Mandukaparni or Gotu Kola
Commonly known as Asiatic pennywort or Indian pennywort, Centella asiatica is an aromatic perennial herb with soft tender leaves, commonly found in abundance as a weed in crop fields, marshy and waste lands. It has a historical reputation for boosting mental activity, healing of wounds and digestive benefits. It is known by various other names such as Gotu kola, Khlieng Syiar and Ka Dawai Bah in the northeastern parts of India, while it is called Mandukaparni in other parts of the county.
Botanical name:Centella asiatica (L.)
Nature of herb
The fresh herb has an aromatic odor when crushed and has a nauseous bitter taste. It has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. The herb is called “Ka Dawai Bah”, meaning, the all in one medicine. The leaves are eaten raw for stomach related problems like stomach ache, diarrhea, and acidity. Gotu kola is eaten raw as a salad in Northeast India. It is also mixed with other vegetables and consumed fresh. It has been used as a neurotonic and to cure systemic illness such as high blood pressure, rheumatism, fever, wound healing by traditional healers. In many parts of Asia, it is widely used as a culinary vegetable in salads, side-dishes and in preparation of refreshing drinks. It is known as 'Mandukaparni' in Sanskrit which refers to the leaves of the plant that resembles the claw of a frog. It is also known as Brahmi (in northern parts of India) due to its memory enhancing properties.
Gotu Kola is also commonly confused with Bacopa monnieri (Brahami). Though the botanical characteristics are noticeably different, they are used interchangeably for some ailments. The confusion stems from both being used as brain tonics and both commonly known as Brahami.
It is a perennial, prostrate, stoloniferous herb flourishing in water and the damp areas of tropical regions.
The leaves are simple and orbiculoreniform (rounded and kidney shaped) having a size between 1.25-6.25 cm with serrate margins. Arrangement of the leaves is alternate.
The stem is slender, which grows horizontally across the soil surface and the nodes produce slightly erect leaves at the top and roots at the bottom.
It has rootstocks which consist of small rhizomes growing vertically down. It has root hairs and is cream-ish in color.
The flowers are borne in small rounded bunches (umbel) of 2-6 near the soil surface and are white to red in color.
The fruits are small and look like barely grains. They are brown in color and are laterally compressed.
- Height at maturity
It grows up to 10-15 cm in height./li>
Centella asiatica is native to Madagascar but it is widely distributed in all tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. It is found in moist areas of India, China and Sri Lanka up to an altitude of 6000ft. It is found in abundance in moist, sandy or clayey soils and marshy habitats in large clumps forming a dense green carpet.
The plant prefers mild climate for its growth and grows well in shady places. When the plant is grown under 50% shade conditions, it gives a high herb and asiaticoside yield. Naturally, it grows near river beds and marshy areas.
It grows well in moist and marshy lands often around water bodies. It prefers acidic soils than alkaline soils. Clayey soils with good moisture content and organic matter suit this crop exceptionally. Suitable ph range for this crop is 5-9.
UsefulnessThere are three main areas of benefit from Aloe vera which include its wealth of nutritional components, beneficial effects on the epithelial tissues of our body and lastly its immunity boosting properties. Its medicinal uses include:
- The leaves are eaten raw for stomach related problems like stomach ache, diarrhea, acidity etc.
- Gotu Kola has an anti-anxiety agent which helps in relieving stress, enhancing the mood and inducing sleep thereby calming the nervous system. It is famous as a memory and concentration booster. Its capacity to improve mental stability, memory power and concentration is experimentally proved.
- Its leaf juice with honey is an effective remedy for urinary problems.
- The extract of Gotu kola leaves works on the veins, improving their tone and making them less susceptible to the degenerative processes that can lead to varicose veins and other problems.
- The presence of anti-inflammatory properties in Gotu Kola helps in relieving joint pain. The herb is used in treating arthritis. The herb is also shown to reduce cartilage erosion and bone erosion.
- The herb is known to have positive effect on anxiety issues. It lowers the release of stress hormone and increases dopamine and serotonin levels.
- The leaves are also used against skin diseases and wound healing. When consumed in its natural form or powdered form, the herb stimulates blood flow to the cells and protects the immune system against infections, thus, speeding up the healing process in the body. Its paste can be applied on the wound to achieve the same results.
- Gotu kola is well known by the Khasis of Meghalaya to help control blood sugar levels. The herb is steeped overnight in hot water, and the water is extracted and consumed the following day.
- The leaves or entire plant parts are boiled in water and this decoction is used in the treatment of leprosy.
- Its property of inducing fast growth of skin, hair and nails is experimentally proven.
- In certain parts of India, it is a popular kitchen herb used in chutneys, pickles, refreshing drinks etc.
- Gotu kola extract has been used to treat Alzheimer’s, a cognitive and memory impairment disease.
Fresh leaves of Centella asiatica contain three types of saponins or triterpenoids including asiaticoside, madasiatic acid and madecassoside. The plant also contains ascorbic acid (Vit. C), resin, vellarine and pectic acid. Asiaticoside is employed in the treatment of leprosy, certain types of tuberculosis and also exhibits significant wound healing activity as well as improves blood circulation. It is mainly famous for its memory boosting properties.
- Land preparation
Firstly the land is well ploughed and finely tilled. Then, it is divided into conveniently sized beds for planting. Light irrigation before 2-3 days of planting is necessary to establish good anchorage of roots. The crop should be planted in the month of October with a spacing of 30 x 30 cm.
- Planting and propagation
Propagation of the plant is achieved through stem-cuttings, each having a rooted node and a few leaves. If the weather is suitable then the cuttings are directly planted into the field or planted after establishment in polyethene bags and after 4-6 weeks, are transplanted into the main field. Establishment in fields is better in the later case.
Light irrigation imminently after planting ensures better establishment of the plants. Light irrigation is necessary at every 4-6 days interval. After that irrigation is provided when required.
Weeding is necessary every 15-20 days interval initially. Thereafter, as the crop proliferates it forms a dense mat of vegetation, weeding maybe done as and when necessary.
- Plant nutrients
Well decomposed FYM @5 t/ha is to be mixed with the soil during land preparation. The field should be supplied with organic substitutes of NPK fertilizers such as vermicompost, wood ash, oil cakes and poultry manure.
- Plant protection
Tobacco cut-worms and grasshoppers affect the foliage during summers. Such pests can be controlled by spraying Neem seed oil, pyrethrum or keiselgur. No disease of serious nature has been reported so far for this crop.
In the initial stage, harvesting is done from January onwards, intermittently on a fortnightly basis to harvest the outer leaves from the growing branches. Harvesting of bulk material should be done in the month of June, before the onset of monsoon. A few stolons are left in the field for regeneration.
The method of drying affects the final quality. The plants should be washed properly before drying. The harvested crop should be immediately spread in thin layers in well-ventilated and shaded areas. Quick drying can be achieved by stirring twice a day. Good quality produce is green in color.
- Uses in Ayurveda: It is used in Ayurveda for treatment of liver and kidney problems. It is also used for purposes of memory boosting, wound healing, increasing concentration and alertness, is a mild diuretic as well as anti-stress and anti-anxiety.
- Uses in Homeopathy: It is used to treat various skin diseases like eczema, acne, lupus, pemphigus, intolerable itching and copper like eruptions.
- Uses in Chinese medicine: In the Chinese system of medicine Gotu kola is indicated for premature aging, memory, learning impairment, mental disorders such as neurosis, schizophrenia, epilepsy and convulsions, chronic skin and venereal diseases.
- Modern Clinical Use: Mainly used for treatment of skin and liver diseases. It has also been used as anti-cancer and anti-stress/anti-anxiety drug and to revitalize nerve and brain cells. The Madecassol cream has been made from the chemical constituents of this herb which is found to have a preventive effect on burns and post-operative scars.
- Cosmaceutical uses: Extracts of C. asiatica are common ingredients of cellulite and striae creams like Trofolastin. It is also used in creams that prevent photo aging.
- Other benefits:It is useful in preventing soil erosion and preventing surface run offs on steep slopes.
- It is a useful ground cover in rubber and tea plantations.
- It is useful in Phytoremediation processes – use of living plants to clean up soil contaminated by heavy metals. It can be used to rectify soils contaminated with heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel, mercury, zinc etc and even in cases of excess Iron in red soils. This property of Centella is attributed to its ability to translocate metals from root to shoots and hence it is a perfect phytoextraction tool.
- Herbal and medicinal plants of India by Dr. D.K. Bhatt, Dr. Aparna Raj, Dr. Kiran Bhatt
- Cultivation of Medicinal and Aromatic Crops by B.S.Sreeramu
- Indian herbal remedies by C.P. Khare