Centella asiatica 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, New Guinea, and other parts of Asia. Common names include Gotu Kola (ගොටුකොල), Asiatic Pennywort, Indian Pennywort, Luei Gong Gen, Takip-kohol, Antanan, Pegagan, Pegaga, vallaarai (வல்லாரை), Kula kud, Bai Bua Bok (ใบบัวบก), Brahmi (this last name is shared with Bacopa monnieri) and rau má (Vietnamese). In Assamese it is known as Manimuni. It is used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. Botanical synonyms include Hydrocotyle asiatica L. and Trisanthus cochinchinensis (Lour.).In Telugu Language this is known as "Saraswathi Plant" in India.
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 of rhizomes, 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.
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 easily are incorporated into the plant.
Centella is used as a leafy green in Sri Lankan cuisine, where it is called Gotu Kola. In Sinhalese (Sri Lanka) Gotu = conical shape and Kola= leaf. It is most often prepared as mallung; a traditional accompaniment to rice and curry, and goes especially well with vegetarian dishes such as parippu' (dhal), and jackfruit or pumpkin curry. It is considered quite nutritious. In addition to finely chopped gotu kola, mallung almost always contains grated coconut and may also contain finely chopped green chilis, chili powder (1/4 teaspoon), turmeric powder (1/8 teaspoon) 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."
It is one of the constituents of the Indian summer drink "thandaayyee".
Gotu kola is a mild adaptogen, is mildly antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcerogenic, anxiolytic, a cerebral tonic, a circulatory stimulant, a diuretic, nervine and vulnerary.[5 ]
When eaten raw as a salad leaf, pegaga is thought to help maintain youthfulness. In Thailand cups with gotu kola leaves are used as an afternoon pick me up. A decoction of juice from the leaves is thought to relieve hypertension. This juice is also used as a general tonic for good health. A poultice of the leaves is also used to treat open sores.
Richard Lucas claimed in a book published in 1966 (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. However according to medicinal herbalist Michael Moore, it appears that there is no such subspecies and no Vitamin X is known to exist. Nonetheless some of the cerebral circulatory and dermatological actions claimed from centella (as hydrocotyle) have a solid basis.
Several scientific reports have documented Centella asiatica's ability to aid wound healing, 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.
The isolated steroids from the plant have been used to treat leprosy. In addition, preliminary evidence suggests that it may have nootropic effects. Centella asiatica is used to re-vitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration , and combat aging. Centella asiatica also has anti-oxidant properties.[5 ] It works for venous insufficiency. It is used in Thailand for opium detoxification.
In India it is popularly known by a variety of names: Bemgsag, Brahma manduki, Brahmanduki, Brahmi, Ondelaga (North India, West India), Gotu kola, Khulakhudi, Mandukparni, Mandookaparni, Mandukaparni (South India), or Thankuni depending on region. It is often confused with Bacopa monnieri which is the more famous "Brahmi", both have some common therapeutic properties in Vedic texts and both are used for improving memory. However, current research has clearly established the difference in pharmacological activities of these two herbs.
Probably the earliest study of Mandookaparni as Medya Rasayana (improving the mental ability) was carried out at Dr.A.Lakshmipathy Research Centre(now under CCRAS)VHS,Adyar,Chennai by Dr.M.V.R Apparao,Kanchana Srinivasan et al.
A popular folklore tale from Sri Lanka speaks of a prominent king from the 10th century AD named Aruna Withane who claimed that Gotu Kola provided him with energy and stamina to satisfy his 50-woman harem.
Classification System: APG II (down to family level)
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Euasterids II
Species: Centella asiatica
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