Centella asiatica or gotu kola is a water loving flowering plant native to India, parts of Asia, Australia and Madagascar. Traditionally the whole plant can be used medicinally as a treatment for various vascular conditions. Gotu kola has been extensively studied for its effects on vascular tissue and from these studies a number of triterpenoid compounds including asiatic acid, madecassic acid, asiaticoside and madecassoside have been isolated. However differences in the chemical compositions of plants from various regions have been observed. Standardised extract of gotu kola tend to come from those plant grown in Madagascar and typically contain around 30 % asiatic acid, madecassic acid and asiaticoside, as these has been identified as the primary active constituent of the plant. Levels of madecassoside in standardised extract may only be around 2 %. Other compounds present in extracts of gotu kola include quercetin and kaempferol and the essential oils camphor and cineole.
Gotu kola has been used traditionally as an internal and external medicine for the treatment of various conditions. However, of particular interest gotu kola can be used as a treatment for vascular disorders and modern research supports traditional herbalism in this regard. The ability of gotu kola to improve the condition of vascular tissue is likely due to its wound healing effects. This healing process likely includes a stimulation of hair and nail growth, the development and maintenance of blood vessels into connective tissue, increase mucin, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulphate production, an increase in the tensile strength of the dermis, and an increased keratinisation of the dermis through a stimulative effect on the germinal layer of the skin. As a result of these physiological effects extracts of gotu kola are beneficial at treating burns, cellulite and disorders of the veins. The ability of gotu kola to improve cellulite in women has been demonstrated in properly conducted clinical trials, with around half of all subjects showing positive improvements in their condition.