May 17 2014, 8:49am CDT | by Forbes
Call it gotu kola, centella asiatica, Indian pennywort, brahmi, or spade leaf – an ancient healing plant is making a comeback in the modern science of preventing skin aging.
Centella asiatica (often just called centella) is rich in amino acids, beta carotene, fatty acids, and numerous potent phytochemicals. Extracts have been found to calm inflammation, speed wound healing, stimulate new cell growth, build collagen, and improve circulation.
Lately, thanks to a new round of research into gotu kola’s wound-healing and skin rejuvenation properties, this herb has been turning up in a host of new skin treatments.
Here’s what history and science tells us about why you might want to read ingredient lists to find anti-aging skin serums and creams containing gotu kola. (And here are 3 more anti-aging skin treatments to try.)
A Long History of Skin Healing
Few medicinal plants have as long a history as centella asiatica; there’s evidence it was used even by prehistoric man. Known in Chinese medicine as gotu kola, it’s listed among the “miracle elixirs of life” and mentioned in legends as the herb that helped a famous sage live past 200.
In India, centella has a host of names including mandukparni, jalbrahmi, and just plain brahmi (not to be confused with bacopa monnieri, another ayurvedic plant also called brahmi). A centerpiece of Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, it’s used to treat infected wounds, syphilis, eczema, psoriasis, lupus, and female disorders.
In England, where it’s known by the lowly name pennywort for it’s coin-shaped leaves, it was one of the earliest treatments for leprosy. In France, centella was first identified and accepted as a pharmaceutical agent in the 1800s for its use treating diarrhea, dysintery, and female issues including infertility.
Taken internally, usually as a tea or other beverage, it’s considered an effective treatment for fever, dysentery, hepatitis, and recent research shows it boosts memory and relieves depression and anxiety. In Thailand, centella is drunk as a cold beverage and considered a turn-back-the-clock health tonic.
What the Science Shows
An overview in the Indian Journal of Medicine calls gotu kola a “potential herbal cure-all” while a research summary published in Phytomedicine, says: “Centella asiatica has been subjected to quite extensive experimental and clinical investigations.”
Recently, researchers delving into how gotu kola heals wounds have identified specific plant chemicals called triterpenoid saponins (more specifically asiaticoside, brahmoside, brahminoside, madecassoside and madecassic or madasiatic acid) that have been shown to help heal wounds by boosting antioxidants, increasing the blood supply to the area and strengthening the skin.
In a 2o12 study, researchers applied concentrate of centella asiatica to the skin of rats with open wounds and found that the formulation inhibited bacterial growth, fueled the growth of new skin cells and increased skin “tensile strength” and resilience.
There’s also good evidence that gotu kola helps repair veins. Recent research shows that centella, unlike some herbal extracts, is able to penetrate the skin well enough to be utilized effectively.
Scientists are experimenting with applying gotu kola to treat burns, prevent scars, treat psoriasis, and decrease stretch marks.
In fact, centella’s circulation-boosting abilities are so powerful that it’s been used as an effective treatment for varicose veins and broken capillaries and to break down cellulite by shrinking the connective tissues that bind fat cells under the skin./>/>
How Can Gotu Kola Help Me?
Skin care formulations use gotu kola for its ability to boost collagen and decrease inflammation. As with many plant-based compounds, you’re most likely to find a bioactive level of gotu kola (which may be listed as centella asiatica) in organic or all-natural product lines. Three I’ve tried:
1. Annmarie Gianni Anti-Aging Products: Choose Annemarie’s anti-aging facial oil or anti-aging eye cream, both of which contain gotu kola extract as well as numerous other beneficial herbs and oils. Annemarie provides an excellent explanation of the role of gotu kola in skin rejuvenation.
2. Sundari Gotu Kola Products: Try Sundari’s gotu kola and yucca facial serum, in which gotu kola oil and sea algae extracts enhance skin renewal while yucca oil boosts skin hydration. Then there’s Sundari gotu kola and Indian asparagus mask, formulated for intensive firming action.
3. Bellanina Skin Care: Gotu kola takes center stage in Bellanina’s gotu kola + coconut serum, which binds the extracts in a exfoliating base of alpha-lipid acid.
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