In the Journey Inward, Part I, we talked about how the season of winter is a time of reflection, of slowing down, of calming the mind and of going inward. In that piece, we covered the sacred plant, known as tulsi, or holy basil (Ocimum sanctum, tenuiflorum).
Now we will turn to two other very important herbs when looking to increase our spiritual ‘capital’, namely: gotu kola (Centella asiatica), and bacopa (Bacopa monnieri). Because both herbs have long been used in Ayurvedic practices, both herbs have been referred to as brahmi (an ancient Indian script), and thus there is often confusion between the two. Both have been used as a tonic for the nervous system, for mental clarity, and for deepening one’s spiritual connection, but what are the differences?
One difference is that gotu kola has often been used to help heal both the skin (external tissue) and mucosal linings (internal tissue). It has been used both internally as a tea and powder, and externally as an oil. Bacopa, on the other hand, is an adaptogen, or an herb that can help the body cope with stress.
Another difference is something known as “energetics”. Thus if one looks at the ‘energetics’ of an herb, one finds that gotu kola can have a cooling effect so it can be used to “cool” down a hot mind. Bacopa, on the other hand, is considered “warming” and thus more suited for those who tend to run cold, or whose thoughts are scattered. In Ayurvedic practices, body types that run hot are known as having a lot of pitta, while those types that run cold and dry are known as vata, and cold and damp are known as kapha. There are many websites that can have you take a quiz to see where you fall on the spectrum if you’re not sure.
Here is a lovely tea to help clear the mind and open the heart. It’s ‘energetics’ is neutral, so feel free to add more/less of bacopa and gotu kola to suit your needs. Use about a tablespoon per day and steep for about 10 minutes first.
1 part holy basil1 part gotu kola1 part bacopa1 part licorice root1 part ashwaganda root1 part hawthorn berry
Sources: Herbal Therapy & Supplements by Winston and Kuhn, Ayurveda & Panchakarma by S. Joshi, Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs by Kerry Bone, Ayurvedic Secrets to Longetvity and Total Haelth, but Peter Anselmo.