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A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study on the Effects of Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) on Acoustic Startle Response in Healthy Subjects

Bradwejn, Jacques MD, FRCPC*; Zhou, Yueping MD, PhD; Koszycki, Diana PhD*; Shlik, Jakov MD, PhD

Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology: December 2000 - Volume 20 - Issue 6 - p 680-684

Investigations of the pharmacologic profile of medicinal plants have revealed that a number of plants with purported anxiolytic activity bind to cholecystokinin (CCK) receptors. This finding is intriguing in view of the proposed involvement of CCK in the pathophysiology of fear and anxiety. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study was undertaken to evaluate the anxiolytic activity of Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) in healthy subjects. Gotu Kola has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Recent studies in the rat have shown that long-term pretreatment with Gotu Kola decreases locomotor activity, enhances elevated-plus maze performance, and attenuates the acoustic startle response (ASR). In this study, the authors evaluated the effects of Gotu Kola on the ASR in humans. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either a single 12-g orally administered dose of Gotu Kola (N = 20) or placebo (N = 20). The results revealed that compared with placebo, Gotu Kola significantly attenuated the peak ASR amplitude 30 and 60 minutes after treatment. Gotu Kola had no significant effect on self-rated mood, heart rate, or blood pressure. These preliminary findings suggest that Gotu Kola has anxiolytic activity in humans as revealed by the ASR. It remains to be seen whether this herb has therapeutic efficacy in the treatment of anxiety syndromes.

*Royal Ottawa Hospital and the Department of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; †Department of Psychiatry, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia; ‡Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Received April 10, 1999; accepted after revision December 14, 1999.

This research was conducted at the Psychobiology and Clinical Trials Research Unit, Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, Toronto, Ontario. Drs. Zhou and Shlik were Research Fellows at the Psychobiology and Clinical Trials Research Unit.

Address requests for reprints to: Jacques Bradwejn, MD, FRCPC, Royal Ottawa Hospital, 1145 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, K1Z 7K4, Canada. Address e-mail to:

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.