Centella asiatica, commonly known as centella and gotu kola, is a small, herbaceous, annual plant of the family Mackinlayaceae or subfamily Mackinlayoideae of family Apiaceae, and is native to wetlands in Asia. It is used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine, traditional African medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine. It is also known as the Asiatic pennywort or Indian pennywort in English, among various other names in other languages.
Centella grows in tropical swampy areas. The stems are slender, creeping stolons, green to reddish-green in color, connecting plants to each other. It has long-stalked, green, rounded apices which have smooth texture with palmately netted veins. The leaves are borne on pericladial petioles, around 2 cm. The rootstock consists of rhizomes, growing vertically down. They are creamish in color and covered with root hairs.
The flowers are white or pinkish to red in color, born in small, rounded bunches near the surface of the soil. Each flower is partly enclosed in two green bracts. The hermaphrodite flowers are minute in size (less than 3 mm), with 5-6 corolla lobes per flower. Each flower bears five stamens and two styles. The fruit are densely reticulate, distinguishing it from species of Hydrocotyle which have smooth, ribbed or warty fruit. The crop matures in three months, and the whole plant, including the roots, is harvested manually.
Centella is used as a leafy green in Sri Lankan cuisine, where it is called gotu kola. In Sinhalese, gotu is translated as "conical shape" and kola as "leaf". It is most often prepared as malluma, a traditional accompaniment to rice and curry, and goes especially well with vegetarian dishes, such as dhal, and jackfruit or pumpkin curry. It is considered quite nutritious. In addition to finely chopped gotu kola
, malluma almost always contains grated coconut, and may also contain finely chopped green chilis, chili powder, turmeric powder and lime (or lemon) juice and vada
. A variation of the nutritious porridge known as kola kenda
( also see
) is also made with gotu kola by the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka. Kola Kenda is made with very well-boiled red rice (with extra liquid), coconut milk and gotu kola, which is pureed. The porridge is accompanied with jaggery for sweetness. Centella leaves are also used in sweet "pennywort" drinks.
In Indonesia, the leaves are used for sambai oi peuga-ga, an Aceh type of salad
, and is also mixed into asinan in Bogor.
In Vietnam and Thailand, this leaf is used for preparing a drink or can be eaten in raw form in salads or cold rolls. In Bangkok, vendors in the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market sell it alongside coconut, roselle, chrysanthemum, orange and other health drinks.
In Malay cuisine the leaves of this plant are used for ulam, a type of Malay salad.
It is one of the constituents of the Indian summer drink
In Bangladeshi cuisine mashed centella is eaten with rice and is popular for its medicinal properties.
In South Asia, other common names of centella include
Thalkudi in Oriya, sarswathi aku in Telugu, kudavan, muththil, or kudangal in Malayalam; thankuni in Bengali; gotu kola in Sinhala; brahmi in Marathi: ondelaga in Kannada; vallaarai in Tamil; brahmi booti in Hindi; perook in Manipuri; manimuni in Assamese; timare in Tulu; tangkuanteh in Paite; brahmabuti or ghod-tapre in Nepali; and kholcha ghyan in Newari.
In India, particularly, it is popularly known by a variety of names: bemgsag, brahma manduki, brahmanduki, brahmi, ondelaga or ekpanni (south India, west India), sarswathi aku (Andhra Pradesh), gotu kola, khulakhudi, mandukparni, mandookaparni, or thankuni (Bengal), depending on region. Bacopa monnieri is the more widely known Brahmi; both have some common therapeutic properties in Vedic texts and are used for improving memory. C. asiatica is called brahmi particularly in north India, although that may be a case of mistaken identity introduced during the 16th century, when brahmi was confused with mandukaparni, a name for C. asiatica.
In Southeast Asia, it is known as sleuk tracheakkranh in Khmer; mying khwar which means "Horse Hoof leaf" in Burmese; bai bua bok in Thai; rau má ("mother vegetable") in Vietnamese; pegagan or antanan in Indonesian; takip-kohol (literally "snail lid") or yahong yahong ("little bowl") in Filipino; and pegagan or pegaga in Malay.
In East Asia, it is known as lei gong gen; literally "thunder god's root" or ("chipped big bowl") in Chinese; (byeong-pul, literally "bottle/jar grass") in Korean.