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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Gotu-kola, or Centella asiatica (L.) Urban (Family Apiadeae) is not to be confused with kola nuts (Cola nitida); the latter contain caffeine while the former doesn't. Gotu-kola is known for its wound-healing, detoxicant, antiinflammatory, diuretic, pain-relieving, and antibacterial properties. Either the leaves or the whole herb is used, with the most common traditional uses being for traumatic injuries, swellings, skin sores and boils, skin eruptions (e.g. measles), sunstroke, fever, and common cold. Other more modern or recent uses include treating wounds, skin ulcers, burns, leprosy, scleroderma, traumatic pain, jaundice, hepatitis, poisoning (arsenic, mushroom, cassava, etc.), syphilis, and mental problems.

Gotu-kola has been used by different cultures worldwide both as a medicine and as a food for centuries. The young plant is cooked or pickled and eaten as a vegetable in Southeasat Asia. It has been used as a medicine for thousands of years in China and India and its use there has been documented for at least two thousand years.

The active principles of gotu-kola are currently attributed to tri-terpenoid glycosides (wound-healing, antimicrobial, sedative, antiinflammatory, etc.) though other components present may also contribute to its total beneficial effects; they include steroids, fatty acids, flavonoids and other polyphenols.

Although gotu-kola is also advocated as an anti-aging herb and an aphrodisiac, so far there has been no credible evidence to correlate such effects.

The raw herb comes in highly variable qualities. Some are extremely dirty, with leaves mostly broken and containing large quantities of mud and dirt. Consequently, one should avoid the powdered herb unles it is from a reliable supplier, because it is a common industrial practice to use inferior quality materials to produce herb powders.

Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Better Health with (mostly) Chinese Herbs and Food discusses the use of 60 different herbs as healing foods, including gotu-kola on page 44.

For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit www.earthpower.com.

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