Home Herbal Monograph Indian Pennywort, Centella, Gotu Kola

In Sanskrit texts, this plant was called Brahmi and Mandukaparni. According to Ainslie the leaves were used for pediatric complaints in bowel problems, fever and applied externally for blows and bruises in the Coromandel Coast. In Java, according to Horsfield, they were considered diuretic and on the Malabar Coast, the plant is one of the remedies for leprosy. As a remedy in this disease it was first brought prominently to notice by Boileau, in 1859. Dr. A. Hunter, who tried it in the Madras Leper Hospital, came to the conclusion that it had no claim to consideration as a specific in leprosy, but he found it most useful in ameliorating the symptoms and improving general health. Reports from Europe in 1885 confirm the use of this plant for syphilitic skin diseases both internally and externally. Dr. Clement Darnty de Grandpre in 1888, stated that this plant was so abundant in Mauritius that it served as forage for cattle, whose milk it improved.


Commonly found as a weed in crop fields and other waste places throughout India up to an altitude of 600 m.

Morphology Description (Habit)

C.asiatica is a prostrate, perennial herb. The stem is glabrous, pink and striated, rooting at the nodes; the leaves are fleshy, orbicular-reniform, crenate, base cordate and often lobed and long-petioled; the flowers are red, pink or white, in fascicled umbels; the fruits are oblong, dull brown, laterally compressed; the pericarp hard, thickened, woody and white.

Principal Constituents

Samples of the Indian plants collected from different places showed the presence of the following glycosides: indocentelloside, brahmoside, brahminoside, asiaticoside, thankuniside and isothankuniside. The corresponding triterpene acids obtained on hydrolysis of the glycosides are indocentoic, brahmic, asiatic, thankunic and isothankunic. These acids, except the last two, are also present in free form in the plant apart from isobrahmic and betulic acids. The presence of mesoinositol, a new oligosaccharide, `centellose', kaempferol, quercetin and stigmasterol, have also been reported1.


Different fractions of the drug `Mandukaparni' have shown barbiturate hypnosis potentiation effect in growing albino rats. It has also anticonvulsive activity, besides producing significant alterations in the neurochemistry of the brain. The extract of the fresh plant significantly inhibits gastric ulceration induced by cold restraint stress (CRU) in rats. In pharmacological tests the plant has exhibited sedative, antidepressant activity in albino rats. The asiaticoside, a glucoside, has given encouraging results for the treatment of leprosy2.

Clinical Studies

Clinical trials have demonstrated that the herbal drug possesses an Ayurvedic Medhya Rasayana effect (brain invigorating). It was found that the extract increases the intelligence quotient in mentally retarded children. In a comparative clinical and instrumental trial with a placebo, the plant extract was found to improve venous disorders of the lower limbs3.

A double blind clinical trial conducted on 43 normal adults showed that the plant increased the mean level of R.B.C., blood sugar, serum cholesterol, vital capacity and total protein. The drug also decreased the mean blood urea level and a moderate decrease in the serum acid phosphate was observed4,5.

A double blind clinical trial, conducted on 30 mentally retarded children who were free from epilepsy and other neurological conditions, showed significant improvements in both general ability and behavioral patterns when the drug was administered for a short period of 12 weeks6.


The drug was found to be nontoxic up to a dose of 350mg/kg3.


The plant is valued in indigenous medicine for treatment of leprosy and skin diseases and also to improve memory. The plant is used as an antidote to cholera. A cold poultice of the fresh herb is used as an external application in rheumatism, elephantiasis and hydrocele. For treating leprosy and other skin diseases it is given as an ointment or dusting powder. Internally it has been valued as a tonic and is used in bronchitis, asthma, gastric catarahh, leucorrhoea, kidney troubles, urethritis and dropsy. A decoction of very young shoots is given for haemorrhoids.

  1. Bhattacharyya, J Indian chem Soc., 1956, 33, 893; Rastogi et. al., J sci. industr. Res.,1960, 19B, 252; Dutta & Basu, ibid, 1962, 21B, 239; Dutta & Basu, Indian J Chem., 1967, 5, 586; Dutta & Basu, Bull nat. Inst. Sci. India, No. 37, 1968, 178; Singh & Rastogi, Phytochemistry, 1969, 8, 917; Rao & Seshadri, Curr. Sci., 1969, 38, 77.
  2. Shukla, Bull Med. Ethno-Bot Res, 1989, 10 (3-4), 119; Bagchi & Puri, Herba Hung, 1989, 28 (1-2), 127; Sharan & Khare, Probe, 1991, 31 (1), 12; Kulkarni & Verma, ibid, 1993, 32 (4), 289; Kulkarni & Verma, Indian Drugs, 1993, 30, 97; Chatterjee et. al., Indian J Exp. Biol., 1992, 30, 889, Sakina & Dandiya, Fitoterapia, 1990, 61, 291.
  3. Aithal & Sirsi, Antiseptic, 1961, May, 1.
  4. Appa Rao et. al., J. Res. Ind. Med., 1967, 2, 79.
  5. Appa Rao et. al., Nagarjun, 1969, 12, 79.
  6. Appa Rao et. al., J. Res. Ind. Med., 1973, 8, 9.