“Gotu kola an herb in the carrot family and it’s related to parsley, cilantro, and fennel,” says Bill Rawls, MD, co-founder and medical director of Vital Plan. “Its leaves are small, round, and edible. It likes to grow in wet areas and requires a long, hot growing season.” This is why you’re most likely going to find gotu kola growing in Australia, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, India, South Africa and South America—though Dr. Rawls notes that it has been found growing along the coast of South Carolina in wet areas.
The key gotu kola benefits
“Gotu kola has been used for infections, digestive upset, wound healing, and other conditions for centuries, but in recent years, gotu kola has been called the ‘herb of longevity’ because research has linked it to improved cognitive function, specifically when it comes to learning and memory,” says functional medicine doctor Mahmud Kara, MD, founder of KaraMD. “Furthermore, some studies suggest that gotu kola can help protect nerve and brain cells from developing plaque, which is often associated with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive related diseases.”
Another important way that gotu kola benefits your health, according to Dr. Kara, is that it can help reduce stress. “The influx of hormones and the changes that your body undergoes during prolonged periods of stress can have a significant impact on your health over time. Chronic health issues and disease are the largest factors when it comes to shortening your lifespan or longevity—and chronic stress, if left unchecked, can increase your risk of developing chronic health issues. Therefore, any method to reduce stress, such as gotu kola, is important when it comes to targeting your health in the short and long term,” Dr. Kara says.
“Gotu kola has been used for infections, digestive upset, wound healing, and other conditions for centuries, but in recent years, gotu kola has been called the ‘herb of longevity’ because research has linked it to improved cognitive function."
—Mahmud Kara, MD, functional medicine doctor
What does gotu kola taste like?
While some say it’s bitter, many others say gotu kola doesn’t have much of a taste or smell at all. That said, according to the experts we spoke with, you may need to take a therapeutic dose of the herb taken as a standardized extract—read: in a capsule—in order to get the medicinal effects. "It would be difficult to achieve that level from food," says Dr. Kara.
“If you’re looking for therapeutic effects, especially brain-boosting health benefits, gotu kola also needs to be taken daily over a long period of time,” says Dr. Rawls. He underscores the importance of shopping for standardized extracts that have been tested for heavy metals and other pollutants, too—and speaking with a healthcare professional before trying any new supplements.
“If you’re looking for therapeutic effects, especially brain-boosting health benefits, gotu kola also needs to be taken daily over a long period of time."
—Bill Rawls, MD
That being said, Dr. Rawls goes on to note that gotu kola is a relatively safe herb that can be taken for long periods of time with minimal risk. “Again, I’d start by speaking with your physician. From there, follow the package instructions of the product you purchased. For capsules, 250 mg to 500 mg two or three times a day is a standard dose. If it’s a tincture, try about 40 to 60 drops three times a day. Also, keep in mind that gotu kola isn’t typically taken as a stand-alone supplement—it’s typically combined with other herbs, such as turmeric, reishi, and rhodiola to provide synergistic benefits to the entire body,” Dr. Rawls says.
If you’re not ready for a supplement, there are other ways to incorporate gotu kola into your diet. Though the most effective way to incorporate the herb into your routine is through dietary supplements, it can also be added to dishes like salads, soups, or sautes. In fact, when eaten, the herb is known to have a number of worthy nutritional properties including essential minerals, carotenoids, and vitamin C.
“Take a handful of gotu kola leaves and a handful of kale, add olive oil and garlic, and saute them together before sprinkling with sea salt and black pepper to taste,” says Dr. Rawls.
If you don’t have access to fresh leaves, you could consider adding powder to a smoothie. Dr. Rawls recommends the recipe below:
Creamy Strawberry and Raw Cacao Smoothie Recipe
1 cup of nut milk (your preference)
1 Tbsp of nut butter (your preference)
1 cup of strawberries
1/2 of a banana
2 Tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tsp of gotu kola powder
1. Blend in a high-powered blender and enjoy.
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