence is limited, and the potential side effects are largely unknown, be sure to consult with a medical professional when considering the use of Gotu Kola.
The first step to treating hair loss is getting a professional medical diagnosis. There are many different types of alopecia, the most common