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January 3, 1977

Kola, Ginseng, and Mislabeled Herbs

JAMA. 1977;237(1):24-25. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270280026007

To the Editor.—  The article entitled "Herbal Intoxication" (236:473, 1976) contains an error in botanical identification. The article groups gotu kola and kola nut together as the same substance. This error was possibly made by conclusions reached in the case study, where I believe that cola was packaged and sold as gotu kola. The symptoms described in the case study match the medicinal effects ascribed to Cola vera by Potter1 and C nitida by Emboden,2 both of which belong to the family Sterculiaceae, which is a tropical tree. Gotu kola, on the other hand, is classified as Hydrocotyle asiatica major, a ground cover aquatic Indian pennywort of the family Umbelliferae (the parsley family). This plant is sometimes considered the same as H asiatica minor, called "fo-ti-tieng," which is considered by the Chinese to be a old-age rejuvenator. Millspaugh3 lists the medicinal properties of this family of plants