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What has madecassoside, madecassic acid, and asiaticoside, centelloside, and asiatic acid have to do with each other? As it turns out, are all components of the centella asiatica plant. All over Asia, there are legends about how people discovered the benefits of centella asiatica. All kinds of people, from farmers to soldiers observed tigers rolling around in the grass after a fight when they were wounded. It appeared to the people that the grass could heal the tigers, and so the name of the grass came about. It was widely called “tiger grass”.

What appeared to be grass was in fact a herbaceous and perennial herb. Its scientific name is centella asiatica and it also goes by gotu kola, Asiatic pennywort, centella, pegaga, and of course tiger grass. It has been well documented both in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine for more than 2000 years. It was taken orally or applied to the skin for treating wounds, curing venous disorders, promoting healing, treating coughs and sinusitis, improving memory and aiding liver disorders, and even combatting anxiety.

In some Asian countries, the leaves are also used as food, in salad and drinks, photo by Shahidul Hasan Roman

The Components

The main active ingredients of centella asiatica are asiatic acid, madecassic acid, asiaticoside and madecassoside, classed as terpenoids. They make up around 8% of the weight of the plant. Sometimes, you’ll find them alone on the ingredient list or in combination with Centella asiatica extract. Terpenoids are known for wound healing. They’re chemical compounds produced by plants as a self-defense mechanism against rotting, insect attack, and other issues. 

It also contains vitamins, moisturising fatty acids, amino acids, and flavonoids, making it a powerhouse ingredient for skincare.

And What Is Cica?

Centella asiatica is renowned for its healing properties. It started with Korean brands, but you’ll also see Western products labelled with “cica”. There are two explanations behind cica: For one, it could be a made-up word, a combination of the *c* in centella and “Ica of “asiatica”. The other explanation is that cica comes from the Latin for scar (cicatrix). 

A host of virtues

Aside from the legend of how people discovered tiger grass, there’s real science behind its healing effects. Its strong regenerative power has made it a very popular ingredient in the beauty industry. And it has more going for it.

A word of caution though, most of the studies look at topical applications of centella asiatica and are in a lab setting or with rat and mouse models. There’s yet very little in terms of true human data.

Improves skin hydration

Centella’s combination of vitamins, amino acids, and fatty acid make it a good hydrating ingredient. It increases hydration in the top layer, boosts circulation and blood flow to the skin, prevents transepidermal water loss (TEWL), and aids in cellular repair. All in all, it helps repair and protect the skin barrier

Promotes collagen formation

Centella has the ability to boost collagen production and so has anti-ageing capabilities. It also works to reduce the activities of Matrix Metallo Proteins (MMPs), which are responsible for the breakdown of the skin’s framework or matrix. When combined with vitamin C, both enhance each other’s anti-ageing properties. Resulting in fewer wrinkles, firmer skin, and improved skin texture. Centella helps your skin retain a youthful, plump appearance. 

Reduces irritation

Maybe the other reason why centella asiatica is so famous is that it’s very soothing. It can reduce skin irritation, help decrease redness, inflammation and relieve itchy skin due to its soothing and healing properties. 

That’s the reason why it’s often added as an ingredient in acne-fighting products. It’s also a good choice for those with chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. 

Offers antioxidant protection

It may be less potent than the known powerhouses vitamin A, B, or C. But it also works to reduce skin-damaging free radicals formed by exposure to environmental factors such as UV rays and pollution. 

Perhaps more intriguing is that it can increase the levels of antioxidants in the skin. It boosts antioxidant activity around wounds, which, in turn, helps reduce inflammation, decreasing the overall time it takes for wounds to heal. 

Reduces sun spots

Once the free radicals have run their course and the damage is done, centella helps to reduce hyperpigmentation caused by UV rays.

To sum up, it can

  • Speeds up wound healing
  • Reduce inflammation and redness
  • Improves circulation
  • Promotes collagen production
  • Hydrates and prevents moisture loss
  • Boosts antioxidant effects
  • Increases resilience of the skin
  • Mitigates UV induced hyperpigmentation
  • Protects against bacteria and allergens
  • Improves acne scars
  • Prevents further scarring

Is it safe?

Generally, it’s well tolerated. But with everything, there’s always a risk of an allergic reaction. Particularly with centella, as it contains a number of compounds, it can be difficult to determine which compounds are beneficial to the skin and which compounds are more likely to cause irritation and sensitivity. So patch-test to see if you have a reaction before trying the product all over your face.

How do you use it?

You can add the plant extract into almost any step of your skin-care routine. You’ll find products such as cleansers, toners, serums, and creams formulated with it. 

Do you use madecassoside and its ilk in your routine? Share your experiences in the comments below. 

If you liked reading about centella, I’d be so delighted if you could create a link to it on your website or blog

Save The Magic Of Centella Asiatica

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