Pegged as the “herb of longevity,” gotu kola is a staple in traditional Chinese, Indonesian, and Ayurvedic medicine. Practitioners claim the medicinal plant has the power to boost brainpower, heal skin issues, and promote liver and kidney health — and some studies seem to agree.
Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on September 19, 2017— Written by Emily Cronkleton
Potential side effects and risks
Gotu kola is generally well tolerated. In some cases, it can cause headache, upset stomach, and dizziness. Starting with a low dose and gradually working up to a full dose can help reduce your risk of side effects.
You should only take gotu kola for two to six weeks at a time. Be sure to take a two week break before resuming use.
When applied topically, gotu kola has the potential to cause skin irritation. You should always do a patch test before moving forward with a full application. Herbs aren’t monitored by the FDA and gotu kola has been found to have dangerous levels of heavy metals due to being grown in contaminated soil. Choose to buy products from reliable sources.
Don’t use gotu kola if you:
have hepatitis or other liver disease
have a scheduled surgery within the next two weeks
are under 18 years of age
have a history of skin cancer
Talk to your doctor before use if you:
have liver disease
have high cholesterol
are taking medications such as sedatives for sleep or anxiety
are taking diuretics
The bottom line
Although gotu kola is generally considered safe to use, you should still check in with your doctor before use. This herbal remedy isn’t meant to replace any doctor-approved treatment plan, and, in some cases, it may lead to adverse side effects.
With your doctor’s approval, work an oral or topical dose into your daily routine. You may be able to avoid mild side effects by starting with a small amount and gradually increasing the dosage over time.