The best nutrition in the world will not
do anyone any good if it doesn’t reach our tissues. The
gatekeeper to tissues is the microcirculatory system, which
includes blood vessels smaller than 0.1 mm in diameter. The
health of the microcirculatory system is now recognized as
critical to the total health of the individual. (1)
The capillaries are the smallest blood vessels. These are
responsible for the exchange of nutrients, oxygen, and waste
products between the blood and the tissues. The structure of the
capillary walls is complex, and varies according to the tissues
they supply. Arterioles are the vessels that control the blood
supply to the capillary beds. These small arteries expand or
contract to direct blood flow to the parts of the body where it
is most needed. The venules drain the capillary beds and send
blood back to the heart. All venules serve as an area where
leukocytes (white blood cells) can escape from the blood to the
For years, I wondered why chronically elevated blood sugar can
cause diabetics to go blind, require amputation of a foot, or
induce kidney damage. The problem is damage to the
microcirculation. Poor regulation of both sugar and insulin can
damage the capillaries and their supporting vessels. The
microcirculation of the retina, kidneys, and peripheral nerves
is especially susceptible to diabetic damage. Once the
microcirculation becomes dysfunctional, damage to the
surrounding tissue follows.
Diabetics are not the only ones who need to worry about
circulation. Deterioration of the microcirculation is called
microangiopathy, and it can damage any part of the body. (2)
Most Americans worry about cardiovascular health in terms of the
heart and major arteries. Since heart disease is our leading
cause of death, it is understandable that so much attention is
focused on preventing heart attacks. However, damage to the rest
of the circulatory system is a significant cause of disease and
Gotu Kola’s Effect on the Circulatory System
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) or Indian Pennywort, has been used
since prehistoric times in Chinese and Indian medicine to treat
a variety of conditions, (3) including anxiety (4) and wound
healing difficulties.(5) Researchers at the Irvine Vascular
Laboratory of St. Mary’s Hospital in London, along with their
colleagues at Ealing Hospital in London, recently published a
series of papers on the effects of Gotu Kola on the circulatory
system. (6-15) This detailed study shows that many of the
benefits of Gotu Kola may be attributed to its enhancement of
A common indication of circulatory problems is edema, or
accumulation of too much fluid in the tissues. Edema is most
easily measured by swelling of the ankles and fingers. Gotu Kola
reduced edema in numerous studies, including subjects traveling
on airplanes for 3 hours or more. (6,7,9-14) Analytical tests of
vascular function include laser Doppler flowmetry,
transcutaneous oxygen, transcutaneous carbon dioxide, capillary
filtration rate, and venoarteriolar response. Each of these
measurements showed that Gotu Kola improves circulation in
patients with vascular deficiencies. (6-15) Both diabetic and
non-diabetic subjects were included in the tests.
In addition, Gotu Kola reduced the risk of cerebrovascular
injury from carotid (8) and femoral (15) plaques, by stabilizing
the plaques to prevent further damage. These plaques are not
part of the microcirculation. Thus, Gotu Kola may benefit the
health of the entire circulatory system.
In addition to its role in circulatory health, Gotu Kola has
been reported to act as an antioxidant (16-18) and to enhance
the production of collagen and gastric mucosa. (18-22) Together,
these actions produce a powerful aid to maintaining good health.
From Wound Healing to Brain Health
One of the traditional benefits of Gotu Kola is enhanced wound
healing. In modern times, wounds of concern include surgical
incisions and gastric ulcers. Healing of incisions causes
unsightly scars, an issue of great concern in plastic surgery.
Clinical studies have shown that extracts of Gotu Kola reduce
scar formation. (20) The mechanism is believed to be enhancement
of collagen production. A similar effect on the mucosal barrier
of the stomach appears to explain the protective effect of Gotu
Kola for gastric ulcers and lesions induced in lab animals.
Similar results have been observed with other tissue problems.
Two studies with animals demonstrate that Gotu Kola can protect
healthy tissue from injury by clinical radiotherapy. (25,26) A
review of treatment options for hemorrhoids and varicose veins
shows that Gotu Kola can ameliorate these conditions by
improving the microcirculation and by strengthening the
connective tissue. (27) Gotu Kola has also been shown to benefit
the skin disease psoriasis. (28)
Numerous studies have been performed on Gotu Kola’s effects on
wound healing. (5,18,22,29) Gotu Kola aids in repairing the
microcirculation, enhancing collagen growth where needed, and
preventing oxidative damage.
Besides wound healing, Gotu Kola has traditionally been used for
its benefits on the mind. Indian literature describes Gotu
Kola’s stimulatory-nervine tonic as having rejuvenant, sedative,
tranquilizer and intelligence promoting properties. (16) In
animal studies, rats fed Gotu Kola demonstrated improvements in
learning and memory. (16) Asiatic acid, one of the components of
Gotu Kola, has been patented by Hoechst Aktiengesellschaft (EP 0
383 171 A2) as a treatment for dementia, and a Korean research
team has developed three chemical derivatives of Asiatic acid in
hopes of enhancing its anti-dementia effect. (17) Canadian
researchers found that Gotu Kola reduces the acoustic startle
response in humans, and may be an effective treatment for
In summary, Gotu Kola may potentially benefit the following
- Poor circulation
- Edema or ankle swelling
- Gastric ulcers
- Surgical scars
- Radiotherapy injury
- Varicose veins
- Dementia/Poor cognitive function
Gotu Kola’s primary action is enhancement of the health of the
circulatory system. Because circulation is critical to the
health of the entire body, Gotu Kola offers benefits in a
variety of conditions. The antioxidant and collagen supportive
functions of Gotu Kola are particularly important in enhancing
healing of damaged tissues.
source of nutrients and supplements.
did we qualify them ?
1. Effros, RM, ed., Microcirculation: Current Physiologic,
Medical, and Surgical Concepts, 1981, New York, Academic Press.
2. Mortillaro, NA, The Physiology and Pharmacology of the
Microcirculation, Vol. 1 and 2, 1984, Orlando, Academic Press.
3. Brinkhaus B, Lindner M, Schuppan D, Hahn EG, Phytomedicine
4. Bradwejn J, Zhou Y, Koszycki D, Shlik J, J. Clin.
Psychopharmacol 2000 Dec;20(6): 680-4.
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7. Cesarone MR, et al Angiology 2001 Oct; 52 Suppl 2:S15-18.
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10. Cesarone MR, et al Angiology 2001 Oct;52 Suppl 2:S33-7.
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14. Incandela L, et al Angiology 2001 Oct;52 Suppl 2:S61-7.
15. Incandela L, et al Angiology 2001 Oct;52 Suppl 2:S69-73.
16. Veerendra Kumar MH, Gupta YK, J. Ethnopharmacol 2000
17. Lee MK, et al Res. Commun. Mol. Pathol. Pharmacol 2000
18. Shukla A, Rasik AM, Dhawan BN, Phytother. Res. 1999
19. Sairam K, Rao CV, Goel RK, Indian J. Exp. Biol. 2001
20. Widgerow AD, Chait LA, Stals R, Stals PJ, Aesthetic Plast.
Surg. 2000 May-Jun;24(3):227-34.
21. Sunilkumar, Parameshwaraiah S, Shivakumar HG, Indian J. Exp.
Biol. 1998 Jun;36(6):569-72.
22. Suguna L, Sivakumar P, Chandrakasan G., Indian J. Exp. Biol.
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24. Cheng CL, Koo MW, Life Sci 2000 Oct 13;67(21):2647-53.
25. Shobi V, Goel HC, Physiol. Behav 2001 May;73(1-2):19-23.
26. Chen YJ, Dai YS, Chen BF, Chang A, Chen HC, Lin YC, Chang
KH, Lai YL, Chung CH, Lai YJ, Biol. Pharm. Bull. 1999
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28. Sampson JH, Raman A, Karlsen G, Navsaria H, Leigh IM,
Phytomedicine 2001 May;8(3):230-5.
29. Shukla A, Rasik AM, Jain GK, Shankar R, Kulshrestha DK,
Dhawan BN, J. Ethnopharmacol. 1999 Apr;65(1):1-11.