Growing Brahmi/Gotu Kola
Brahmi, also known as gotu kola, is one of the most powerful brain tonics in the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia. It has been used in Asia for thousands of years, both as a medicine and as a delicious leafy vegetable. This luscious green herb is a favorite in helping to improve mindfulness, revitalize consciousness, and maintain a sharp intellect.
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) supports healthy circulation to the brain, which supports cognitive functioning such as memory and concentration. Additionally, as a natural blood purifier and nervine, gotu kola is particularly supportive in alleviating skin irritations caused by stress.
Gotu kola is a small creeping herb that is native to Asia and naturalized in other parts of the world, including Africa and the US. It is a water-loving plant and is commonly found growing along streams, irrigation ditches, and in rice paddy fields. It’s often seen growing in the boggy areas that accumulate around water pumps in Indian villages.
The plant has distinctive round leaves, often described as “brain-shaped,” which interestingly conforms with the “doctrine of signatures”—a fascinating idea, although not necessarily Ayurvedic, that says herbs treat the part of the body that they resemble.
The Origins of Banyan’s Gotu Kola
Over the years we have sourced our gotu kola from Sri Lanka, India, and Zimbabwe.
Sri Lanka has a very well-established tradition of growing gotu kola; it is in high demand for one of Sri Lanka’s most popular health food dishes—the gotu kola sambol (a salad made of finely chopped gotu kola leaves, chili, and other spices). Another reason gotu kola is so popular in Sri Lanka is because the plant thrives in the warm, humid climate and can easily be grown in the country’s ubiquitous flood-irrigated rice paddy fields.
While Zimbabwe is less known for gotu kola cultivation, we have found that it produces potent, high quality leaves.
Most of the gotu kola that comes from India is collected from the wild. From an ecological and sustainable perspective, this is not a concern because only the aerial parts (not the roots of the plant) are harvested, and they regenerate quickly. However, from a quality perspective, wild collection is a risk due to the number of contaminated water sources that may come into contact with a wild growing plant.
Our partner farm, Panchvati Organic Farm, is a perfect example: a certified organic farm, Panchvati Farm’s focus crop is gotu kola, and they have an abundance of thriving, healthy, organic gotu kola plants—but getting to this point was an endeavor that took perseverance and adaptability.
When Panchvati first began growing gotu kola, they experienced first-hand quality issues due to plants growing in contaminated water. After a reliable source was found, then came the task of learning how to nurture these shade and water-loving plants through the intense summer heat. They have found that gotu kola prefers rich, moist, but well-drained soil. It flourishes during the monsoons and does best when regularly weeded.
When it’s time to harvest, the process is manual—leaves are picked, sorted, and washed by hand, then dried until they are crunchy. These plants are a labor of love at Panchvati—and in return, their crops yield the highest quality gotu kola.
The Many Names of Gotu Kola
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is often confused with another herb that supports cognitive function, bacopa (Bacopa monnieri). The two herbs are not related, and they do not look similar, but in India they are both known as brahmi, which causes the confusion. Banyan Botanicals belongs to the school of Ayurvedic thought that brahmi is Centella asiatica, not Bacopa monnieri, which we refer to as simply bacopa.
|The Banyan Name||Brahmi/Gotu Kola||Bacopa|
|Botanical Name||Centella asiatica||Bacopa monnieri|
In Sanskrit, gotu kola is known as mandukaparni, which translates as “frog-leaved,” referring to its leaf shape resembling the webbed-feet of a frog. The name “gotu kola” comes from Sri Lanka, literally meaning “cone leaf” in Sinhalese, presumably referring to its tendency to curl its leaves into a cone shape. In India, gotu kola is sometimes referred to as “tiger herb” because it is said that wounded tigers roll themselves in gotu kola plants.
Whatever you may call it—brahmi, gotu kola, or Centella asiatica— this is a beautiful herb that can support your own path to wellness, vitality, and mental acuity.