Centella asiatica, an ancient healing herb, is being revived by modern-day science to help reverse the signs of aging. But its benefits don’t stop there. From healing burns and wounds to easing anxiety and enhancing your memory, this powerful herb has many health benefits. Here’s what you need to know about Centella asiatica and how it can support your skin, body and mind.
What is Centella asiatica?
Centella asiatica is a perennial flowering, creeping plant that also goes by the name Gotu kola, Indian pennywort, Brahmi, spade leaf or simply, Centella. It’s native to Asia and a traditional medicine mostly used in Ayurveda. But it also has roots in traditional Chinese medicine.
Historically, Centella has been used to treat a variety of conditions including syphilis, hepatitis, stomach ulcers, diarrhea, fever and asthma. Thanks to its neuroprotective properties, it was also used to treat mental fatigue and even epilepsy, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
But today, it’s mostly used to treat varicose veins and swollen legs. In fact, people who take Centella before flying have less ankle and leg swelling than those who do not take it, reports one study. But how can Centella improve the look of your skin?
Helps reverse the signs of aging
By the time you reach your twenties, your skin exfoliation process decreases by 28 percent, causing dead skin cells to accumulate and stick together for long periods of time. In your thirties, moisture slows and fat cells start to shrink. This can make your skin look dull and thin. By the time you reach your forties, collagen is no longer produced. Your skin loses its elasticity, resulting in wrinkles and fine lines.
Finally, by the time your fifties roll around, the skin becomes drier thanks to shrinking oil glands. And of course, by the time a woman reaches menopause, a decrease in estrogen levels leaves the skin even drier, thinner, more sensitive and less toned. But Centella can help, thanks to its skin rejuvenation properties. It’s rich in amino acids, beta-carotene, fatty acids and phytochemicals. All of these are signs of aging.
This super blend of nutrients provides many benefits for the skin, including powerful anti-aging properties that stimulate new cell growth, improves circulation and helps build collagen. And as we know collagen is absolutely essential for maintaining a youthful complexion.
Centella is especially beneficial for improving elasticity or saggy skin. It’s for these reasons Centella asiatica has attracted the attention of beauty experts around the world. But there’s more to Centella than just beauty.
Heals burns, wounds, eczema and psoriasis
Research published in the International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences suggests Centella also has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. So, when used in ointment form, it can treat eczema, psoriasis and help heal burns and minor wounds quickly.
In fact, during an animal study, researchers applied Centella extract to the skin of rats with open wounds. The substance was applied topically once a day. They found that it not only inhibited bacterial growth but also helped grow new skin cells. It also seemed to increase “tensile strength” and resilience in the skin.
One of the best reasons to take Centella is for its potential to improve memory and cognition. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that Centella extract may improve memory at the molecular level. Another study found that rats who were given the extract and then put through a series of tests to measure their cognitive function showed an improvement in learning and memory.
A human study involving elderly participants found that Centella was able to boost both memory and cognitive function. This shows great promise as a natural treatment for age-related decline or even Alzheimer’s.
Helps relieve depression and anxiety
Some studies found that Centella may even benefit mental health because of its anxiolytic and antidepressant properties. This suggests it can possibly treat anxiety and depression, calm nerves and even promote better sleep, naturally. Participants who used 500 milligrams of Centella twice a day for 60 days saw a reduction in anxiety levels and decreased levels of stress and depression.
How to use Centella daily in your routine
In Asian countries, Centella is often used in salads, curries, side dishes and soups. While you can certainly take it in a supplement form, many enjoy steeping it for tea. Simply add one teaspoon of dried Centella leaves in a cup of boiled water and allow it to steep for a few minutes. Add a little raw honey for sweetness. You can also use it with ointment or cream. Or, use it in extract form, and add to a beverage. Look for Centella asiatica in your health food store.
When taking Centella internally it has the potential to harm the liver, suggests the University of Maryland Medical Center. Therefore, it’s best to use Centella for only a short duration with a two-week break in between uses. People over the age of 65 should take a lower dose. Centella may increase blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. If you’re pregnant, avoid using Centella. Meanwhile, your health care provider can help you determine what dose is right for you, which can be increased over time.
— Katherine Marko