Centella asiatica is a herbaceous perennial plant native to India, China, Indonesia, Australia, the South Pacific, Madagascar, southern and central Africa. An effort has been made to reserve the name Centella for the Madagascar plant, and gotu kola for the rest. But there is no agreement on the subject, just as there is duplication of plant compound names, and large differences in the number of compounds present in different plants, making it difficult to comprehensibly discuss its chemical composition. There is no doubt, however, that the plant’s main active constituents are triterpenoid compounds, such as asiatic acid, asiaticoside, madecassic acid, madecassoside, etc. Centella also contains a green strongly volatile oil composed of an unidentified triterpene acetate, camphor, cineole, and other essential oils, fatty acid glycerides, plant sterols like campesterol, sigmasterol and sitosterol, various polyacetelenes, the flavonoids kaempferol, quercetin and their glycosides, myo-inositol, bitter vellarin, amino acids, sugars and resins.
- Burn healing. Centella has been effectively used to treat second- and third-degree burns. Topical application and intramuscular injections produced excellent results, when treatment started immediately after the accident. The herb prevented or limited the shrinking and swelling of the skin caused by infection, and it inhibited scar formation, reduced fibrosis, and increased healing.
- Cellulitis treatment. Clinical studies have shown good results where other therapies failed. The effect of centella on cellulitis seems to be linked to its ability to strengthen connective tissue structure, and to reduce sclerosis by acting directly on fibroblasts.
- Keloids and other scars. Keloids are hypertrophic scars, out of proportion to the amount of scar tissue required for normal repair and healing. Such scars are marked by prolonged inflammation of many months or even years, without progress to the mature stage. The herb has demonstrated impressive results, both in preventive (pre-surgery) and curative applications. The herb’s mechanism of action seems to be multifaceted, basically reducing the inflammatory phase of scar formation, while at the same time enhancing the maturation stage.
- Leprosy healing. Several studies have reported impressive results in the treatment of leprosy, comparable to these of dapsone, the standard chemical drug used in such cases. Aside from its wound healing activity, oxyasiaticoside, an oxidized form of asiaticoside, inhibits the growth of Mycobacterium leprae, both in vitro and in vivo, by dissolving the waxy coating of the bacillus.
- Mental function tonic. Evidence shows a significant increase in mental abilities, such as attention, concentration and memory. Centella’s triterpenes are known for mild tranquilizing, antistress and antianxiety qualities, and it is presumed that this may be the cause of mental stimulation in mentally retarded children.
- Scleroderma inhibitor. Several tests on the treatment of scleroderma show that aside from reducing skin induration, the herb has also reduced joint pains, and at the same time improved finger motility. It is presumed that this is caused by centella’s balancing effect on connecting tissue, which prevents the excessive formation of collagen usually observed in scleroderma.
- Veinous disorders. Numerous studies have demonstrated impressive results in the treatment of varicose veins and associated problems. Once more, this appears to be due to centella’s ability to strengthen the structure of connective tissue and of the tissue sheath around veins, reducing the hardening of the veins and improving blood flow through them. Herb treatment has significantly improved the symptomatology, that is, heaviness in the legs, numbing and tingling sensations, night cramps; the physical evidence, like edema, leg ulcers, spider veins, vein distention, etc; and the actual function as determined by improved blood flow, in about 80 percent of cases.
- Wound healing. As previously and repeatedly mentioned, centella has shown in a great number of clinical studies a powerful wound healing action. The wounds healed include surgical wounds, skin ulcers, traumas, gangrene, skin grafts, and perineal lesions caused by childbirth.
Caution. Topical application has infrequently caused contact dermatitis. Asiaticoside has been implicated as a possible skin carcinogen, when repeated applications are used.