Expert Advice

Can gotu kola really improve your memory?

This herb has been used for centuries as an effective mental enhancer, and recent studies with animals and humans support its use in increasing memory and improving cognitive function.

Can gotu kola really improve your memory?
Pin it Katherine Streeter

How the herb works
In Ayurveda, gotu kola is considered a balancing herb that promotes relaxation and energizes the senses. For this reason, it’s particularly popular among yoga practitioners, who use it to enhance their meditation practice. Western research on the effectiveness of gotu kola is still growing, but initial findings support its ancient reputation for brain building and relaxation. Research published in a 2008 issue of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found gotu kola promoted stronger cognitive function and reduced mood disorders in healthy elderly patients who took 750 milligrams daily for two months. The key memory booster is believed to be a group of ingredients called triterpines, which are standardized to about 8 percent in high-quality extracts.

The best ways to take it
Gotu kola comes in a variety of forms, including teas, capsules and tablets. For a quick mental pickme- up, drink a tea made with one teaspoon of dried gotu kola steeped in one cup of hot water. (Stir in honey or lemon to mask any bitterness.) Teas are a traditional way to consume herbs and a good choice for people with weak digestion. You can also take one or two 500-milligram gotu kola capsules daily, a safe amount to consume on an ongoing basis.

How to know what you’re getting
Purchase gotu kola supplements from suppliers compliant with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), strict standards for producing nutritional supplements. Avoid products made with sugar, starch, gluten or artificial flavors or colorings, as these additives can weaken the herb’s potency. There are many options; try Nature’s Way Gotu Kola ($11 for 180 capsules, vitaminshoppe.com). — Alan Tillotson, L.Ac., Ph.D., director of the Chrysalis Natural Medicine Clinic in Wilmington, Del., and author of The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook: Everything You Need to Know About Chinese, Western and Ayurvedic Herbal Treatments (Kensington)