The Humorous Herbalist |

The Humorous Herbalist

I’m often asked if there’s anything in the plant world that can “feed” the brain and prevent those pesky “senior moments.” Well, of course there is. In fact, there are many plants that come to mind. But the one I usually mention first is gotu kola.

Gotu kola has been a hugely popular herb in Ayurvedic (East Indian) medicine for thousands of years. To name all the incredible health benefits of gotu kola would take thousands of words. Suffice to say that this tropical-loving ground cover could rank as a general panacea for what’s ailing you.

At the top of the list is gotu kola’s positive, nourishing effect on the nervous system and the brain. Research literature from India calls gotu kola “food for the brain” because it stimulates the brain as it encourages and builds what the East Indian’s call “Prana” (the life force).

Evidence shows that the herb enhances the circulatory system. When the blood is pumping around the body, more oxygen is allowed to permeate the cells.

While this is a simple explanation, it might be one of the reasons gotu kola works so well as a “brain booster.” When you have a steady supply of oxygen through the brain, clarity can suddenly take the place of sluggishness and that overall dopey feeling.

I have used gotu kola extensively and know others who wouldn’t be without this herb. It can do everything from combat fatigue, enhance learning and comprehension, improve one’s ability to focus, calm some of the hyperactive symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, slow the progress and improve the quality of life of Alzheimer’s patients, help control some of the jittery symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, alleviate some forms of depression and act as both a preventative and treatment for those who suffer nervous breakdowns.

To sum up my own experience with gotu kola, I can tell you that by the second day, I felt as though I had suddenly awakened from a 20-year coma. I was energized but not in a caffeine kind of way. It felt more like an enormous wave of clarity had swept over me. I was able to work longer and have greater productivity. Best of all, when it was time to go to sleep, I wasn’t too buzzed to drift off.

I was fortunate to know someone who gave gotu kola to her father who was in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s disease. When he came to live with her, she said he stared blankly and was not responsive. He was on seven prescription drugs, including sleeping pills and anti-depressants.

With her physician’s approval, she began to wean him off the drugs and then introduced two to four 450-milligram capsules each day of gotu kola.

She was very happy to report that within only two days of her father taking the gotu kola, his attention span and ability to respond to conversations dramatically improved. There was gradual improvement each day he continued on the gotu kola.

She took him off the herb for a three-day break and said that within 24 hours, his condition began to deteriorate. However, once he was back on the gotu kola, he was responsive and happy again.

While her father eventually died from complications of the disease, his daughter told me that “Without a doubt, he had a greater quality of life for the year he was on gotu kola.”

The two best ways to take gotu kola are in liquid extract or capsule form. The typical dosage of gotu kola extract is approximately one-half teaspoon in four ounces of hot water two to three times each day. For capsules, take two to three 450-milligram tablets twice a day.

I have found that to really jumpstart the mental effect of gotu kola, it helps to combine it in equal parts with ginkgo biloba. To make this easy, simply purchase the herbs in liquid extract and take one-half teaspoon of each herb two to three times each day in hot water..

Do not use gotu kola in large doses in hopes of getting the desired effect faster. High doses have caused throbbing headaches, foggy thinking, feeling “out of one’s body” and the increased need to scratch one’s skin. Not a pretty picture.

If you suffer from hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), there is some information that shows gotu kola may antagonize the condition.

If you have the opposite problem, a slight hypothyroid (under active) gotu kola may be helpful as long as the condition is not chronic and you are not taking glandular medication.

Gotu kola can be taken indefinitely. If you are taking it for minor mental sluggishness, give yourself a few days off every three weeks of consecutive use. However, if you are using gotu kola for a serious condition such as Alzheimer’s disease, daily intake is recommended.

Do not confuse gotu kola with the caffeine-rich kola nut herb. They are not related and share nothing except a part of a name.

Some people will see positive results after two or three days. For others, it might take a little longer. Just be patient and let the herb do its thing. Remember, the mind is a terrible thing to haste.

E-mail your questions to The Humorous Herbalist at

The information in this column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.

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