Centella asiatica: Asiatic pennywort

Family: Apiaceae
Common name: Asiatic pennywort, Indian pennywort, Coinwort, Pennyweed, Spadeleaf, Thick-leaved Pennywort, Indian water navelwort, Wild violet, Tiger herb, Kodavan, Gotu kola

Asiatic pennyworts are small herbs that grow abundantly in the rainy season, spreading along the ground with their creeping stolons. These plants only grow to a height of 8-10 cm, but they can grow very long because of stems that are capable of rooting at the nodes.

The stems are pale reddish green, whereas the leaves are green and rounded. The stem crawls along the ground producing new plants wherever a node touches the soil.

Leaves are small and fan-shaped with wavy edges. Asiatic pennywort plants produce small green or pinkish-white flowers in small bouquet-like clusters.

Each flower is about 2-3 mm in size containing distinct stamens and styles. These flowers later produce small seeds that are 2-3 mm in size.

The plants are quity sturdy growing and spreading well, and can be considered partly invasive. They need regular watering or rains to keep them healthy. Asiatic pennyworts can even grow as aquatic plants partly immersed in water.

This helps them thrive in the warm, wet climate of tropical countries, growing along the banks of streams, rivers, swamps, canals, paddy fields, and small water bodies. They are native to the Asian continent originally found in Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia etc.

Asiatic pennywort plants have been used in cooking for many years, the leaves added to salads and also cooked with other vegetables. Seeds are bitter in taste and should be discarded, but other parts of the plant are used in porridges, stews, and stir fries tasting like leafy greens. Asiatic pennyworts leaves are made into herbal teas and other drinks because of their nutritional benefits.

Asiatic pennyworts are considered powerful medicinal plants in traditional Ayurveda and herbal medicine. They have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiaging, antiulcer, and wound healing properties.

They are used in the treatment of cuts, wounds, burns, skin infections, dysentery, high blood pressure, ulcers, fever, urinary tract infections, and for improving memory. Though it is considered a miracle drug, it should be used only with expert advise since excessive dosage can cause serious side effects.

Propagation is through stolons, stem cuttings, and seeds.