Botanical: Centella asiatica, Apiaceae Other: Brahmi, ‘Brahman’, Brahmamanduki ‘frog-leaved’ Brahmi (S); Bemgsag (H), Vallarai (T), Indian Penny wort (E); ‘Gotu Kola’ is derived from the Sinhala name
Part used: aerial parts
- Rasa: tikta/bitter; katu/pungent
- Virya: shita/cool
- Vipaka: katu/pungent
- Guna: dry/rusha, light/laghu
- Dosha: VPK=, primarily KP-
- Dhatu/Tissues: Plasma, Blood, Muscle, Fat, Bone, Nerve
- Srotas/Systems: Nervous/Manovaha, Circulatory/Raktavaha, Digestive/Mahahasrota
Ayurvedic Action: dipana/increases appetite, jvaraghna/antiageing, raktaprasadana/purifies the blood, mutravirechana/diuretic, kusthaghna/alleviates skin disease, hrdaya/heart tonic, medhya/intellect promoting, rasayana/rejuvenates life and pitta.
- Powder: 1-30 g per day as infusion
- Tincture: dry plant 1:3, 50% alcohol, 1-5 mL per day
- Oil: massage for nervous system disorders
- Triterpenoids include asiaticoside A and B, madecassoside, braminoside, brahmoside, brahminoside, thankuniside, isothankunoside, as well as triterpene acids such as asiatic acid, 6-hydroxy asiatic acid, madecassic acid, madasiatic acid, brahmic acid, isobrahmic acid, betulinic acid and isothankunic acid.
- Flavones include quercitin, kaempferol and astragalin.
- Alkaloid hydrocotylin, and phytosterols stigmasterol and sitosterol.
- Additional constituents include tannins, amino acids, B-complex vitamins and a resin (Williamson 2002, 103; Yoganarasimhan 2000, 122; Heinerman 1984, 85).
Biomedical indications: Gastric ulceration and inflammation, dysentery, jaundice, hepatitis, fever, bronchitis, alopecia, eczema, psoriasis, leprous ulcers, venereal diseases, burns, anxiety, poor memory, ADD/ADHD, senility, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, chronic fatigue, premature aging, hypertension, anemia, diabetes, edema, varicosities, phlebitis, venous insufficiency, immunodeficiency, autoimmune disorders, cancer.
Precautions: A water-soluble fraction of Centella asiatica was reported to inhibit hepatic enzymes responsible for barbiturate metabolism (Leung and Foster 1996), and has been found to have a GABAnergic activity (Chatterjee et al 1992). Brahmi is thus contraindicated with the concurrent use of drugs such as benzodiazepines, barbituates or antiepileptics. Contact dermatitis has been reported in some clients using preparations of fresh or dried parts of the plant (Eun and Lee 1985). Although the triterpene constituents have shown to lack any kind or teratogenic effects (Bosse et al 1979), relaxation of the rat uterus has been documented for brahmoside and brahminoside, and therefore Brahmi is thus avoided in pregnancy (Ramaswamy et al 1970). Hyperglycemic and hypercholesterolemic effects have been reported for asiaticoside in humans (Newall et al 1996), and caution should be exercised with the concomitant use of hypolipidemic and hypoglycemic therapies. Frawley and Lad report high doses of Brahmi may cause a loss of consciousness and headaches, and that it may aggravate pruritis (1986, 171). The majority of Ayurvedic texts suggest that Brahmi is contraindicated in Vataja conditions (Warrier et al 1995, 54-55).
Learning and memory: A two-compartment passive avoidance task test (with rats) showed an improvement in 24-h retention. Assessment of turnover of biogenic amines (norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotinin) showed significant reductions of these amines and their metabolites in the brain following oral administration of a fresh juice (1 mL = 0.38 g fresh leaves), at a dose of 0.18 g/kg for 15 days. The decrease of amine levels was correlated to improved learning and memory in rats (Leung and Foster 1996). A water-soluble fraction of Centella asicatica was found to have an anxiolytic effect in animals comparable to diazepam (Leung and Foster 1996). An extract of Centella asiatica was found to increase brain GABA levels (Chatterjee et al 1992). In a study upon the effects of Centella asiatica on mentally-challenged children, half were given 500 mg tablets of dried Centella asiatica (whole plant), and half placebo. Intelligence quotient tests were conducted at the outset of the study, and again after three months. Results indicated that children who took the Centella tablet showed significant improvements in co-operation, memory, concentration, attention, vocabulary and social adjustment (Appa Rao 1973). Intraperitoneal injections of brahmoside and brahminoside were found to have a CNS-depressant effect in mice and rats (Ramaswamy et al 1970).
Neuroprotective: Asiaticoside derivatives were found to inhibit or reduce H2O2 induced cell death and lower intracellular free radical concentration, protecting against the effects of beta-amyloid neurotoxicity (Mook-Jung et al 1999).
Cardiovascular: A three week treatment of a triterpene fraction of Centella asiatica in clients with postphlebitic syndrome significantly reduced the number of circulating endothelial cells, as compared to normal subjects (Montecchio et al. 1991). The use of an oral extract of Centella asiatica in a randomized controlled trial of 87 clients with chronic venous hypertensive microangiopathy was found efficacious, without side-effects (Cesarone et al 1994). A clinical trial of an extract of Centella asiatica found that it was efficacious in the treatment of venous insufficiency, reducing ankle, edema and foot swelling, and improving capillary filtration rate and microcirculatory parameters (Cesarone et al. 1992).
Hepatitis: Researchers found improvement in 5 of 12 patients with chronic hepatic disorders, treated with a titrated extract of Centella asiatica (Darnis et al 1979).
Antiulcer: An extract of Centella asiatica significantly inhibited gastric ulceration induced by cold and restraint stress in Charles-Foster rats (Chatterjee et al 1992).
Antioxidant: The administration asiaticoside, an isolated constituent of Centella asiatica, significantly increased the levels of superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, vitamin E and ascorbic acid in excision-type cutaneous wounds in rats. The level of antioxidant activity was highest during the initial stages of treatment (Shukla et al 1999b).
Antiinflammatory: Madecassol (asiaticoside) was reported to reduce acute skin reactions in radiotherapy-treated rats (Chen et al. 1999).
Autoimmune: The usage of madecassol (asiaticoside) in tablet, ointment and powdered form was found to be efficacious in the treatment of chronic or subchronic systemic scleroderma with limited skin involvement, and in progressive and/or advanced focal scleroderma (Guseva et al 1998).
Antitumor: Researchers at the Amala Cancer Research Centre in Kerala, India, tested both a crude extract of Centella asiatica (CE) and its partially purified fractions (AF) for their antitumor activity. AF significantly inhibited the proliferation of the transformed cell lines in Ehrlich ascites tumor cells and Dalton’s lymphoma ascites tumor cells with no toxic effects on normal human lymphocytes. AF was also found to inhibit the development of mouse lung fibroblast. Oral administration of both CE and AF retarded the development of solid and ascites tumors, and increased the life span of tumor bearing mice. “Tritiated thymidine, uridine and leucine incorporation assay suggest that the fraction acts directly on DNA synthesis.” (Babu et al. 1995) Fresh juice is reported to have moderate cytotoxic action in human ascites tumor cells (Lin et al 1972).
Antimicrobial: Asiaticoside is reported to be active against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Bacillus leprae and Entamoeba histolytica (Oliver-Bever 1986).
Wound-healing: Titrated extract of Centella asiatica (TECA), consisting of a mixture of three triterpenes (asiatic acid, madecassic acid and asiaticoside) stimulates collagen and glycosaminoglycan synthesis in rats surgically inserted with stainless steel wound chambers (Maquart et al. 1999). The administration of a topical solution of asiaticoside (0.2%) in guinea pig punch wounds produced a 56% increase in hydroxyproline, a 57% increase in tensile strength, increased collagen content and better epithelisation than controls. A similar increase was also found with the oral administration of asiaticoside (1mg/kg) in guinea pigs with punch wounds. The topical administration of a 0.4% solution of asiaticoside in punch wounds of streptozotocin diabetic rats, in which healing is delayed, increased hydroxyproline content, tensile strength, collagen content and epithelisation (Shukla et al 1999a). An alcoholic extract of Centella asiatica increased cellular proliferation and collagen synthesis in rat dermal wounds, with better cross-linking of collagen and faster epithelialization, as compared to control wounds (Suguna et al. 1996). In the treatment of keloids, madecassol (asiaticoside) compares favourably with compression bandaging and provides more lasting results than intralesional cortisone or radiation therapy (Bosse et al 1979).
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