Gotu kola, Centella asiatica

Gotu kola is a well-known plant in Asia. It is an ancient Ayurvedic herb that is still used in India and other tropical Asian countries both as a food and as a medicinal plant. Gotu kola has now also become popular in international cosmetics. Many Korean products contain gotu kola extract as an active ingredient. Korea is a pioneer country in cosmetics, and that is why many things are transferred from Korean cosmetics to Europe and America and then forwarded to the rest of the world. Gotu kola has also been studied a lot. That’s why it’s great to write about it because there is plenty of researched information to support the claims. Then why is gotu kola so popular in cosmetics? That’s what we’re going to find out now.


Gotu kola has many names

Gotu kola actually goes by many different names; Centella asiatica, Hydrocotyle asiatica, Indian pennywort, Asiatic pennywort, coinwort. I use the name gotu kola for the plant here because I’m used to it. Other names of the plant may also appear in the INCI -lists and packaging of cosmetics. That’s why it’s good for you to know the plant’s many names.

The abundance of gotu kola names is also emphasized by the fact that centella, or gotu kola, is also called brahmi in India. We are used to use name brahmi when talking about Bacoba monnieri, which is a completely different plant, Brahmi. The name brahmi comes from the Sanskrit word Brahma, which means universal consciousness. Because both Centella asiatica and  bacoba have effects on consciousness and mind in Ayurveda, both plants are called brahmi in India.

The names of these two plants may vary depending on the region. Gotu kola is commonly called Brahmi in North India. In South India, on the other hand, Bacoba monnieri is also called Brahmi. It must therefore be considered where in India the name Brahmi is used and which plant is used. However, both plants can quite justifiably be called Brahmi. You can read more about it on the Banyan Botanicals website.

What kind of plant is gotu kola?

Gotu kola preferably grows in the tropics. It also occurs to some extent in the temperate zone. The plant comes from Asia, more precisely from India, where it still mainly grows today.

Gotu kola is a perennial herb that thrives in very humid, marshy areas, along river banks and in salty marsh areas. The plant also thrives in shallow coastal water. The Finnish name of the plant comes from India. The Sanskrit name “Mandukaparni” means frog leaves. The shape of the leaves of the plant resembles a frog. According to another explanation, the plant got its name manduki (like a frog) because it grows where frogs live.

Gotu kola is considered a weed in Asia, which spreads as a covering plant over very large areas. It is a rather modest plant with round, serrated leaves. I can hardly see the small purple flowers of Gotu kola under the lush foliage. Sometimes the flowers can also be white or purple.

Traditional use of Centella

Traditional thai drink called Bai Bua Bok

Gotu kola has traditionally been used as a vegetable and is served fresh in salads. In Thailand, gotu kola is used to make a famous drink called “Bai Bua Bok”.

Gotu kola has also always been a part of traditional medicine. Gotu kola has been used especially in the treatment of dermatological diseases. It has treated small wounds and rashes. Leprosy has been a very common disease in Asia. Its most important medicines have been gotu kola herb. Gotu kola was scientifically studied as a leprosy medicine in the middle of the 20th century. The studies showed positive results. Many people suffering leprosy are very poor people. Collected for free from nature, gotu kola has always been an important herb for them. Gotu kola has also once been used to treat psoriasis.

There are numerous legends about Centella. One of them tells that a Chinese herbalist once took gotu kola and lived 200 years. That’s why gotu kola is called “the source of life” in China. Gotu kola has been used over the years for healing a wide variety of diseases such as asthma, colds, mental fatigue, stomach ulcers, diarrhea and fever.

The benefits of Gotu kola in skin care

Gotu kola is used more and more in cosmetics these days. Gotu kola’s popularity is based on scientific research. Gotu kola has a very impressive amount of beneficial plant compounds for the skin. Its primary active ingredients are saponins (8%) which are also called triterpenoids. Four triterpenoids; Asiatic acid, madecassic acid, asiaticoside and madecassoside form the main part of the active substances of the plant.

Gotu kola’s triterpenoids have been studied in particular for their anti-inflammatory, redness-reducing and anti-aging properties. In particular, madecassoside is a powerful antioxidant that soothes and treats the skin effectively. Madecassic acid treats acne skin. Madecassic acid is an antibacterial substance that suppresses the inflammation caused by acne on the skin and stops the formation of scars. This is why gotu kola extract is used in many acne products.

Gotu kola contains plenty of antioxidants that fight against free radicals on the skin. Free radicals are particles that damage cells and contribute to premature aging. Antioxidants prevent the action of free radicals.

Studies have also found that gotu kola extract improves skin protection and the harmful effects of sunlight on the skin.

In addition, gotu kola extract contains plenty of other substances useful for the skin, such as

  • tannins (20-25%) firm the skin and restrain sebum secretion (acne skin)
  • essential acids (beta-caryophyllene, trans-beta-farnesene) anti-inflammatory, anti-inflammatory, skin soothing, antimicrobial properties (also fungal diseases) Beta-caryophyllene is also found in hemp and acts as a pain reliever.
  • phytosterols (campesterol, sitosterol, stigmasterol) suppress inflammation and support cell structure
  • vegetable slimes; (moisturize the skin)
  • resins; antibacterial components
  • free amino acids (alanine, serine, aminobutyrate, aspartate, glutamate, lysine and threonine),
  • flavonoids (quercetin and kaempferol derivatives)
  • alkaloids (kaempferol) anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial
  • fatty acids (linoleic acid, linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid) substances that soften and protect the skin

How is gotu kola used in cosmetics?

The plant extracts in Gotu kola are mainly water soluble. I have usually made glycerite from gotu kola leaves. Glycerite is a water-soluble extract made from glycerol, the plant to be extracted, and distilled water. Glycerites can be used in all water-containing products, such as toners, water-based serums and emulsions. Read how to make sunflower glycerite in the Helenatur recipe archive.

Gotu kola can also be made into a water extract, a tea-like extract. Gotu kola tea is sometimes available. It is also suitable for cosmetics use. The easiest way is to get a ready-made gotu kola extract. Gotu kola extract is often sold under the name Gotu kola and is water and glycerol based.

There are also oil extracts made from Gotu kola available. Oil extracts made from Gotu kola are used internally in Ayurveda to treat various imbalances and calm the mind. However, the most useful in cosmetics are the water and glycerol solutions.

Glycerol-based gotu kola extract is usually used in emulsions and serums at about 5-10% mix ratio. Products containing gotu kola extract are suitable for treatment creams for aging skin, acne skin products, soothing creams used after sunbathing, as well as nourishing serums and face masks.

Is gotu kola extract safe for the skin?


Gotu kola extract, like all plant extracts, can cause allergies. Gotu kola should be tested on an inconspicuous area of the skin. Sensitization may not appear immediately. If you get symptoms within 48 hours, you should leave gotu kola extract out of the products.

Apart from possible allergy and sensitization, gotu kola extract has not been found to cause any problems in external use. Gotu kola is generally considered safe even during pregnancy. Unfortunately, there are no in-depth studies on the subject. If you are pregnant and hesitate to use gotu kola externally, you should not use gotu kola extract.

Have you used Centella asiatica in skin care? Tell us about your experiences!

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