A well-known herb, India pennywort mostly grows in wet and temperate zone. Gotu kola or Centella Asiatica is also known as pennywort. It is herbaceous, aquatic, perennial plant of the family Apiaceae (Umbellifere) and native to Asian tropical areas. The stem is delicate, tender, small (around 6 inches in height) and greenish in colour with fan shaped leaves and red or white pinkish flowers. Centella Asiatica is mostly found in Southeast U.S, Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India, Japan, China, Indonesia, Iran, Africa, Europe and Australia.
Traditionally it has been used in Africa, China and India since centuries to treat skin ailments and referred to as “elixir of life” since it adds up years to your life and is one of the oldest medicines for leprosy, infertility and diarrhoea.
Natural Constituents of Gotu Kola
Gotu Kola contains a large number of natural chemical constituents which are responsible for its medicinal properties. These are:
Main triterpinoids or saponins such as centelloside, asiaticoside, asiatic acid, brahminoside, brahmoside and brahmic acid, thankuniside and centelloside. It also has flavonoids, tannins, phytosterols, essential acids, amino acids, mucilage, alkaloids, vellerine, resins and fatty acids.
Gotu Kola contains Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 and B2, and niacin which prevents premature ageing and brightens skin. It has valuable minerals such as calcium, zinc, selenium, manganese and sodium.
Due to its therapeutic composition especially triterpinoids, it is becoming a well-known name in western countries. It plays an important role in managing chronic as well as mild diseases.
Benefits of Gotu Kola
- Treats severe stomach pain and protects the gastrointestinal tract.
- Prevents respiratory infections.
- Regulates blood pressure by reducing the cardiovascular tension thus also preventing strokes and heart attacks. It heals and protects the heart by reducing oxidative stress.
- Boost memory and eliminates free radicals from the brain.
- Prevents nervous disorders since it improves quality of sleep, calm nervous system, relieves anxiety, prevents epilepsy, treats emotional disorders, nourishes brain cells and nerves.
- It is very useful for varicose veins (blood collecting in the veins of legs) to prevent pain, edema, swelling, tiredness and cramps.
- Enhances libido
- Speeds up the process of wound healing.
- Promotes collagen production, inhibits inflammation and soothes irritated and itchy skin. It is great for the skin as it is a rich source of natural anti-oxidants just like sage and rosemary. Its leaves contain higher quantities then other parts of the herb.
Culinary Uses of Gotu Kola
In Sri Lanka people use gotu kola as a leafy green vegetable. Gotu meaning cone shaped and Kola meaning leaf is traditionally eaten with rice and curry, daal, pumpkin and jackfruit in different forms and as a salad. It is also used by the Indonesians, Bangladeshis, Vietnamese and Thai people.
Gotu Kola and Safety: It sometimes causes allergies such as itching, redness, rashes, hives, upset stomach, vomiting, nausea and drowsiness but these effects are uncommon and rarely happen since it is a quite safe herb.