Centella asiatica

Centella asiatica

Centella asiatica (Centella asiatica L., 1879) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Apiaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Subarign Tracheobionta, Superdivisione Spermatophyta, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Sottoclasse Rosidae, Order Apiales, Family Apiaceae and therefore to the Genus Centella and to the Species C. asiatica.
The terms are synonymous:
– Hydrocotyle asiatica L .;
– Trisanthus cochinchinensis Lour ..

Etymology –
The term Centella comes from the Catalan centella, in turn from the Latin spark.
The specific Asian epithet refers to the real or presumed place of origin of the Asian species of Asia.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Centella asiatica is a medicinal plant native to the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and the wetlands of the southeastern United States. The plant is widespread and spontaneous in the East and in particular in China, India, Indonesia; in southern Africa and Madagascar. It is also widespread in some areas of Australia.
Its preferential habitat is that of the temperate and tropical marshy areas of many regions of the world.

Description –
Centella is a perennial herbaceous plant with a full growth height of 5 to 15 cm.
The stems are thin, creeping stolons, green to reddish-green in color, which connect the plants together. It has rounded, green, long-stemmed apexes with a smooth consistency with webbed web veins.
The leaves are carried on pericladial petioles, of about 2 cm.
The root system consists of rhizomes that grow vertically downwards. They are creamy in color and covered with root hair.
The flowers are white or crimson, collected in small rounded clusters (umbels) close to the ground surface. Each flower is partially enclosed in two green bracts. Hermaphrodite flowers are tiny in size, less than 3mm, with five or six lobes per flower. Each flower bears five stamens and two styles.
The fruits are densely reticulated.

Cultivation –
Centella asiatica reaches maturity in three months and the entire plant, including the roots, is harvested manually.
It is a highly invasive plant, classified as “high risk”.
Since the plant is aquatic, it is particularly sensitive to biological and chemical pollutants present in the water, which can be absorbed by the plant. It can be grown in drier soils as long as they are watered fairly regularly (like in a home garden).
For this reason, gotu kola is used for phytoremediation, thanks to its ability to absorb and translocate metals from roots to shoots when grown in soils contaminated with heavy metals.

Customs and Traditions –
This plant contains a series of cyclic penta triterpenoids, generically called centelloids, produced as secondary metabolites. These include asiaticoside, madecassoside and centelloside.
The plant is typical of the Indian medical tradition. The main applications are found in the dermatological and cosmetic sector. In the first case it is used in treatments involving veins, hemorrhoids, cramps and cellulite; in the cosmetic sector it is indicated in cases of wounds, burns and injuries.
It is also a widely used plant in the kitchen.
In Burmese cuisine, raw centella is used as the main component of a salad mixed with onions, chopped peanuts, bean powder and topped with lime juice and fish sauce. Centella is used as a green leafy vegetable in Sri Lankan cuisine, being predominantly available locally.
It is often prepared as malluma, a traditional accompaniment to rice and vegetarian dishes, such as jackfruit or pumpkin curry. It is considered nutritious. In addition to finely chopped Centella asiatica plants it can be eaten with grated coconut, diced shallot, lime (or lemon) juice and sea salt. Additional ingredients are finely chopped green chillies, chili powder, turmeric powder, or chopped carrots.
Centella fruits are discarded from gotu kola malluma due to their intense bitter taste. A variant of the porridge known as kola kenda is also made in Sri Lanka. Gotu kola kenda is made with well-cooked red rice with a little extra liquid, prime coconut milk extract and centella asiatica puree.
The porridge is accompanied by jaggery to acquire sweetness. Centella leaves are also used in modern sweet drinks and herbal teas. In addition, the leaves are served fried whole in coconut oil, or cooked in coconut milk with garlic or dhal.
In Indonesia the leaves are used for sambai or peuga-ga, a type of Aceh salad and these are also mixed in asinan in Bogor. In Vietnam and Thailand, the leaves are used to make a drink or can be eaten raw in salads or cold sandwiches. In Bangkok, Chatuchak weekend market vendors sell it along with coconut, rosella, chrysanthemum, orange, and other healthful drinks. In Malaysian cuisine it is known as pegaga and the leaves of this plant are used for ulam, a type of vegetable salad. In addition, Centella asiatica is widely used in various Indian regional cuisines.
In traditional medicine, gotu kola has been used to treat various ailments and minor injuries. Clinical efficacy and safety have not been confirmed by validated medical research. Contact dermatitis and skin irritation can result from topical application. Also, drowsiness may occur after consuming it.
The herb can have adverse effects on liver function when used for many months.

Preparation Method –
The preparations with Centella asiatica, as a bed, are many.
Here we will describe the mallum which is a salad prepared with chopped gotu kola, grated coconut, red onions and spices. Gotu kola is the Ayurvedic name of Centella asiatica. It is a plant considered to be a real concentrate of well-being on the island. In addition to salads, it is also used with well-compacted rice, so as to be a sort of nutritious porridge.
To return to the Mallum recipe with the addition of avocado you need the following ingredients:
– 200 g of gotu kola;
– a ripe avocado;
– half a coconut;
– 1 medium red onion;
– a lemon;
– turmeric;
– oil;
– salt;
– pepper.
For the preparation it is necessary to wash and clean the gotu kola, dry it and cut it into strips. Clean and cut the onion into slices. Obtain the pulp from the coconut, remove the dark inner skin and cut it into cubes. Peel the avocado, remove the stone and cut it into slices, immediately sprinkling them with the juice of half a lemon.
At this point, place the chopped salad in a bowl (you can also crush it in a mortar) and add the grated coconut, sliced ​​onion and avocado. Season with 4 tablespoons of oil emulsified with the remaining lemon juice, a sprinkling of turmeric, salt and pepper. Gently mix and serve.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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