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Gotu kola

; Ottawa Vol. 131, Iss. 7,  (Sep 1998): 42.

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Gotu kola is an aromatic creeping perennial that thrives in the high humidity of water-banks, swampy areas and moist, sunny, rocky places. Long copper-colored stringy stolons root at nodes from which sprout round to kidney-shaped leaves, one to three cm wide. The plant is native to India, Madagascar and Sri Lanka -- the prime sources of commercial raw material -- as well as to middle and southern Africa, Australia, China, Indonesia and the South Pacific.(f.1)

Gotu kola is totally unrelated to caffeine-containing cola or kola nut (Cola nitida, C. acuminata), and contains no caffeine. In the Sinhalese language of Sri Lanka, kola means leaf and gotu, cupshaped.

Traditional medicinal uses

Castiglioni(f.2) identifies Centella asiatica as the plant manduka parni, listed in the Indian classical volume Susruta Samhita and used medicinally from prehistoric times.

Inhabitants of the Indonesian islands and surrounding territories used extracts of the plant, both topically and internally, mainly for wound healing and treating leprosy. In India(f.3) and Africa(f.4) also, preparations of the plant have been employed traditionally in the treatment of leprosy.

In India, the plant and its extracts have been recommended since the 19th century for skin conditions associated with eczema, lupus and psoriasis, and for varicose ulcers. In addition, C. asiatica was regarded as particularly beneficial in female conditions such as amenorrhea and diseases of the genital and urinary systems.(f.1)

East Africans are said to use the leaf of this plant for fever, stomach disorders, scrophula and syphilis.(f.4)

The Chinese have used the aboveground parts of the plant for treating fevers,(f.6) dysentery and urinary tract infections, and liver-related diseases such as infectious hepatitis and jaundice. A decoction of the plant has been claimed effective as an antidote for poisoning by toxic mushrooms, Gelsemium elegans, and arsenic. An external poultice was applied for snakebites, scabies and...