Although this herb is trending in skin care, it’s actually been used for centuries and has a long list of healing benefits.

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What is centella asiatica?

Centella asiatica, cica, Brahmi, Indian pennywort, gotu kola, tiger grass—this antioxidant-rich, medicinal herb goes by many names and has long been used to treat illnesses and heal wounds. (Legend has it that after being injured, tigers would roll in the plants in order to heal themselves—that’s where the name “tiger grass” comes from.) And it’s still being used today, as a skin saver. “High concentrations of amino acids, beta-carotene, and fatty acids are what make the herb so beneficial,” says Mona Gohara, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. 

What does centella asiatica do?

"The anti-inflammatory properties increase hydration and help soothe and repair dry, red, irritated skin," explains Shari Marchbein, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. That's why it's recommended for treating various skin conditions, especially those with symptoms such as redness and roughness (think psoriasis and eczema). Chiara Butler, a chemist at Function of Beauty—the brand's new manufacturers skin-care line utilizes the ingredient in some of its products—says two skin-beneficial compounds in the plant's chemical makeup are madecassoside and asiaticoside, both known for their soothing properties. "Cica also boosts circulation and has been shown to increase collagen production, improving skin firmness and elasticity," points out Dr. Marchbein.

How do you use centella asiatica?

You can work the plant extract into almost any step of your skin-care routine—it’s incorporated into cleansers, toners, serums, and creams. “I like creams and serums because they sit on the skin for a long time for maximum efficacy,” says Ni’kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist in New York City. Butler agrees, adding that a cica cream can be used either morning or night, or both. (It’s worth noting that Centella asiatica products are often spiked with a green tint to counteract the redness that comes with an inflamed complexion.) Dr. Gohara recommends applying a cica balm on top of your retinoid in the p.m. because while retinoids can aggravate skin, the cica will prevent irritation. 

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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