This Asian species is
reputed to bring long life to the user. According to the Sinhalese proverb:
"Two leaves a day will keep old age away."
As the story goes, people in Sri Lanka noticed
that elephants, animals known for their longevity, included Centella
leaves in their diet. Extrapolation suggested that this creeping herb of
Southeast Asian swamps might be good for almost anything that could aid a human,
In Sri Lanka it is eaten as a salad, and in
Vietnam it is considered an edible weed. It has been part of Ayurvedic medicine
for a long time.
C. asiatica also grows in Madagascar,
parts of southern Africa, and some parts of China. In Chinese medicine, it is
known as luo de da or ji xue cao and is used to lower fever, promote urination,
and "detoxify" the body.
The leaves and other aboveground parts of the
plant are used.
C. asiatica contains several saponins,
including brahmoside and brahminoside, and a number of alkaloids.
Madecassoside and asiaticoside appear to
contribute to the plant's medicinal activity. It also contains flavones, amino
acids, fatty acids, sterols, saccharides, and some mineral salts.
Gotu kola is traditionally used for high blood
pressure and to treat nervous disorders.
Chinese research suggests that it slows heart
rate as well as lowers blood pressure. It also has some antibacterial activity.
Gotu kola extract (as titrated extract of C.
asiatica, or TECA) has been studied for its effect on varicose veins as well
as on poor venous circulation in the legs.
The results suggest that the extract can
stimulate the synthesis of collagen in the walls of the veins and help them hold
their tone and function better.
Other traditional uses of C. asiatica
include skin problems, rheumatism, jaundice, and fever. Tests of TECA in animals
showed that topical application helped experimental wounds heal faster.
Asiaticoside may be responsible.
TECA has also been observed in clinical
settings, where it appears to speed healing of surgical incisions and skin
ulcers. In one trial it was administered to patients with parasitic infections
that damage the bladder. Three-fourths of these patients recovered well, with
little or no bladder scarring.
Tantalizing test tube research suggests that a Centella
extract can destroy cultured cancer cells. It is far too soon, however, to
determine whether it will be useful as an anticancer agent. Animal and
eventually clinical studies will be needed.
Madecassoside has anti-inflammatory properties.
In a small French study, a few patients with chronic liver disease had
measurable improvement while using TECA. The majority of the patients in this
group did not benefit, however.
High doses of the extract have a sedative
effect on small animals.
Animal research also indicates that some gotu
kola constituents can reduce fertility. Although the plant has a reputation as
an aphrodisiac, no research supports this use.