Post-digestive effect: sweet
Dosha: neutral for Vata, Pitta and Kapha
Actions: nervine, rejuvenative, alterative, diuretic
Gotu Kola (a close relative of Brahmi) is a great alternative in the West and its much easier to buy here. In fact I came across Gotu Kola when I was studying Ayurveda in New Zealand. In the house where I stayed, there lived a couple who had it growing all over their garden and the lady there offered me some (pictured above). She was Chinese and knew all too well the benefits of this herb for brain function and I recall her saying to me that they regularly sliced it up finely in their meals. As with some greens, she said it was quite bitter though, but worth having that taste for what benefits they hoped would come in old age. Bitter is a taste we often avoid, but it is very important to have all six tastes for a balanced diet.
By benefits above, I mean mental health benefits. Dementia is fast becoming a common word in today’s society. The Baby Boomers! A era where we now see a noticeable increase in nursing homes and aged care, together with mental illness. Gotu Kola (or Brahmi) is the perfect brain tonic and the most important nervine herb in Ayurveda. It revitalises brain cells, removes toxins and blockages within the nervous system as well as having a rejuvenative effect at the same time.
Since it is cooling in nature, its great for “hot” heads and those suffering from mental stress, balancing out Pitta (the fire element). Especially beneficial to use as a support during intensive studying as it improves memory and aids in concentration. A great rejuvenative duo during times of stress would be to take it together with Ashwagandha.
There are some differences between Brahmi, Gotu Kola and Bacopa which are best explained on this link to Dr John Douillard’s website. Brahmi is sometimes confusingly called Bacopa, but is in fact unrelated botanically. The closest relative to Brahmi is Gotu Kola, both having similar properties however Gotu Kola is a stronger diuretic and weaker nervine than Brahmi.
It appears that Gotu Kola is quite easy to grow in the Southern Hemisphere and more of a ground cover than a bushy type plant. I highly recommend you get some growing in your backyard as soon as you can. This is one herb you will definitely want to have in your life to help prevent mental illness in your future years, especially if you have a family history!
Reference: some information in this post has been taken and adapted from the book by Dr David Frawley and Dr Vasant Lad, The Yoga of Herbs – An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine (1986, 2001) (170-171, 239-240)
Picture: homegrown Gotu Kola in NZ taken by Three Harmony