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Centella Asiatica: A “Fountain of Life” Herb

It is one of the unique medicinal plants that has been in use since prehistoric times. It continues to draw worldwide attention for it roles in the treatment of mild and chronic diseases.

It is a perennial slender creeping herb, found mostly in damp areas up to an altitude of about 1800m. It has small simple green leaves which are fan-shaped with light purple-to-pink or white flowers, which develop into a small oval fruit. The plant is commonly referred to as Gotu kola, pennywort or wild violet. It is found in most tropical and subtropical countries growing in swampy areas, including parts of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, sub-Saharan Africa, South pacific and Eastern Europe. About 20 species related to centella asiatica grow in most parts of the tropic. It is a tasteless, odourless plant that thrives in and around water. The whole plant is used for traditional medicine purposes.

The centella asiatica plant has been used in treatment of numerous diseases for thousands of years and continues to draw worldwide attention for their roles in the treatment of mild and chronic diseases. In fact, traditional medical practitioners have used centella asiatica over the years to treat leprosy, eczema, psoriasis, respiratory infections, ulcers, colds, hepatitis, epilepsy, fatigue, fevers, asthma and syphilis, minor burns, scars, scleroderma, skin ulcers, varicose veins, wound healing, rheumatism, blood diseases, congestive heart failure, urinary tract infections, venereal diseases, hepatitis and high blood pressure, phlebitis, and leg cramps among others.

The use of centella asiatica in the treatment of leprosy was reported for the first time in around 1852 in Mauritius. The plant decoction is administered topically or orally to treat the leprosy disease condition and in addition heals the sores associated with leprosy. The plant is widely used as a blood purifier as well as for treating high blood pressure. The plant is also used to enhance memory and in some community it’s believed that regular taking of the plant decoction or regular eating of the leaves as salads promotes longevity.

Traditional healers use centella asiatica as one of the main herbs for revitalizing the nerves and brain cells and to treat emotional disorders, such as depression and also in treating other diseases including eczema, psoriasis, lupus and female disorders. The plant has been used in traditional medicine in many communities for wound healing purpose. In this, the powdered leaves is topically applied to the wound to enhance its healing and also prevent it from microbial infections.

centella asiatica has been used to reduce body swellings and improve circulation in individuals with venous complications such as varicose veins and venous insufficiency, a condition that causes blood to pool in the legs. The plant has also been significantly used in the treatment and management of ankle edema, body pain, cramps and tiredness. In some communities, the herbalists prescribe the herb for the treatment and management of insomnia, scleroderma, cancer, circulatory disorders, hypertension, scars and cellulite. In fact, due to its great importance in community healthcare, centella asiatica is also known as the “fountain of life” herb, because it supposedly increases longevity and is highly valued as one of the most important rejuvenating herbs due to its excellent ability to reverse the signs of aging.

Centella asiatica decoction is used to relieve high blood pressure and also to cleanse the body of toxins. It is used to treat rheumatism, urinary tract infections, hepatitis and high blood pressure. The dry powder of centella asiatica is applied on patients’ burns to enhance faster healing. In fact, daily application is known to not only quicken healing but also has the ability to limit the skin shrinking on the affected area as it heals. In addition, the plant is also known to prevent infection and inhibit scar formation on the affected body parts.

Apart from the medicinal uses, centella asiatica is also eaten as a vegetable or used as a spice in many communities. The leaves are used in salads and eaten raw or the mashed leaves are added to rice. The leaves extracts can also be added to drinks.

These incredible uses and, in particular, the medicinal benefits of centella asiatica are attributed to phytochemicals triterpenes asiatic acid and madecassic acid, and their derived triterpene ester glycosides, asiaticoside and madecassoside found in it. Indeed, centella asiatica is one of the giant herbs used across the continent of Africa.

– Richard Komakech