Indian pennywort is a perennial wild creeper with slender branches and small internodes. It grows horizontally and is small and smooth. A number of leaves shoot out at each node on the upper side and numerous roots grow into the soil at each node. The creeper thus has abundant leaf growth and new plants shoot out of various nodes. All parts of the creeper are used for therapeutic and culinary purposes.
The leaves of the Indian pennywort are simple or of one blade, thickish, almost round or kidney shaped and yellowish green in color. The fruits are small, fat circular and hard. The fresh leaves have an aroma due to the presence of an oily matter called vellarin. The aroma is lost on drying.
Several other substances have been isolated from the herb. These include an essential oil, fatty oil, sitosterol, tannin and a resinous substance. The dry plant yields an alkaloid, hydrocotylin. The leaves and roots contain a bitter principle, vellarine, pectic acid and resin. The leaves of the Indian pennywort have a mixed taste - sweet, sour, astringent and bitter. The cellulose content is very low.
Botanical Name: Centella asiatica
Indian Name: Khulakudi or brahmamanduki
Below are some of the medicinal properties of Indian pennywort:
- Indian pennywort is useful in nervous disorders including nervous debility. A powder of the leaves dried in shade and taken in doses of 3 to 6 decigrams, thrice a day for adults, is effective. Reduce the dose to 0.75 to 2.5 decigrams for children.
- Indian pennywort is an effective remedy for skin disease like chronic and persistent eczema, chronic ulcers and syphilitic sores. A fine powder of the dried leaves can be used as a dust in skin eruptions and syphilic ulcers. To check fever associated with these diseases, the juice of the leaves should be taken thrice a day in doses of 1 to 5 drops.
- The leaves of the Indian pennywort are useful in improving memory. The power of the leaves taken with milk in small doses for this purpose helps in correcting the disorders.
- It is beneficial in female sterility when combined with another herb called chotakulpha, (trichodesma indicum). The two herbs should be uprooted when matured and dried in the shade for use. An equal quantity of both herbs should be taken, powdered with sugar candy in the ratio 2:1. Three grams of this powder should be taken both in the morning and evening with cow's milk for 3 consecutive days after menstruation. However, the woman using this recipe should be free from menstrual pain, leucorrhea, obesity or any such disease. If she has any, these should be treated before going in for this remedy.
- The leaves of the plant are a valuable remedy in the early stages of dysentery in children. Three or four leaves can be taken with cumin and sugar in addition to applying a paste of the leaves on the navel.
- In case of bowel complaints amongst children, half a cup of on infusion of its leaves with fenugreek (methi) can be taken, in a single dose.
- Indian pennywort is beneficial in treating elephantiasis of the scrotum and legs, which is marked by gross swelling. The juice extracted from a portion of the fresh plant or the dried stem and leaves of the plant ground with water, should be applied locally to the affected parts. A poultice of the fresh leaves or an ointment made of four grams of the leaf extract with 30 grams of lanoline is equally efficacious.
The drug is generally given as a decoction in doses of 30 to 60 ml or as powder in doses of 2 to 6 decigrams thrice a day. The leaves of the plant can be taken in doses of 30 to 60 grams. The juice of the leaves can be taken in doses of 60 to 100 ml and the decoction of the leaves from 120 to 150 ml.
The leaves of Indian pennywort have culinary uses too and can be used for making soup, raw juice, raw chutney, tea, and chapattis (mixed with wheat flour).
It is advisable to take the raw juice of the leaf in small doses as the juice is very potent and an excess intake may lead to coma.