Gotu Kola and it’s many names

Gotu Kola has long been a magic herb from Asia, but not many people are aware of this neat little herb. Lucky magazine said it’s popping up in many cosmetics too. I can see why, since it has many good benefits for the skin. But Lucky magazine call it “tiger grass”. I think they should just stick with the name Gotu Kola or centella. Those folks at Lucky are always trying to come up with something catchy.

In our area, many Asian markets sell it as a drink (in a can) or flash frozen from Vietnam. But it’s labeled as “Pennywort.” And I always thought that was such a strange name. Wort is define as a plant of any kind. I suppose the leaves must look like pennies? Anyhow, the drink is good. But I don’t usually buy them now as the sugar content is at least 25 grams, so that defeats the purpose for me.

We do have a small batch growing in our yard. I usually eat them raw and love the taste, it’s crisp and cool, like a cucumber made into a leaf. It’s also great in salads. I just eat mine fresh with a tiny bit of cane sugar or dry them up and drink it as a herbal tea.

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The botanical name is Hydrocotyle asiatica. It is very common in Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal medicine. The active ingredients of this plant include asiaticoside, madecassoside and madasiatic acid. These compounds have been shown to inhibit the production of collagen, especially in conjunction with scar tissue. Other studies have shown that gotu kola can help treat burns and wounds, and that it may be helpful in preventing and treating keloid scars. This sounds a lot like aloe vera to me.

According to Ellen and herbal wisdom, “Gotu Kola is a wonderful tonic for convalescence, for nervous exhaustion, stress and neurotic disturbances. These qualities make Gotu kola a helpful herb for children with A.D.D. because of its stimulating effect on the brain which helps to increase one’s ability to focus while having a soothing effect on an overactive nervous system.” Wow, I think R could use some of this as he is always active and looking for something to calm him down more.

Ellen is a family & marriage therapist as well as herbalist. She makes wonderful salves and balms with the many herbs in her garden. I like to have a garden like that someday too. Thinking back I had a wealth of plants and special herbs growing at my parent’s backyard and never truly appreciated it until now.

*Ellen’s herb site can be found at http://www.ezherbs.net/

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