Herb Feature

Herb Feature

Question: What plant medicine has been used as a treatment for Leprosy, Syphilis, Psoriasis, Abscesses, Mental fatigue, Diarrhoea, Fever and Asthma? It also stimulates the repair of the skin, connective tissues, blood vessels, reduces anxiety and inflammation, and can improve mental function. Give up? Well, you will be happy to know that it’s easy to grow, and very easy to take! The answer is Gotu Kola, or Centella Asiatica. This remarkable herb stimulates healing of a wide variety of connective tissues in the human body, probably through its actions on fibroblasts. These are specialised cells that synthesise collagen, elastin, glycosaminoglycans, and other glycoproteins. When tissue is damaged, it stimulates the production of fibroblasts, which then can rapidly produce collagen and other connective tissue proteins.

“So, how on Earth can a plant help us to heal?” I hear you asking (your voice dripping with scepticism)! Well, scientific studies have shown that topical use of asiaticoside (one of the healing compounds found in Gotu Kola) increases a connective tissue building block called hydroxyproline, collagen content, tensile strength, and the production of epithelial cells. Epithelial cells line your body surfaces and they include skin cells and mucous membranes[1]. A combination of three compounds known as terpenes (Asiatic, madecassic acid and asiaticoside) stimulated collagen synthesis[2] in human cells, and finally a triterpenoid extract from Gotu Kola showed a significant increase in collagen content and fibronectin[3]. Fibronectin is an important glycoprotein which basically helps to hold cells together within their matrix. It appears that the herbal compounds promote gene expression in fibroblasts, leading to their remarkable healing properties.

The incredible healing power of this herbal medicine make it invaluable in conditions such as burns, delayed wound healing, psoriasis, varicose ulcers, osteoarthritis, scleroderma, lupus (discoid and systemic) eczema and psoriatic arthritis. In addition to this Centella has been shown to inhibit the production of Beta-amyloid, one of the major proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Combined with profound anti-oxidant activity, i.e. scavenging free radicals, reducing lipid peroxidation and protecting against DNA damage, it’s no wonder this amazing herb has been revered as a brain tonic in both Indian and Chinese traditional medicines. As if that wasn’t enough (!) Gotu Kola extracts can also reduce anxiety and promote circulation, particularly in the venous system. That makes it highly indicated for varicose veins, poor blood flow to the extremities and swollen ankles. Just remember, fluid retention and poor circulation can be due to serious conditions, so always consult your qualified Naturopath/ Herbalist before self prescribing.

So, what about optimal aging?

Gotu Kola, also known as Indian Pennywort, seems to be the ideal herb to protect against the ravages of accelerated aging. It possesses anti-scarring and protective effects on connective tissue in your body, so it should keep you looking and feeling younger. In our clinic, we use the herb both internally and externally to promote healing and prevent and repair damage. I personally take it combined with a few other herbs due to my family history of heart disease, dementia and other vascular disorders. It also makes me feel less stressed and improves my memory and mental sharpness. I love this plant!

Centella asiatica is also known as Indian or Asiatic Pennywort, as the green leaves are about the size of a penny.  It is native to Asian wetlands and produces small white, pink or red flowers. It can live in shallow water or moist soils. Another name for this plant is Brahmi, which can be translated as “the energy of God” as it is used in Ayurvedic medicine. Be careful not to confuse it with Bacopa Monnieri, the “other” Brahmi, which is better for supporting and restoring cognitive functioning.  Gotu Kola is also a culinary plant, used as a food source in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Bangladesh. But its main claim to fame is as a medicine, one of the most amazing, regenerative and healthy-aging plants that we have. Make sure that you only use quality extracts from a reputable practitioner so that your cells and tissues can fully benefit from this wonderful herbal gift from nature.  See you next time!

David Peirce is a practicing Naturopath/ Herbalist.

Bachelor of Health Science - Complementary Medicine

Contact: 07 4032 0038


[1] In vitro and in vivo wound healing activity of asiaticoside from C. Asiatica

[2] Stimulation of collagen synthesis in fibroblast cultures by triterpine from Centella Asiatica

[3] Effect of triterpenoid of C.Asiatica on connective tissue matrix in human fibroblasts

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