In general, for most people, gotu kola is well tolerated, though it should not be used for longer than six weeks without a doctor’s approval and should not be taken by children.
It can come with some side effects and may negatively impact certain groups of people.
“Early studies show promising [potential] beneficial effects,” Kelley says. “However, the supplement — like any medical treatment — isn’t for everyone.”
Here are the groups who should avoid taking gotu kola.
- Those with liver issues or disease Gotu kola can be harmful to the liver, Kelley says.
- Those with a history of cancerous skin lesions or melanoma The supplement has been linked to tumor growth in mice. “For this reason, if you have a history of precancerous or cancerous skin lesions, I’d avoid taking this,” Kelley says.
- Those with diabetes Gotu kola can increase blood sugar, so be cautious if you are being treated for diabetes, Kelley says.
- Those undergoing anesthesia Gotu kola can cause additive central nervous system depression when combined with anesthesia, so Kelley recommends stopping the herb at least two weeks prior to a surgery.
You also should not consume gotu kola if you’re currently taking medications for your liver, diabetes, cholesterol, or sedatives, as they can negatively interact. And you should also consult your doctor before taking gotu kola if you’re on prescription medication or if you frequently take pain relievers.
Those who are pregnant should consult their doctor before taking gotu kola. It hasn’t been well-researched, so it’s best to err on the safe side and avoid gotu kola if you’re pregnant, especially in the first trimester, according to the University of Texas at El Paso.
Outside of those groups who should avoid gotu kola, it’s safe for most people. “Generally, gotu kola is well tolerated,” Kelley says. “However, there are side effects to be aware of.”
You may experience the following side effects, especially if taken in high doses:
- Skin allergy
- Burning sensations when applied to the skin
- Upset stomach
- Extreme drowsiness
“One way to avoid these side effects is to start yourself off on a lower dose and gradually work up,” Kelley says. You should always consult your doctor or an integrative nutritionist before beginning any new supplement regimen to discuss whether it’s right for your individual healthcare needs, identify safe dosage, and understand the risks and potential medication interactions.
And you probably shouldn’t take this supplement long term. Limit it to no more than six weeks at a time, because of the potential adverse effects on your liver, Kelley says. “Before you resume, make sure to give your body at least a two-week break,” she says. “Make sure to let your doctor know if the side effects you experience are severe or preclude your day-to-day activities.”