Does Brahmi Cause Liver Damage?
I have received numerous emails about the safety of an herb called brahmi (Centella asiatica), aka gotu kola. This herb is not to be confused with the south Indian herb bacopa (Bacopa monnieri), also sometimes called brahmi. Let me assure you that brahmi (Centella asiatica) is perfectly safe. Read on as I cite study after study to contest the reports that brahmi may cause liver damage.
Brahmi (Centella asiatica), called the “miracle elixir of life,” is one of the most revered plants in India and has been used safely with no drug interactions or toxic side effects, according to science.16 It has been a common culinary vegetable and Ayurvedic herb for thousands of years. I grow it in my garden every year and the leaves are delicious in a salad and, dried, brew a wonderful sweet tea.
The false notion that brahmi causes liver damage has become popularized and is confusing and scaring many people. Full disclosure: I have taken brahmi every day for years and will continue to do so because it has been time-tested for thousands of years and study after study says brahmi has remarkably strong liver-protectant and liver-function properties.3-12
Controversial Brahmi Studies
One false report suggests a constituent of brahmi, asiaticocide, causes tumor growth in mice.1 I was not able to find the full study to properly dispute this claim, but found many studies showing asiaticocides inhibit liver tumors with remarkable liver-protective effects against toxic injury,19 inhibit liver fibrosis,18 act as powerful neuroprotective agents against toxic injury,20,21 and enhance wound healing.17 In another study, asiaticosides had antioxidant, mood support, and hepatic protection effects, while inhibiting tumor cell proliferation.22
Perhaps the report causing all the misplaced concern is a case study done in Madrid, Spain, of three women who, after taking brahmi orally, experienced jaundice and liver damage.2 That 2005 case study states: “We have found no cases of hepatotoxicity associated with the ingestion of this herbal medicine in the literature.” So this is the first and only report of liver concerns from brahmi ever! This is consistent with other studies that find no toxicity or drug interactions from brahmi.16
Based on one clinical case study, not an actual study, it is reckless to pass judgment on brahmi, which has been eaten as a vegetable for millenia and has thousands of review studies citing its benefits. So let’s examine what may have caused these three women to experience liver toxicity from taking brahmi.
We RecommendDr. John’s Liver-Loving Herbal Blend: Amalaki, Turmeric, Barberry, Guduchi + Bhumyamalaki
Before You Blame the Plant, Check the Soil
We’ve all heard rice is commonly contaminated with arsenic, and that certain plants have a tendency to pull heavy metals out of the soil. Centella asiatic is one of those plants known to attract heavy metals, so the soil you grow it in really matters!13 Heavy metals can accumulate in plants grown in toxic or industrial soil. This can cause liver damage, even though a plant such as brahmi is protective to the liver. Therefore, it is critical all herbs be tested for heavy metals before ingesting.
Perhaps the reason so many studies show the ability for brahmi to protect the liver from toxin and heavy metal damage3-12 is because brahmi is a natural puller of heavy metals.13 Nature, when left alone, seems to mitigate these potential negative effects. In fact, brahmi has been shown in a few studies to specifically protect the liver from damage due to arsenic,9,10 as well as from numerous other toxins.3,8,11,12
It is very clear when you take brahmi (Centella asiatica), you must buy it from a reliable FDA GMP (good manufacturing practices) certified lab that performs rigorous testing on each herb.
The case study was performed in Spain, where there is minimal testing on herbs. Most Ayurvedic herbs purchased in Spain are imported directly from India without testing.
NOTE: Here at LifeSpa, all herbs are sourced from organic farms and tested for identity, microbes, heavy metals, and other contaminants before they are ground and capsulated in a FDA GMP certified facility.
Beware of Ayurvedic Herbs Packaged + Bottled in India
Unfortunately, some Ayurvedic herbal formulations grown and bottled in India have been found to have high heavy metal levels. This was first discovered in 2004, when the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) found one in five Ayurvedic herbal formulations bought in Indian grocery stores had unsafe levels of heavy metals.15
More recently, in a 2017 study, lead was found in 65% of 252 Ayurvedic medicine samples, with mercury and arsenic found in 38% and 32%, respectively. Almost half had concentrations of those metals per pill that exceeded, up to several thousand times, the recommended daily intake limits.14
These herbs can cause liver damage. The soil herbs are grown in matters the most. The only way to know the herbs you take are clean is for them to be tested. The only way to guarantee they are tested according to FDA standards is to look for a label that says “manufactured in a FDA GMP certified facility.”
Sadly, our world has become toxic, so we have to be conscious of the source of our foods and herbs. In America, thankfully, reliable herbal companies must follow strict rules set by the FDA to make sure the herbs are clean. This one case study does not mention the source of the herbs, but in Spain, most Ayurvedic herbs are imported directly from India, where testing is not required.
I had to come to the defense of this herb brahmi, as it is one of most effective clinical herbs. I have written articles citing how it naturally supports sleep, skin health, collagen, brain lymphatic drainage, mood support, mental clarity, energy, and much, much more.
Brahmi from a reliable source is quite safe and beneficial. To learn more about this amazing herb, read my articles on it here.