Gotu Kola, and the quality of herb articles in JAMA.

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.herbs
From: (Michael Moore)
Date: 04 Dec 1995 01:49:27 GMT
Subject: Re: indian pennewort

> Gotu Kola
> (Centella Asiatica)
> Parts used...seeds, nuts, and roots.
> Chemical/nutrient content...catechol, epicatechol, magnesium, theobromine, and vitamin K.
> Actions/uses...a mildly bitter herb that stimulates central nervous system, aids in the elimination of excess fluids, shrinks tissues, decreases fatigue and depression, and increases sex drive. Used for rheumatism, blood diseases, mental disorders, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, sore throat, tonsillitis, hepatitis, urinary tract infections, venereal disease, measles, insomnia, and stress. Acts as a diuretic. May neutralize blood acids and lower body temperature. Good for liver and heart function.
> Hope this helps...Brad

I don't know you reference source, but your list of constituents for Centella asiatica is totally WRONG ... it is the primary constituent list for BLACK or GREEN TEA (Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze) .. you know ... Oolong, Bancha, Earl Grey kind of tea.

Centella (Hydrocotyle) asiatica, also called Gotu Kola or Brahmi, contains

"vallerin, a bitter principle, and a mixture of triterpenoid glycosides, the most abundant of which is asiaticoside (C54 H88 O23) which on hydrolysis produces asiatic acid, glucose and rhamnose. It also contains traces of an alkaloid, volatile oil and pectin" ... Martindale Extra Pharmacopoea 27 ed.

Actually, the plant is well researched and I could bore everyone with similar lists from "Handbook of Phytochemical etc." by Jim Duke, "Phytochemical Dictionary" by Harborne and Baxter, "Merck Index", 9th or 10th edition, the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, etc. etc.

I'm not trying to clobber you ... you are just quoting a reference that happens to be incorrect. Theobromine is, loosely, a caffeine relative, and is, for all practical purposes, ONLY found in caffeine plants, such as Cola Nuts, Guarana, Tea, etc.

On second thought, your reference has probably made the confusion of Gotu KOLA with the completely unrelated COLA NUTS (Cola nitida, or the alledged "cola" of cola drinks ... a big two-pieced brown nut from Africa).

The funny thing is that an article in JAMA (the Jounal of the American Medical Association) a few years ago, aimed at debunking herbs, mad some REALLY terrible mistakes of nomenclature and pharmacognosy in a seeming rush to their political/medical agenda ... such as claiming that Digitalis was a widely consumed herb tea (What the f__k?), that Chamomile was a common allergen, that folks were virtually killing themselves drinking Arnica Tea (???) and that Gotu Kola was a secret source of caffeine, grows in Africa, etc. I guess the medical journals only find it necessary for PEER REVIEW when it comes to Matters Medical.

Anyway, this strange confusion between cola nuts and centella, written in an editorial in JAMA, has been cropping up in anti-herbal references ever since, including an article in the Journal of the American Nursing Association and even the CDC's "Morb/and/Morph" reports.

Hell, even Varro Tyler would strongly disagree with this statement ... any first year pharmacy student could disprove it ... even an herbalist can :-)

Michael Moore (

From: (Michael Moore) wrote:
> : such as claiming that Digitalis was a widely consumed herb tea (What the f__k?)
> Referring to Rehmannia glutinosa, a foxglove (but NOT one that contains digitalis in its root).

No, Paul, there was NO confusion in the JAMA (or the ANA) article when Digitalis was mentioned as an example of a DANGEROUS herb tea (they also mentioned Datura). This was perhaps 14-15 years ago, and the "author" was all in a tiffy about the dangers of over-the counter "unregulated" herbal teas ... the same period (end of the Carter administration) when Sassafras was being pulled from stores.

As I remember it, the JAMA article/editorial tried to warn docs about this "new" danger ... unregulated herb tea-drinking ... and then listed some highly improbable "teas", such as Digitalis, Arnica and Datura, leaving the impression for the physician/reader that the herb and health food market was willy-nilly selling these herbs in tea bags. The RefCites listed a toxicology report of a teenage boy who had picked and eaten some Datura leaves and another report of a batch of Comfrey that had been adulterated with Digitalis by pickers Bulgaria ... the actual LANGUAGE of the article made it seem, however, that these dangers lay in wait for ANYONE that was out there buying herb teas.

This is the article that, to my knowledge, first made the printed confusion between Centella and Cola, and first made me wonder about the quality of "Research and Review" regarding non-Medikal matters in the major journals. Particularly when ANOTHER writer took off on this and wrote a much more detailed article in the American Nursing Association journal ... and with even MORE pernicious mistakes ... followed by six months of a middle-level publicity blitz that saw the same inane assertions quoted in newspapers, the evening TV news, Reader's Digest ... even Paul Harvey picked it up for his radio show.

A few of us wrote well-documented rebuttals (that, of course, never got printed by anyone) ... but these were the days when the old Herb Trade Association was moribund, and the American Botanical Council hadn't been formed yet, so there was no reputable "trade" guild to work from...just a bunch of pissed off herbalists micturating into the political wind.

How VERY ironic ... Democratic administrations tend to extend protection for the environment, legislate (and sometimes even enforce) clean air, clean water and clean food laws ... and attempt to suppress alternative medicine.

Republican administrations tend to like logging, mining, factory smoke-stack farts and the disemboweling of things like OSHA, the Endangered Species Act, the Brady Bill and other public-safety measures...and could care less about the legalities of alternative medicine.

As an old liberal, I have found this VERY confusing. For three decades I have PRAYED for a democrat to be elected president (because the trees have all been cut down and cattle are grazing in Wilderness areas). When a Democrat actually DOES get elected, I applaud (for the sake of the relative safety of the remaining biosphere), and duck-and-cover, waiting for the inevitable jack-boots of the FDA and the Anti-Quack Brigades of the medical politicians.

When a republican get elected (after four years), I rush out and meditate in an old-growth forest (knowing it will soon be cut down), take some pictures of a pristine meadow (knowing that cattle will soon graze it out) ... and relax for the duration ... knowing ALSO that nobody will give a shit about my being an herbalist and about alternative therapies in general ... they have pulled the teeth of the FDA.

I was warning my younger friends in the industry about this ... the Reagan-Bush era saw an uninterrupted bull market for herbs and other modalities ... with product lines multiplying like rabbits, and with claims and therapeutic implications growing ever louder and bolder (often virtual fabrications) and ALL patently illegal. Alterno-Yuppies had NO idea what was going to happen to them when Clinton got elected ... they had been living in an un-regulated dream. Sure enough ... Kessler and Friends are NOW on strong political footing ... and SEE the howls from the health food, nootropic and phytotherapy hustlers as they get chastised for their excesses (and GOOD folks get in trouble as well). My old groves are a little safer, but my Herbs are not.

Confusing, eh?

(what WAS the subject, anyway?)

Michael Moore (

From: (Brad Bishop )

> I don't know your reference source, but your list of constituents for Centella asiatica is totally is the primary

What I find incredible about this is the references that I used. I thought you might enjoy this as much as I. I try to be very precise and correct when I post ... and like most we use reference by those we feel qualified and respected. In fact I have quoted you from time to time.

My source... "Prescription for Nutritional Healing" (page 54) James Balch, MD and Phyllis Balch, CNC

These are pretty respected sources. I find it amazing that the information is still printed in there books if incorrect. You would think they would correct it? Of course the ingredient list came only from Balch's book. Maybe we should write him a letter. I thought I should repost so those who use Balch as I are aware of this in the book.