: Centella asiatica
Parts used and where grown
This plant grows in a widespread distribution in tropical, swampy areas, including parts of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and South Africa. It also grows in Eastern Europe. The roots and leaves are used medicinally.
Historical or traditional use
Gotu kola has been important in the medicinal systems of central Asia for centuries. In Sri Lanka, it was purported to prolong life, as elephants commonly eat the leaves. Numerous skin diseases, ranging from poorly healing wounds to leprosy, have been treated with Gotu kola. Gotu kola also has a historical reputation for boosting mental activity and for helping a variety of illnesses, such as high blood pressure, rheumatism, fever, and nervous disorders. Some of its common applications in Ayurvedic medicine include heart disease, water retention, hoarseness, bronchitis, and coughs in children, and as a poultice for many skin conditions.
The primary active constituents of Gotu kola are saponins, which include asiaticoside, madecassoside and madasiatic acid. These saponins may prevent excessive scar formation by inhibiting the production of collagen (the material that makes up connective tissue) at the wound site. These constituents are also associated with promoting wound healing. One preliminary trial in humans found that a Gotu kola extract improved healing of infected wounds (unless the infection had reached bone). Gotu kola can also improve healing of burns and wounds. Gotu kola extracts are helpful for preventing and treating enlarged scars (keloids).
Except for the rare person who is allergic to gotu kola, no significant adverse effects are experienced with internal or topical use of this herb. At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with Gotu kola.