New research shows there’s a natural, herbal remedy that can help prevent and treat some of the most common complications of diabetes, a condition that affects 16 million of us worldwide.
It’s gotu kola, a tropical creeping plant that’s been a mainstay of ancient herbal medicine for centuries. (Gotu kola is also known by its Latin name, centella asiatica, or as Indian pennywort.)
Gotu kola can improve your circulation to help you avoid serious problems
In older studies, this plant has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve varicose veins and hemorrhoids, reduce anxiety, and even improve memory. And, in thousands of years of use, this natural therapy hasn’t shown any signs of adverse side effects. In India and Indonesia, it’s often used to promote wound healing and to slow the progress of leprosy. Gotu kola has also been used to treat keloids, the bulging, enlarged scars that sometimes develop after surgery, and the connective tissue disease, scleroderma.
Now new research coming out of England and Italy found that gotu kola can help prevent and treat many of the complications of diabetes, such as swelling, poor circulation, nerve damage, and general vascular disease. This is an urgent finding, because millions of people suffer with diabetes-related health issues each year – ranging from skin ulcers to amputation.
While many are able to manage their diabetes effectively through nutrition, exercise, and medication, the disease can take its toll on the body over the years. The problems are most often circulatory, resulting in nerve damage, skin ulcers, and vision problems. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 60 to 70 percent of diabetics experience neuropathy, a disease that damages the nerves in the arms and legs. Sometimes the circulation to the feet is so poor that doctors are forced to amputate. In fact, the ADA website states that more than 56,000 feet and legs are amputated each year because of diabetes. Clearly, it’s a serious problem – and one that mainstream medicine hasn’t had much success in curing.
Some previous research (and many anecdotal reports) suggested that gotu kola might be an answer. But the few studies that had been done were small and reportedly flawed. This time, researchers set out to conduct a more thorough, scientific study to assess the herb’s benefits.
Even diabetics with existing nerve disease saw improvement with gotu kola
A total of 340 participants fell into three groups. Group A consisted of 50 diabetics with peripheral neuropathy, a complication of diabetes that impedes the function of the nerves in the arms and legs. Group B was composed of 250 diabetics who did not yet show signs of neuropathy, and group C was formed of 40 healthy non-diabetics, matched with the patient groups for age and sex. Participants in groups A and B were randomly assigned to take either 60 mg of gotu kola twice a day, or a placebo, while all the participants in group C took placebo. The study continued for one year.
The participants’ conditions were assessed at baseline, and periodically over the 12-month follow-up. The researchers tracked patients’ response by measuring four factors. Resting flux (RF) measured blood flow to the feet while sitting, and venoarteriolar response (VAR) assessed blood flow to the feet after standing. Rate of ankle swelling (RAS) was measured with a device called a strain-gauge plethysmograph. Swelling (edema) was also assessed by visual observation.
After 12 months, the researchers noted impressive results. Diabetics both with and without neuropathy saw all of their markers improve, suggesting that the herb can help treat AND prevent these common complications of diabetes. In the group with neuropathy, circulation to the feet while sitting and standing improved 38 percent, and the rate of ankle swelling improved 28 percent. Diabetics without neuropathy saw similar gains in circulation and improvement in the rate of swelling. In contrast, the rate of ankle swelling in diabetics using the placebo worsened.
Over the course of the study, there were no reports of adverse side effects from taking gotu kola. Even from other sources, there are few reported side effects. Some manufacturers say the herb may cause headache; others do not recommend taking gotu kola if you have an overactive thyroid or if you are taking tranquilizers or sedatives. Also most sources do not recommend the herb for pregnant and lactating women, as the herb’s effects on the fetus and breast milk are not known. In rare cases, the topical application of gotu kola can cause a mild allergic reaction.
Gotu kola is widely available in health food stores and from supplement suppliers. Some sources report that it can take up to four weeks to see results from gotu kola; remember that the results in the study were seen after one year.
But if you suffer from complications of diabetes, the relief is likely worth the wait. And, as this study shows, a preventative dose may help you avoid serious complications in the future. If you have diabetes, there are many things you can do to help manage your disease. Now adding gotu kola to your regimen is another proven step you can take to regain control over your health.
Angiology 52 (suppl 2): S27-S31, 2001
Copyright 1997-2002 by Institute of Health Sciences, L.L.C.