Ayurveda reaches back to the period of the Indus Valley civilization, about 3000 B.C.E., and has been passed down as a healing system through generations in the tradition of other teachings, such as among the Vedas of ancient India. Still, modern-day scientific research has yet to catch up with what has been known to sages and vaidyas, whose focus has been on the healing benefits of nature’s multitudinous remedies.
Among the thousands of plant species native to the vast territory of India, gotu kola stands out as being significantly useful in a wide array of applications, especially regarding brain and nerve activity. Its benefits are legendary, and researchers are continuing to elucidate how and why gotu kola is so special.
The Plant of Lord Brahma
Gotu kola is widely known by its Sanskrit name, Brahmi, which is a derivative of Lord Brahma (or Brahman). Lord Brahma is the deity responsible for the world’s creative forces, and the Hindu name “Brahman” refers to universal consciousness. California College of Ayurveda explains that Brahmi means the energy, or Shakti, of Brahma.
Gotu kola commonly grows in marshy areas throughout India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and across East Asia. It features small and light purple or white flowers, and it grows well in wetlands; shallow brackish and fresh waters; and damp, muddy shorelines.
The Healing Effects of Gotu Kola
California College of Ayurveda explains that, in India, Brahmi is treasured as a revitalizing herb that “Has been mentioned in several Ayurvedic treatises including Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita in the 3rd century AD 11. In addition to being a well-known nootropic (a substance that supports cognitive function), it has also been used as an antispasmodic, astringent, cardiotonic, diuretic, anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic and antiepileptic agent.”
Gotu kola is a powerful adaptogen (which means it assists the body’s adaptation to stress and exerts a normalizing effect on bodily processes) used for the nervous system and to promote sound sleep. It is also used to enhance the mood, memory, and mental clarity. It supports circulation to the brain while nourishing the nervous system. Gotu kola supports overall vitality and boosts energy.
Webmd.com reports that gotu kola contains certain chemicals that seem to decrease blood pressure in veins and lower inflammation. Gotu kola also appears to increase collagen, which is the main structural protein in the body’s various connective tissues. This makes the herb very useful for wound healing. While science has not yet caught up with ancient medical practices out of India, traditional healers have used the plant for burns, poor circulation that can lead to varicose veins (venous insufficiency), scars, stretch marks, and many other conditions.
An Ayurvedic Fountain for Life
Ayurvedic doctors Abhishek Joshi and Aparna explain that gotu kola is not only used as a healing herb in Ayurveda, but also as leafy, green food in countries like India, Thailand, Indonesia, Srilanka, and Bangladesh. In India, a popular chutney recipe is made with the leaves.
Gotu kola is often mentioned as an herb for longevity, or the “fountain for life,” because legends say ancient learned people in India and China consumed it to live more than a hundred years. Gotu kola is bitter in taste, light, cold, and sweet with a post-digestive effect.
Gotu kola is mentioned as an herb for longevity because legends say ancient learned people in India and China consumed it to live more than a hundred years.
Gotu kola is used in Ayurvedic healing to balance all three doshas — Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. It is said to be relaxing for pitta, calming of vata in the mind, and beneficial in reducing excess kapha in the body.
Dr. Abhishek Joshi and Dr. Aparna note that, “The leaves of gotu kola resemble the hemispheres of the brain and is used in boosting brain functions. It has been mentioned as one of the best Medhya Rasayana (brain nootropics), which can enhance cognition, memory, intelligence, creativity, learning skills and executive functions.
In a research study conducted in 2016, post-stroke patients were treated with gotu kola and folic acid for 6 weeks. Gotu kola was found as effective as folic acid in improving post stroke vascular cognitive impairment.”
The Science Behind Gotu Kola’s Efficacy
In 2018, researchers Akhlaq and Tahira Farooqui and their colleagues published their findings on gotu kola and other popular Ayurvedic plants in the scientific journal Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine. They concluded that ashwagandha, turmeric, bhrami, shankhpushpi, gotu kola, and guggulu not only reduce brain aging and induce antistress and memory-enhancing effects (which help in regeneration of neural tissues), but also induce antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, nutritional, and immune-supportive effects in the human body.
In their research on Ayurvedic healing plants, Akhlaq and Tahira Farooqui reported that “scientific validation and documentation of Ayurvedic medicines are essential for their quality evaluation and global acceptance.”
The Farooquis wrote, “Ayurvedic medicine mentions and explains the use of several herbs and their qualities for the treatment of nervous system disorders, including memory loss typically seen in older adults, but only recently have mechanistic studies been carried out, to determine the effects of these herbs on CNS (Central Nervous System) disorders such as AD (Alzheimer’s Disease).
“In recent years, there is renewed interest in the use of phytochemicals for the treatment of dementia, since pharmacological treatment of dementia using drugs…is often inadequate and has many side effects.” Among the popular Ayurvedic medicinal plants and formulations mentioned in their study are ashwagandha, turmeric, and gotu kola, because they have been studied to slow down brain aging and enhance memory.
Another Gem of Ayurveda
Ayurvedic medicine is a personalized system of traditional medicine native to India. It’s loyal to the holistic view of treatment, as it promotes and supports balance across all expressions of consciousness, including the human life that comprises the body, mind, and soul. Gotu kola is one of the many intriguing and health-enriching herbs in the Ayurvedic medicine cabinet, whose value extends beyond one-dimensional, modern medicals treatment for issues relating to the mind, brain, and nervous system.