Ancient wisdom has stayed with us through the ages for a reason: it works. In all the millennia since humans began trying to make sense of the world, deciding what green growing things are good or not good to eat, and figuring out how to arrange fifty pairs of shoes in one stupid small closet (well, maybe that’s a little more recent development), there have been a lot of hits and misses. If something turned out to be successful, it stuck around.
Imagine, for example, the first people who came across a patch of pretty little plants growing like lily pads in the moist soil of Sri Lanka. As the story goes, they’d been watching elephants — known for their long memories — munching on them, and so they decided to try eating the leaves themselves. Lo and behold, the people noticed a boost in both their own awareness and memory.
They named the plant “gotu kola” and it soon became a favorite of monks, yogis, and sages throughout Asia. Ancient Indian Ayurvedic texts refer to it as the “herb of enlightenment,” and it was treasured for its ability to enhance meditation. People also discovered its qualities as a medication and asset to longevity.
Fast forward to today, and we’re now aware of the reasons that gotu kola enhances overall mental and physical health. Prepared as a refreshing tea, it’s a great way to boost your nutrient intake and provide a lot of other benefits, too.
A cup of gotu kola tea is a natural source of nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, and the essential B-complex vitamins thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin. It also contains minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.
Studies have shown that the polyphenols, and particularly the flavonoids, in gotu kola contain high antioxidant qualities that can prevent the cell damage caused by what are known as free radicals. (For those who have heard the terms but aren’t really sure what they mean, free radicals are highly reactive molecules created when oxygen enters our bodies. In other words, it’s a natural, ongoing process.
The bad thing about these molecules is that they can oxidize other molecules in the body and lead to a wide range of ailments and chronic diseases. While our bodies also produce some antioxidants to fight the free radicals, we need to take in additional sources of antioxidants as well. In addition to tea, dark leafy greens, are another super source of antioxidants, as are blueberries, cranberries, purple and red grapes, nuts, sweet potatoes, whole grains, beans, and fish.
The ancients weren’t wrong when they thought that gotu kola enhanced their mental abilities. Modern studies have directly connected the herb to a positive impact on the circulatory system which then provides more oxygen to the brain and improves its function. The antioxidant effects of gotu kola also contribute, as they can stimulate neural pathways by eliminating those pesky free radicals. There is some evidence suggesting that gotu kola can also retard the effects of aging on the brain.
Anxiety and Stress Relief
Generally, herbs and other substances that enhance mental functioning are highly stimulating. But gotu kola provides its benefits while soothing rather than jangling your nerves. Through its long use in human history, it’s been used to quell anxiety and stress and to promote sleep. Never mind its other qualities, just taking a few minutes for yourself and wrapping your hands around a warm cup of gotu kola tea will give you a sense of comfort and relaxation. Sit quietly and let your thoughts drift — you’ll feel better in no time.
Detoxification has been practiced for centuries, but has become especially pertinent in the modern world filled with pollution, stress, and refined foods, and other deterrents to good health. There are all sorts of detox plans out there, some of them quite dramatic and stringent, but the mild diuretic properties of gotu kola are detoxifying in themselves, by encourage the release of excess toxins, salts, water, and even fat from the body. Here’s an interesting resource about detoxing if you’re interested in reading more.
Not Just for Drinking
Gotu kola leaves and the tea made from them are long-known remedies for healing wounds and improving the appearance of your skin. Soak a cotton pad in some tea and apply it to cuts and sores; the plant’s organic compounds stimulate the healing process and protect against infection. Look for cosmetic products that contain gotu kola to inhibit scarring and to reduce signs of aging.