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The herb hydrocotyle asiatica is known by many other names, including Gotu Kola, Indian Pennywort, Marsh Penny, and Brahmi. It is a small ground-creeping plant with round, ruffled leaves that grows wild in moist, warm areas of the Southern United States and India, Madagascar, Southeast Asia, and Sri Lanka. Hydrocotyle asiatica gets the name Indian Pennywort from the size of its leaves, which are about the size of an old British penny. The plant is prized in ayurvedic, homeopathic, and herbal medicines as a remedy for many complaints. In the 1880s, France officially recognized it as a beneficial drug.
When the fresh leaves and stems are used in a poultice for wounds, burns, and skin diseases such as scleroderma, lupus, and leprosy, it is said to heal quickly and reduce the formation of scars. Skin washes made from fresh leaves will have a cooling, invigorating feel. The leaves contain two volatile essential oils, camphor and vellarin, as well as calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, and K, and the anti-inflammatory component called madecassoside. A scientific study has shown that the components in hydrocotyle asiatica help develop keratin and collagen, which supports healing of connective tissues, skin, cartilage, hair, and nails.
The ancient Indian practice of ayurvedic medicine has used hydrocotyle asiatica for a variety of illnesses, both internal and external. Ayurvedic healing aims to bring balance to the body, mind, and spirit during the healing process, and this herb is considered one of the best to rejuvenate a patient, cleanse the immune system, and improve meditation. The plant is also said to improve mental functions and memory, improve blood flow, aid the lymphatic system, and remove toxins from the body. Practitioners believe the herb can help heal tuberculosis, hepatitis, cancer, senility, and skin ulcers.
In homeopathic medicine, the herb is used for similar problems, such as skin irritation, rashes, and wounds, or taken internally for bladder or uterine pain. As an herbal remedy, it can be taken as a tonic of plant extracts, a tea of dried or fresh herbs, or as a capsule. A tea made from 1 teaspoon (4.9 ml) of dried leaf in ½ cup (150 ml) boiling water can be taken up to three times a day. Some practitioners recommend eating three fresh leaves each day to rejuvenate the body and cleanse the system. In large doses, however, the plant can be toxic, causing vertigo, headache, and coma.
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