The Ayurvedic herb brahmi is commonly referred to as gotu kola, this has led some to believe that these two herbs are interchangeable. Both are used extensively in due to their effects on the mind. But both brahmi and gotu kola are distinct in their properties, pharmacology, and photochemistry, and are treated as separate herbs in the ancient Ayurvedic texts.
Both brahmi and gotu kola have many health claims and proven effects; I will review only the health claims that they have in common. Both herbs are said to have beneficial effects on the mind, reduce stress, enhance immune function, and improve the health of the skin.
Below is a list of the Latin, Sanskrit, and English names for these two herbs. From now on, I will use their Sanskrit names to avoid confusion.
|Bacopa Monnieri||Brahmi||Water hyssop, Thyme-Leaved Gratiola|
|Centella asiatica||Mandukaparni||Gotu Kola, Indian Pennywort|
Beneficial Effects on the Mind
Both brahmi and mandukaparni are said to act on the crown chakra and improve meditation. Both affect the mind in a similar way by balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain and improving the three functions of the mind: learning (dhi), retention (driti), and recall (smriti).
Mandukaparni acts with a special emphasis on memory. It keeps the brain youthful and has been shown to improve symptoms of senility and dementia.
Brahmi has a harmonizing effect on the neurotransmitters in the brain. It balances and coordinates the three functions of the mind helping to transform the learning of new knowledge into retention, retention into recall, and recall of this knowledge to assist in other learning.
Brahmi is noted to have a more specific action in treating mental disturbances such as anxiety, epilepsy, and insanity.
Because of mandukaparni’s rejuvenating effects on the mind, it is used more as a general tonic for mental function.
Stress Reduction and Improved Immune Function
Mandukaparni seems to be better known as an adaptogen, but both herbs enhance immune function, strengthen the adrenals, and aid in reducing stress. Because of their calming, balancing effects, they lessen the production of cortisol and other stress hormones and reduce the emotional and mental triggers of stress related ailments.
Beneficial Effects on the Skin
The anti-aging effects of mandukaparni are beneficial not only for the mind but also for the skin. It increases the synthesis or collagen which is responsible for the skin’s elasticity, strength, and smoothness.
Mandukaparni has anti-inflammatory properties. When applied topically it reduces scarring, treats burns, promotes wound healing, prevents infection, and treats other skin ailments such as eczema and leprosy.
Both herbs improve the complexion of the skin because they help the liver flush out toxins. Brahmi is said to have more detoxifying qualities.
Use in Pregnancy
Brahmi is safe and often promoted for use in pregnancy; it increases fertility and sustains implantation. Mandukaparni is contraindicated in pregnancy as it can cause expelling of the embryo.
Neither herb has any toxic effects but if taken in excess, mandukaparni can cause headaches, loss of consciousness, itching, or skin rashes. Mandukaparni can also cause other reactions on the skin such as contact dermatitis; therefore, it should be tested on a small patch of skin, before applying over a large area.
- C.P. Khare, Indian Herbal Remedies: Rational Western Therapy, Ayurvedic and Other Traditional Usage, Botany
- Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa and Michael Tierra, The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs
- Todd Caldecott, Ayurveda: The Divine Science of Life
- Mountain Rose Herbs, Gotu Kola