Gotu kola* (Centella asiatica) is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda’s botanical medicine chest. Described in the original Ayurvedic textbooks several thousand years ago, gotu kola is probably best known for its ability to improve memory and cognitive functioning. However, this chemically complex herb also has many other healing properties and is commonly prescribed to treat:
- Chronic skin conditions (such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne)
- Venereal diseases
- Anxiety and other nervous disorders
- Inflammatory conditions (arthritis, scleroderma and others)
- Respiratory congestion
- Traumatic injuries (facilitates wound healing)
- Edema or water retention
- Immune dysfunction
Gotu kola contains the bitter, pungent, and sweet tastes and has a cooling effect on the body. It helps balance all three doshas but is especially effective in treating Pitta-aggravated nervous systems.
*People sometimes confuse gotu kola with kola nut (Cola nitida), but the two are not related. Unlike kola nut, gotu kola has no caffeine and is not a stimulant.
How to Use Gotu Kola
As a tea: Steep one teaspoon of dried gotu kola leaves in a cup of boiling water and sweeten with honey as desired. Sipping a cup of gotu kola tea before bed will help induce a deep, restful sleep. It’s also useful in relieving headaches and indigestion.
As a balm for irritated skin: Combine ¼ cup dried gotu kola leaves with ¼ cup dried chamomile leaves and steep in ½ cup of boiling water for ten minutes. Strain and blend the remaining mixture with cornstarch to make a thick paste. Apply to skin and once it has dried, rinse with room-temperature water.
As an oil for itchy or irritated skin: Boil ½ cup dried gotu kola leaves in two cups of water until the volume is reduced by half. Remove the leaves and add one cup of almond or sesame oil, then let the mixture simmer until all the water evaporates and you are left with the herbalized oil. This is also a wonderful oil to use for your daily self-abhy massage.