What if there was a single plant that could help you concentrate at work, reduce post-workout joint pain, minimize varicose veins, and give you glowing, calm skin?
Turns out that this powerful little herb isn’t just the stuff of a healthy gal’s dreams—it actually exists, and you’re about to start hearing its name, gotu kola, a lot more often. Practitioners of Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine have revered the plant—also known as centella asiatica, Indian pennywort, or tiger grass—for thousands of years, but it’s only now beginning to infiltrate the Western wellness world. Specifically, it’s cropping up in supplements and skin-care products—from high-end potions by Alexandra Wagner and Annmarie Gianni to mass brands like Acure.
The list of gotu kola’s healing properties is impressively long. For one thing, it’s got some pretty profound mental health benefits when consumed orally. “Studies show that gotu kola promotes cerebral circulation, which helps with focus, concentration, and memory,” says Ro Giuliano, an herbalist and acupuncturist at Brooklyn’s Maha Rose Center for Healing. “It also has a sedating quality, so it’s really helpful in calming the mind.” (Giuliano has used it to help patients come off of ADHD drugs, for example.)
Its most well-known superpower pertains to the skin: It modulates the production of collagen.
Gotu kola is also anti-inflammatory, and Giuliano says it’s particularly good for promoting healthy veins and capillaries. “It has a specific affinity for vasculature, so it can be really helpful for folks who have varicose veins—it’ll bring the inflammation down, which reduces the appearance of them,” she explains. (She advises against using it if you’re pregnant or nursing, however.)
But perhaps its most well-known superpower pertains to the skin: It modulates the production of collagen. And unlike those buzzy collagen supplements that come from animals and fish, it’s suitable for vegans.
“What I really love about gotu kola is that it protects our existing collagen and helps create the building blocks for new collagen,” says Laurel Shaffer, herbalist/botanist and founder of the skin-care line Laurel Whole Plant Organics. “If you’re having joint problems, it can be great when taken internally, but it’s also wonderful for supporting the collagen in our skin [when applied topically].” She adds that it’s also got antimicrobial properties, which means it’s appropriate for acne-prone skin. Shaffer uses it in her brand’s Antioxidant Serum and Normal/Mature Elixir.