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Centella Asiatica – Don’t mow down your backyard just because it looks messy. Look to see if you have a slender, creeping plant that has small fan-shaped leaves. If so, keep it because this is a plant with great medicinal value. The locals, in fact, have known this all along. That’s why the Malaysia incorporate it as part of their daily diet. Dipped in sambal belacan or other savoury sauces, they eat it raw as ‘ulam‘ the Chinese, on the other hand, call it chin chow and make ‘cooling‘ drinks out of it. The plant grows well in this climate and can be bought fresh at the pasar malam or in jellied form from the supermarkets.
The local name for this widely available herb is pegaga. Its botanical name is Centella Asiatica (Scientific name), a perennial, is known by many names, including Gota Kolu, Valeerai (India) Indian Pennyworth, Pegaga (Malaysia) Pegagan (Indonesia), Brahmi, Chi-hsueh, Ts’ao, Talepetraco. Pegaga is known as Brahmi (bringing knowledge of Brahman) in India, and is used as a blood purifier as well as for treating several other illnesses, Brahmi is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a revitalizing medicine in the nerves and brain, and similarly the herb was used in Eastern medicine to treat psychiatric illnesses such as depression The Sri Lankans noticed that the local elephants had a liking fo Brahmi, and believed that the leaves enhanced longevity.
In Ayurveda, the Indian science of traditional healing, the pegaga is known as a rejuvenating herb used to improve meditation. It develops the “crown chakra”, the energy center at the top of the head, and is said to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which the leaf resembles.
There are three main chemical constituents in the pegaga. The first is asiaticoside, which is a triterpene glycoside, classified as an antibiotic. (It aids in wound healing and has been used in the treatment of leprosy and tuberculosis in India) The second constituent is a pair of chemicals, brahmoside and brahminoside, which are saponin glycosides. (These are diuretic in nature and have a slightly sedative action when taken in large doses). Finally, there is madecassoside, a glycoside that is a stron antiinflammatory agent.
Research – Research on the plant has been extensive. Since proving its efficacy as an antibacterial on leprosy sores and ulcers in 1949. the plant has shown subsequent successes. This led to medicinal preparations in the 1970′s containing its chemical constituents for action against cellulitis, acute inflammation of the skin, wound healing ahd rheumatic inflammation. Pegaga apparently affects various stages of tissue development, including keratinization (the process of replacing skin after sores or ulcers), the synthesis of collagen (the first step in tissue repair), the stimulation of hair and nail growth, and support for the repair of cartilage.
Recent studies have shown that pegaga also has a positive effect on the circulatory system. It seems to improve the flow of blood throughout the body by stregthening the veins and capillaries. Hence, it is particularly useful for people who are inactive or are confined to bed due to illness. The herb has been used to successfully treat phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), varicose veins, as well as leg cramps, swelling of the legs, and ‘heaviness’ or tingling in the legs.
Because the pegaga improves connective tissue, it is helpful in conditions where the tissue gives way like when capillaries collapse (varicose veins). The same connective tissue repair potential can be used where there is extensive scarring (from acne or burns), leading to the conclusion that the herb can be used to treat arthritis, which is connective tissue related.
Aprt from all benefits that the pegaga is known for, the herb, which appears to be nothing short of a pharmaceutical miracle, is also referred to as “food for the brain”, This is because it has mild tranquilizing, anti-anxiety and anti-stree effects which calms the nerves while improving mental functions such as concentration and memory. this makes the pegaga an excellent herb for children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The additional beauty of the pegaga is that it is safe for long term use, even in children.
Rich not only in vitamins – Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), Beta Carotene, Traces of Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) and Niacine, but also in minerals like Calcium, Phosphorous, Iron and Sodium. It also has high Potassium and Magnesium. Earl Mindel, America’s leading pharmacist turned herbalist cum nutritionist, ranks pegaga among the best 100 herbs in the world (the “Hot Hundreds” as he calls it) in his book The Herb Bible. Dr. Robert D. Willix Jr. in his Health and Longevity Newsletter calls it a ‘miracle herb” in helping to improve circulation and skin conditions. On the World Health Organization’s list, it is described as “a herb with real potential.’ It is being billed in the West as “herb for the memory” and “herb for the brain,.”