Centella asiatica (Gotu Kola): Considered a “Miracle Elixir of Life” by Traditional Chinese Medicine*

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Introduction of Centella asiatica

Centella asiatica is a small perennial plant of the family Mackinlayaceae or subfamily Mackinlayoideae of family Apiaceae, and is native to wetlands in Asia.  It is commonly known as Gotu Kola.

centella-asiatica-plant

Centella asiatica plant

Centella asiatica (CA) has been used extensively in Asia and is considered a very important medicinal herb in that region of the world.  In India, it is commonly known as mandukparni or Indian pennywort or jalbrahmi, and is used as a medicine in the Ayurvedic medicine.  It has been listed in the ancient Indian medical text, ‘Sushruta Samhita’ for thousands of years. 

In China it is known as gotu kola or Jī Xuě Cǎo.  The Chinese name is 积雪草, which is translated as “accumulation of snow herb”.   Gotu kola is has been used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine and has been reported as one of the “miracle elixirs of life” for over 2000 years.  1

Active constituents of Centella asisatica

The main active constituents of CA are saponins or triterpenoids.

Triterpenoids

Plants with Triterpenoids

(Source:  Targeting Inflammatory Pathways by Triterpenoids for Prevention and Treatment of Cancer, Toxins 2010, 2(10), 2428-2466; doi:10.3390/toxins2102428)

The triterpenoids include:

  • asiaticosides,
  • madecassoside
  • madasiatic

Other components isolated from CA include:

  • asiaticoside
  • asiatic acid
  • brahmic acid
  • brahmoside
  • brahminoside
  • centelloside
  • centellose
  • chercetin
  • isothankuniside
  • kempferol
  • madecassoside
  • thankuniside
  • vallerine

Mechanisms of Actions Based on Preclinical Studies

The triterpenoids listed above, being the primary constituents of Centella asiatica, are considered responsible for its wide therapeutic actions.  2

Following is a list of some of the known therapeutic actions of Centella asiatica, based on preclinical studies:  3

Antidepressant properties

The results of a study from 2008  showed that the high dose of the plant extract enhanced working memory and increased N100 component amplitude of event-related potential.  Improvements of self-rated mood were also found following the Centella asiatica treatment.  The present findings suggest the potential of Centella asiatica to attenuate the age-related decline in cognitive function and mood disorder in the healthy elderly.  4

Antiepileptic properties

CA increases the cerebral levels of GABA, and can be used as an anxiolytic and anticonvulsant.The extract (200 mg/kg body weight) completely inhibited pentylenetetrazol-induced convulsions. In pentylenetetrazol-kindled seizures and strychnine-induced convulsions, the extract showed protection at a dose of 100 mg/kg body weight. The doses of the extract selected for remaining studies were based on pilot studies, animal model used, and so forth. These findings suggested its potential anticonvulsant as well as antioxidant, and CNS depressant actions.  5 

Antinociceptive and antiinflammatory properties

The aqueous Centella asiatica extract (CAE) revealed significant antinociceptive activity with both the models similar to aspirin but less potent than morphine and significant antiinflammatory activity comparable to mefenamic acid. These results suggested that the aqueous CA extracts possesses antinociceptive and antiinflammatory activities which justified the traditional use of this plant in the treatment of inflammatory conditions or rheumatism.   6 

Cardiovascular properties

Gotu kola inhibited shear-induced platelet activation (blood clotting).  7

Asiatic acid, a pentacyclic triterpene from Centella asiatica, is neuroprotective in a mouse model of focal cerebral ischemia.  Asiatic acid significantly reduced the infarct volume by 60% at day 1 and by 26% at day 7 postischemia and improved neurological outcome at 24 hr postischemia.  These studies also showed that the neuroprotective properties of asiatic acid might be mediated in part through decreased blood-brain barrier permeability and reduction in mitochondrial injury.  The present study suggests that asiatic acid may be useful in the treatment of cerebral ischemia.   8

Gastric ulcer

Oral administration of CE (0.05 g/kg, 0.25 g/kg and 0.50 g/kg) before ethanol administration significantly inhibited gastric lesions formation (58% to 82% reduction) and decreased mucosal myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity in a dose dependent manner.  These results suggested that Gotu kola prevented ethanol induced gastric mucosal lesions by strengthening the mucosal barrier and reducing the damaging effects of free radicals.   9

Neurological properties

CA is known to re-vitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration and combat aging.  10 

Derivatives of asiatic acid derivatives were shown to exert significant neuroprotective effects from the oxidative damage caused by exposure to excess glutamate.  11 

Asiaticoside derivatives protect against beta-amyloid neurotoxicity.  They showed a strong inhibition of beta-amyloid- and free radical-induced cell death and can be candidates for the treatment of Alzheimer›s disease that protects neurons from beta-amyloid toxicity.  12 

Supplementation of CAE reduced LPO and PCC and significantly increased (p < 0.01) TA and antioxidant enzyme levels (p < 0.01) in corpus striatum and hippocampus.  These results show that administration of C. asiatica was effective in protecting the brain against neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinsonism.  13

Male Sprague-Dawley rats given Centella ethanolic extract in their drinking water (300-330 mg kg-1 daily) demonstrated more rapid functional recovery and increased axonal regeneration (larger calibre axons and greater numbers of myelinated axons) compared with controls, indicating that the axons grew at a faster rate.  Components in Centella ethanolic extract may be useful for accelerating repair of damaged neurons.   14

CA fresh leaf extract has a neuronal dendritic growth stimulating property; hence, the extract can be used for enhancing neuronal dendrites in stress and neurodegenerative and memory disorders.  15

Radioprotective

Centella asiatica extract significantly reduced radiation-induced damage to DNA.  Centella asiatica rendered radioprotection to DNA and membranes against radiation exposure, both in vitro and in vivo.  The authors have earlier reported that administration of the extract can prevent a radiation-induced decline in antioxidant enzyme levels.  This suggests that radioprotection by Centella asiatica extract could be mediated by mechanisms that act in a synergistic manner, especially involving antioxidant activity.  16

Sedative and anxiolytic properties

CA has been used as a stimulatory-nervine tonic, rejuvenant, sedative, tranquilizer and intelligence promoting property.  17 

Venous insufficiency

CA has been used to strengthen weakened veins in the case of venous insufficiency.  18 

Centella asiatica’s active constituents include pentacyclic triterpene derivatives.  Studies have been conducted in particular to investigate the madecassosides and asiaticosides.  In contrast to other medicinal plants, Centella asiatica has been subjected to quite extensive experimental and clinical investigations.  Studies done in accordance with standardized scientific criteria have shown it to have a positive effect in the treatment of venous insufficiency.  19

Wound healing

Wound healing is what CA has been traditionally been used for by Asian practitioners.  20 

Asiaticoside, a constituent in CA, has been reported to possess wound healing activity by increasing collagen formation and angiogenesis.  21   


Resources:

Gotu Kola (supplement)

Gotu Kola Extract (powder)


*

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Individual results obtained from taking these products may vary and are not guaranteed.  Please consult your doctor before starting any exercise or nutritional supplement program or before using these or any product during pregnancy or if you have a serious medical condition.


 

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