Gotu Kola, known also as Centella, or Indian Pennyworth is an aquatic plant found predominately in South East Asia, and the Indian sub-continent. Being an aquatic plant means it has a huge thirst for water; it often grows in swampy areas, though it can grow in a regular garden provided it’s watered enough. It is a perennial plant, which means it lives long, maybe even forever, which is apt as the plant is often associated with longevity, especially in folklore. The plant has fan shaped leaves, thought by many to resemble a brain, which probably lead to the belief that the plant improved cognitive function. This belief has infact been researched, leading to some degree of success. When flowering it grows pink and white flowers, it also fruits as well, bearing small oval fruits.
Though not commonly found in Indonesian cuisine it is used in certain regions like Aceh as an ingredient in local salad or in Bogor in pickle. It is most commonly eaten however in Sri-Lanka, and Myanmar often used as a salad or a leafy green. They are can be used for a wide variety of dishes from soups, to curries, and even drinks.The name itself comes from Sri-Lanka which translate to inverted cone leaf. The plant is contains a number of vitamins such as a,b,c, and d as well as amino acids, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Quite the healthy snack.
This is a plant steeped in folklore and ancient medicinal practices. The plant was nicknamed tigers herb due to injured tigers rubbing up against the plant in an attempt to heal itself. The famed Tai Chi master Li Ching-Yun who is believed by some to have lived up to 200 years old due in part to Gotu Kola. In Sri-Lanka there is a tale of an ancient king who claimed the plant gave him the stamina to be able to satisfy his harem. The plant is really seeped in mysticism, quite the tales!
Centuries, and centuries of usage has come from this plant in traditional medicinal practices, from treating diaherea, infertility, to increasing lactation in women, and dysentery. Centella’s place in folk medicine spans through most the countries where it’s native to. The Ayurveda which is a branch of medicine originating from india is where Centella is most renowned, as well as in traditional Chinese medicine.
The plants usage in traditional medicine has caused it to be researched by modern medicine to varying degrees of success. The plant, and its alcohol extract was used in the 20th century to treat leprocy, with reported success. The tigers weren’t wrong in rubbing up against the plant as research seems to support these claims, with the herb seems to increase collagen synthesis, decreasing inflammation, and increasing cellular proliferation, resulting in faster healing. The herb has also been tested for it’s usage to treat epilepsy. Though there has been some markers of success, most have been on rats, so it’s important for more research to be conducted on the plant. As such organizations such as the FDA have yet to recognize it as a medicine.
The plants reaction to collagen also means its used in beauty products as it helps skin tightness. This is due to the fact that it slows down enzymes that break down collagen, while also increasing the synthesis of collagen.
Whether you decide to take it internally or externally, or better yet both. This is a herb to look out for in the future as more information about its usage comes to surface. Find yourself a swampy patch of land and get to planting some Centella!