Gotu Kola or Mandukaparni meaning Frog leaved has been revered as an imperative memory boosting, intelligence enhancing, anti-aging and a rejuvenating herb in Ayurveda. Ayurveda has placed it in the higher echelon of ‘divine great drugs’. Growing up in peaceful and magnificent coastal state of Goa- India; I remember Gotu kola as a common garden weed growing all over our coconut orchards. We called it ‘gunduri’ or ‘panputi’ in my native language Konkani. My grandmother used to often ask me to collect the fresh creepers of Gotu kola, to make savory ‘chutney’ served with rice or dosa (lentil and rice pancakes). Sometimes she would shade dry whole Gotu kola creepers and cook them with homemade coconut oil to make soothing hair oil. I now realize why she had razor sharp memory and little grey hair even at the age of 85!
Ayurveda has described Gotu kola as divine herb that strengthens memory, concentration and intelligence, promotes longevity, boosts complexion, improves voice and physical strength. It has been used for thousands of years by Ayurveda practitioners for preventive as well as curative therapy of anxiety and depression. Gotu Kola is also considered as a primary herb in Traditional Chinese medicine for promoting longevity.
My early encounters with Gotu kola inspired me to conduct detailed research on this herb during my post graduate studies in Ayurveda. The improvement in memory, concentration and attention span in children suffering from AD/HD after supplementing with Gotu Kola was promising. Several scientific research studies have also found it to be effective in preventing diseases of nervous system like Alzheimer’s and dementia.1 Rich in B complex vitamins like B1, B2 and B6; Gotu kola is an ideal tonic for brain and nervous system.
Having stress as a master, every one of us needs extra help to keep our marbles safe! Gotu kola’s potential as a brain- building herb can be put to use as a powerful stress reliever. Taking Gotu kola supplements, using Gotu kola oil for head and foot massage, including Gotu kola infused ghee/clarified butter in diet are some effective ways of tapping the benefits of this Ayurvedic herb.
Gotu kola is an excellent supplement for people with Kapha and Pitta body type. Kapha people are more vulnerable to depression, dullness, apathy, pessimistic thoughts etc. which tend to peak during the months of winter. Regular supplements of Gotu Kola; single or along with Kapha alleviating and energizing herbs like Ashwagandha, Vacha, Shankhapushpi, Jyotishmati etc (depending on the status of doshas and specific symptoms) help to keep the winter blues away. Also, owing to its unique immunity boosting abilities, Gotu Kola helps in improving body’s resistance to common infections during winters. Honey is a good adjuvant for Gotu Kola in Kapha body type.
Like Kapha; Vata people are also susceptible to depression, anxiety, fearfulness, restlessness etc. during winters. Due to its bitter taste and cold potency, Gotu Kola increases Vata. Hence using single Gotu Kola herb may not be suited for people with a dominant Vata body type. However, the classical Ayurvedic preparations have been skillfully designed by combining Gotu Kola with Vata pacifying Oils and ghee. Using Gotu Kola infused oils for head, feet and ear massages, full body massage, shirodhara etc. ensures Vata balance both at the level of body and mind. Ghee itself being ‘medhya’ helps in synergizing the qualities of Gotu Kola, and makes it suitable for Vata people.
Although they love cool of the winters; people with Pitta body type usually dread summers. Soaring mercury makes them more irritable, frustrated, angry and tired. The cooling nature of Gotu Kola sets it apart from most ‘medhya’ (intellect promoting, neuro-nutritive) herbs that are hot in potency. Hence, it is the choicest herb for pitta people, which gives perfect pitta balancing and much needed mind-soothing effect during summers. Gotu Kola should be paired with Pitta balancing adjuvants like ghee (clarified butter) for better results.
Like most Rasayana herbs, Gotu Kola supplements should be taken early in the morning on empty stomach with a suitable adjuvant. If you are feeling run-down by stress, oppressed by winters or anxious to face heat of the summers, Gotu Kola is the herb for you!
- Gunter Peter Eckert, Traditional used Plants against Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer Disease,Front Pharmacol. 2010; 1: 138