Centella asiatica

Centella asiatica (Tamil: வல்லாரை, Vallarai ? in Tamil) is a small herbaceous annual plant of the family Mackinlayaceae or subfamily Mackinlayoideae of family Apiaceae, and is native to India,  Sri Lanka, northern Australia,  Indonesia,  Iran,  Malaysia,  Melanesia,  Papua New Guinea,  and other parts of Asia.

It is used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicinetraditional African medicine, and traditional Chinese medicineBotanical synonyms include Hydrocotyle asiatica L. and Trisanthus cochinchinensis (Lour.).

The stems are slender, creeping stolons, green to reddish green in color, interconnecting one plant to another. It has long-stalked, green, reniform leaves with rounded apices which have smooth texture with palmately netted veins. The leaves are borne on pericladial petioles, around 2 cm. The rootstock consists ofrhizomes, growing vertically down. They are creamish in color and covered with root hairs.

The flowers are pinkish to red in color, born in small, rounded bunches (umbels) near the surface of the soil. Each flower is partly enclosed in two green bracts. The hermaphrodite flowers are minute in size (less than 3 mm), with 5-6 corolla lobes per flower. Each flower bears five stamens and two styles. The fruit are densely reticulate, distinguishing it from species of Hydrocotyle which have smooth, ribbed or warty fruit.

The crop matures in three months and the whole plant, including the roots, is harvested manually.

Habitat

Centella grows along ditches and in low wet areas. In Indian and Southeast Asian centella, the plant frequently suffers from high levels of bacterial contamination, possibly from having been harvested from sewage ditches. Because the plant is aquatic, it is especially sensitive to pollutants in the water, which are easily incorporated into the plant.[1][2]

Culinary Use

Centella is used as a leafy green in Sri Lankan cuisine, where it is called Gotu Kola. In Sinhalese Gotu is translated into conical shape and Kola for leaf. It is most often prepared as Malluma (මැල්ලුම); a traditional accompaniment to Rice and curry, and goes especially well with vegetarian dishes such as dhal, and jackfruit or pumpkin curry. It is considered quite nutritious. In addition to finely chopped Gotu Kola Malluma almost always contains grated Coconut and may also contain finely chopped green ChilisChili powderTurmeric powder and Lime (or Lemon) juice.

A variation of the extremely nutritious porridge known as Kola Kenda is also made with Gotu Kola by the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka. Kola Kenda is made with very well boiled red rice (with extra liquid), coconut milk and Gotu Kola which is liquidized. The porridge is accompanied with Jaggery for sweetness. Centella leaves are also used in the sweet “pennywort drink.”

In Indonesia, the leaves are used for sambai oi peuga-ga, an Aceh type of salad, also mixed into asinan in Bogor.

In Vietnam and Thailand this leaf is used for preparing a drink or can be eaten in raw form in salads or cold rolls. In Bangkok, vendors in the famous Jatujak Market sell it alongside coconut, roselle, crysanthemum, orange and other health drinks.

In Malay cuisine the leaves of this plant are used for ulam, a type of Malay salad.[3]

It is one of the constituents of the Indian summer drink “thandaayyee”.

Medicinal Effects

Gotu kola is a mild adaptogen, is mildly antibacterialanti-viralanti-inflammatory, anti-ulcerogenic, anxiolytic, a cerebral tonic, a circulatory stimulant, a diuretic, nervine and vulnerary.[4][5]

Centella asiatica may be useful in the treatment of Anxiety and may be used as a promising anxiolytic agent in the future.[6]

In Thailand cups with gotu kola leaves are used as an afternoon stimulant.[7] A decoction of juice from the leaves is thought to relieve hypertension.[citation needed]poultice of the leaves is also used to treat open sores.

Richard Lucas claimed in a book published in 1966 [8](second edition in 1979) that a subspecies “Hydrocotyle asiatica minor” allegedly from Sri Lanka also called “Fo ti tieng”, contained a longevity factor called ‘youth Vitamin X’ said to be ‘a tonic for the brain and endocrine glands’ and maintained that extracts of the plant help circulation and skin problems.[9]However according to medicinal herbalist Michael Moore, it appears that there is no such subspecies and no Vitamin X is known to exist.[10]

Several scientific reports have documented Centella asiatica’s ability to aid wound healing[11],[12] which is responsible for its traditional use in leprosy. Upon treatment with Centella asiatica, maturation of the scar is stimulated by the production of type I collagen. The treatment also results in a marked decrease in inflammatory reaction and myofibroblast production.[13]

The isolated steroids from the plant have been used to treat leprosy.[14][15] In addition, preliminary evidence suggests that it may have nootropic effects.[16] Centella asiatica is used to re-vitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration,[17] and combat aging.[16] Centella asiatica also has anti-oxidant properties.[4] It works for venous insufficiency.[18] It is used in Thailand for opium detoxification.

Followers of Sri Sri Thakur Anukulchandra commonly known as Satsangees all over the world take one or two fresh leaves with plenty of water in the morning after morning rituals. This is prescribed by Sri Sri Thakur Himself.

‘There have been so many reports showing the medicinal properties of C. asiatica extract in a wide range of disease conditions like diabetic microangiopathy, edema, venous hypertension, venous insufficiency (Incandela et al., 2001a; Incandela et al., 2001b; Incandela et al., 2001c). The role of C. asiatica extract in the treatment of memory enhancement and other neurodegenerative disorders is also well documented (Mohandas Rao et al., 2006). The first report concerning the antitumor property of C. asiatica extract was on its growth inhibitory effects on the development of solid and ascites tumor and that lead to increased life span of the tumor bearing mice (Babu et al., 1995). The authors also suggested that the extract directly impeded the DNA synthesis. In our study, C. asiatica extract showed an obvious dose dependent inhibition of cell proliferation in breast cancer cells’[19]

 

{Information courtesy Wikipedia}