I planted a small gotu kola runner in a pot back in September of last year when I was doing a series of gardening workshops. Although one of the two I planted suddenly died, the remaining plant is bounding along nicely. They do very well in the tropics and, as well as having many medicinal benefits, they're also a pretty plant for garden borders. However, they do best in swampy areas so it's important to ensure they're always very well watered. Popular in Chinese medicine, I'm not sure how well known it is in Western herbal lore as neither of the two chunky herbal guides on my bookshelf make any mention of it.

Referred to as the 'fountain of life', gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is purported to cure everything from depression to shingles. Our garden instructors assured us that a few leaves taken every day would treat rheumatism and arthritis. As nothing was mentioned in my herbal books, I checked online to see which of these claims has some evidence behind them.

According to studies, it has a positive effect on venous insufficiency and varicose veins, insomnia, anxiety and the treatment of wounds. However negative side effects include the potential for liver damage (with long term use).

The fresh leaf can be used in salads and is commonly used in Sri Lankan cuisine. Once mine is large enough I'll start adding some leaves to green smoothies and salad mixes, but for now I'll leave it to grow in peace.

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