Gotu kola & cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the first cause of death worldwide, accounting for more than 17.5 million people every year, representing more than one-third of all deaths1. Oxidative stress can be one of the main issues behind many of the most common risk factors of cardiovascular diseases such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diet, hyperlipidemia, or diabetes. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been known to address this condition with several herbal remedies known for its powerful antioxidant effect like Centella Asiatica.

See: Heart healthy diet plan to prevent heart disease

Herbal therapy for heart health

Oxidative stress can affect lipid metabolism by increasing the risk for atherosclerosis, or by causing direct damage to cardiac cells through the increased formation of reactive oxygen species. Several treatment options have been suggested to address the potential damage and increased risk for CVDs caused by oxidative stress, including herbal treatment2. Recently several studies found that Centella Asiatica, an herb that was used for centuries by TCM and Ayurvedic medicine with the name of “Gotu kola”, may prove effective in reducing oxidative stress and hyperlipidemia in vivo experiments3.

See: Functional medicine for Heart Disease

Science

Centella Asiatica may exert its hypolipidemic effect by converting circulating blood cholesterol into its esters, and regulating its transport by HDL proteins. Reduction of plasma cholesterol levels are coupled by the characteristic antioxidant properties of this herbal remedy, which is able to reduce the reactive oxygen species protecting hepatocytes from DNA damage3.

See: Resveratrol improves insulin sensitivity, reduces oxidative stress and activates the Akt pathway in type 2 diabetic patients.

References

1.      World Health Organization (WHO). “Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).” http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/ (Accessed November 2015)

2.      Renate Schnabel, Stefan Blankenberg. “Oxidative Stress in Cardiovascular Disease – Successful Translation From Bench to Bedside?” Circulation. 2007; 116: 1338-1340. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.728394

3.      Yun Zhao, Ping Shu, Youzhi Zhang, et al., “Effect of Centella Asiatica on Oxidative Stress and Lipid Metabolism in Hyperlipidemic Animal Models,” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, vol. 2014, Article ID 154295, 7 pages, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/154295

See: Lowering Your Cholesterol with Diet Plan

Authors:

Dr. Claudio Butticè, PharmD.

See: Ayurveda for heart health

What is Gotu Kola?

Gotu kola or Centella Asiatica has been historically used to heal various conditions for thousands of years in India, China, and Indonesia. It had been used to cure wounds, improve mental clarity, and treat skin conditions like leprosy and psoriasis. Some folks use it to treat respiratory ailments, like colds. It's been called "the fountain of life" because legend has it that an ancient Chinese herbalist lived for over 200 years due to taking Gotu kola.

Gotu kola has also been used historically to treat hepatitis, stomach ulcers, syphilis, mental fatigue, epilepsy, diarrhea, fever, and asthma. In the U.S. and Europe, Gotu kola is most frequently used to treat varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency, a condition where blood pools in the legs. Additionally, it is used in lotions to treat psoriasis and help heal minor wounds.

See: Ayurvedic herbs for digestion & gut health

Gotu Kola benefits

Medicinal Uses

- Varicose veins

When blood vessels lose their elasticity, the blood pools in the legs, and fluid flows from the blood vessels. This action causes the legs to swell (venous insufficiency). Several smaller studies suggest Gotu kola can help reduce swelling and enhance blood circulation. In a study of 94 individuals with venous insufficiency, people who took Gotu kola saw an improvement of symptoms vs. those who had a placebo.  One study found that people who were given Gotu kola before flying had less knee swelling than those who didn't take it.

- Wound healing

Gotu kola has compounds called triterpenoids. In animal and laboratory studies, these compounds appear to help heal wounds. For instance, some studies indicate that triterpenoids increase blood supply to the area, boost antioxidants in wounds, and fortify the skin. Gotu kola has been used for psoriasis, minor burns, preventing scars after surgery, and preventing or reducing stretch marks. You may find Gotu kola in several creams for wound healing. Ask your healthcare provider if one is ideal for you.

- Anxiety

These very same substances, triterpenoids, seem to decrease stress and improve mental function in mice. One human study found that people who took Gotu kola were less likely to be startled by a new sound than those who took a placebo. Considering that the "startle noise" response can be a way to tell if a person is anxious, researchers feel that Gotu kola might help reduce anxiety symptoms. 

- Joint Pain

A study of 13 women with scleroderma discovered that Gotu kola decreased joint pain and skin hardening and enhanced finger motion.

- Insomnia

Gotu kola acts as a sedative in animal tests. Because of that, it's sometimes suggested to help people with insomnia. But no human studies are done to see if it works or whether it's safe.

See: Ayurvedic medicine to lower blood sugar

Precautions & side effects

Dosage

Gotu kola is available in teas as dried herbs, tinctures, capsules, pills, and ointments. Products should be used before the expiry date on the label and kept in a cool and dry place.

Adult: The conventional dose of Gotu kola (Centella Asiatica) differs depending on what type you use and what you use it for. Your healthcare provider can help you pick the ideal dose for you. Most studies have used standardized extracts:

Gotu kola can be harmful to the liver. It's wise not to use Gotu kola for over six weeks without talking to your physician. You might have to have a 2-week break before taking the herb.

Asiaticoside, a major portion of Gotu kola, has also been linked with tumor development in mice.  Individuals with liver disease or who take drugs that affect the liver shouldn't take Gotu kola. Consult your doctor if you take any prescription drugs or frequently take OTC pain relievers.

Side Effects

Side effects may include skin allergy and burning sensations with outside usage, headache, stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, and extreme drowsiness. These tend to occur with high doses of Gotu kola. Gotu kola isn't recommended for children.

See: Ayurveda sattvic diet for psoriasis

Gotu kola interactions

Gotu kola may interact with the following drugs:

Drugs that affect the liver Gotu kola include things that may hurt an individual's liver and carrying it, and several other medications that can damage the liver can lead to liver damage.

- Diuretics (water tablets): Gotu kola appears to behave like a diuretic, meaning it helps the body get extra fluid. Taking diuretic drugs and Gotu kola can cause your body to lose too much fluid, upsetting the balance of electrolytes that you require. The same is true of taking Gotu kola with herbs with diuretic effects, such as green tea, astragalus, or ginkgo.

- Sedatives: Since Gotu kola acts as a sedative, it may make some medication taken for anxiety or sleeplessness more powerful. The same is true for herbs taken for anxiety or insomnia, such as valerian.

Diabetes drugs: In animal studies, Gotu kola appears to increase glucose levels. Individuals with diabetes shouldn't take Gotu kola without first talking to their physician.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs (such as statins): In animal research, Gotu kola elevated cholesterol levels. It might also raise cholesterol levels in humans, although no studies have been done.

See: Ashwagandha for sleep before bed

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