Gotu Kola, also known as Indian Pennywort or Centella asiatica, is a nutritious, small herbaceous creeper indigenous to hot, humid climates in tropical and subtropical parts of India, Australia, Southern Africa, and South America. It grows all over Zimbabwe and is a low-lying herb with umbrella-like leaves, preferring shady, marshy, damp and wet places. It is used as a medicinal herb in traditional African and Chinese medicine, and in Ayurvedic medicine. Gotu Kola (unrelated to the cola nut) is part of the parsley family with stems that are slender and green to reddish green with leaves that are kidney-shaped and smooth, and flowers that are pink or reddish purple in colour. Although usually collected from the wild, Gotu Kola can be cultivated from seed in spring and the crop matures in three months. The whole plant, including the roots, is harvested manually.

What is it used for?

Gotu Kola is highly therapeutic and extremely nutritious. This wonder herb is higher in the B-complex vitamin group than any other plant. In Sri Lankan cuisine, it is most often prepared as malluma, a traditional accompaniment to rice and curry, and goes especially well with vegetarian dishes such as dhal, and jackfruit or pumpkin curry. The Sinhalese people also make a nutritious porridge called Kola Kenda with very well boiled red rice, coconut milk and Gotu Kola which is liquidized. In Indonesian and in Malay cuisine, Gotu Kola leaves are used for a type of salad, while in VietnamThailand and India, they are used for preparing a tasty drink.

Gotu Kola has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years in many parts of Africa and Asia. Its ability to heal wounds, improve mental clarity, and treat skin conditions such as leprosy and psoriasis gave it the reputation of being one of the “miracle elixirs of life”. In Zimbabwe, Gotu Kola is considered to be a powerful aphrodisiac, while the Hosa and the Mfengu tribes in East Africa have used it both as a nourishing food and a valuable medicine for many years. In traditional African medicine it has been used extensively for the treatment of leprosy, bronchitis, asthma, syphilis and wound healing.

Legend has it that an ancient Chinese herbalist lived for more than 200 years due in part to his use of Gotu Kola and other Chinese herbs. Gotu Kola was given the nickname “tiger’s herb” because injured tigers often rub against it to heal their wounds. It re-vitalizes the nerves and brain cells, increases attention span and concentration, and combats aging. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is known as a “brain food”. It has been used in India for 3,000 years for boosting memory, wound healing, as a mild diuretic, for increasing concentration, alertness, as well as anti-anxiety and anti-stress, and to relieve hypertension. Today, American and European herbalists use Gotu Kola for disorders that cause connective tissue swelling. It is now used in the commercial production of face creams and anti-wrinkle creams.