Centella asiatica is an herb that people can find in moisturizers, wound treatments, and anti-aging creams. It may help with some common skin conditions but can cause side effects in high doses.

Centella asiatica, or gotu kola, is a medicinal herb that appears in Ayurvedic medicine, traditional African medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine. Some people use it to treat wounds such as burns or cuts, skin conditions, including psoriasis and scleroderma, and as an ingredient in cosmetics and skin care products.

This article looks at what Centella asiatica is, its potential benefits for skin, and how a person can use it. It also covers the risks and side effects associated with the plant and lists some alternative natural products to consider.

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A 2013 overview of Centella asiatica in cosmetic use states that the herb has played a role in traditional medicine for centuries, with some populations using the plant as a cure-all remedy up to 3,000 years ago.

Historically, people have used it for several conditions, including epilepsy, Hansen’s disease, minor itching, and insect bites. Researchers are currently investigating its use in treating a number of other skin conditions.

The Centella asiatica plant grows in the following areas of the world:

  • India
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • South Africa
  • Madagascar
  • Eastern Europe
  • Central America

Centella asiatica contains a range of active substances, such as triterpenoids, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, which a 2016 study suggests have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Research from 2018 also suggests that the plant may have anticarcinogenic properties due to the asiatic acid it contains.

Additionally, according to older research from 2013, the potential uses of Centella asiatica may include:

Learn more about Centella asiatica, or gotu kola.

Centella asiatica may offer several benefits for a person’s skin due to a range of chemicals within the plant.

For example, compounds in Centella asiatica, including madecassoside, madecassic acid, asiaticoside and asiatic acid, may help wounds heal. This is because these compounds increase the amount of collagen and cell layer fibronectin in the skin.

Learn more about the stages of wound healing.

The naturally occurring antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and carbohydrates in Centella asiatica may also make the herb effective in improving skin hydration and providing anti-aging action, according to the above 2016 study on the moisturizing effects of the plant. As a result, manufacturers often include the herb in moisturizers that target dry and sensitive skin.

Learn about the difference between skin hydration and moisture.

An older study from 2010 did not find Centella asiatica toxic in recommended doses. The authors write that side effects from using the herb are rare, but can include:

However, the study authors added that if a person takes a high dose of Centella asiatica, they may experience extreme drowsiness. They go on to write that an individual should not take the herb if they are also using medication to help them sleep or reduce anxiety.

Additionally, injections of Centella asiatica can cause allergic reactions.

The study authors also warn that if a person consumes a high amount of Centella asiatica, they may be at risk of headaches and transient unconsciousness, more commonly known as blackouts. Some compounds within the herb have also shown some antifertility effects in mice in previous research.

This research recommends that a person does not use Centella asiatica for more than 6 weeks at a time and advises users to have at least a 2-week break between every 6 weeks of use. The study also recommends avoiding the use of the herb while breastfeeding.

There is also a lack of research into the effects of Centella asiatica on:

  • female fertility
  • pregnancy
  • breast milk

With this in mind, anyone who is pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or breastfeeding should consult with a doctor before using Centella asiatica.

If a person experiences any side effects after using Centella asiatica products or ingesting the herb, they should seek advice from a doctor.

There are many ways a person can take or use Centella asiatica.

For example, a person can take it by consuming the herb in capsules or as a tea. People also use Centella asiatica products topically for skin conditions and in moisturizers and cosmetic products.

An individual should consult with a doctor before using any Centella asiatica products to make sure it is safe for them to use.

Manufacturers include Centella asiatica in some cosmetic products. These products can include hydrogels and oil-in-water emulsion creams, due to the plant’s moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties, according to a 2016 study.

A person may also find Centella asiatica in medicinal ointments, such as Madecassol, or creams and gels.

According to a 2020 review of the potential therapeutic uses for Centella asiatica, triterpene compounds may make the herb effective for skin care, including:

  • asiatic acid
  • asiaticoside
  • madecassic acid
  • madecassoside

A 2018 study of the potential benefits of certain plant oils for skin repair described the effects of 19 different plant oils, including grapeseed oil, safflower oil, argan oil, and avocado oil, on skin. A person could also consider some of these oils as possible alternatives to Centella asiatica.

This research shows that birch bark contains the triterpene betulin, which promotes wound healing activity.

Additionally, olive oil and shea butter have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the skin. The authors also write that coconut oil can be an extremely beneficial oil for the skin. They also add that it can improve mild to moderate atopic dermatitis, promote wound healing, and help protect a person’s skin from UV radiation.

Centella asiatica is a type of herb native to Asia, but it can grow in Eastern Europe, South and East Africa, and Central America.

It has been a part of traditional herbal medicine for thousands of years, and researchers are now exploring its use in Western medicine.

A person can find Centella asiatica in creams, gels, and ointments. They can also consume the plant in tea.

People may benefit from the compounds within Centella asiatica, as research suggests they may have antioxidant, anticellulite, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties. As a result, these qualities make the herb a popular and potentially useful ingredient in skin care products.

Although older research has not identified Centella asiatica as toxic in recommended doses, a person may experience side effects if they take it in high doses. Therefore individuals should consult a doctor before using any Centella asiatica products.