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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Glycosides

Brahmi is the fresh or dried herb of Centella asiatica (L.) (syn. Hydrocotyl asiatica Linn.), belonging to family Umbelliferae.




Indian Pennywort, Mangosteen.


Biological Source


Brahmi is the fresh or dried herb of Centella asiatica (L.) (syn.


Hydrocotyl asiatica Linn.), belonging to family Umbelliferae.


Geographical Source


The plant is found in swampy areas of India, commonly found as a weed in crop fields and other waste places throughout India up to an altitude of 600 m and also in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Madagascar.




It is a slender, herbaceous creeper. Stems are long, prostate, filiform, often reddish and with long internodes, rooting at nodes. Leaves are long-petioled, 1.3–6.3 cm in diameter, several from rootstock and 1–3 cm from each node of stem. They are orbicular, reniform, rather broader than long, glabrous on both sides and with numerous slender nerves from a deeply cordate base. Fruit 8 mm long, ovoid, hard with a thick pericarp.


                                      Centella asiatica



Root: Outer cork consisting of three to five-layered, exfoliated rectangular cells, followed by cortex region consisting three or four layers of parenchyma cells containing oval to round, simple, starch grains and micro-sphenoidal crystals of calcium oxalate; secondary cortex composed of thin walled, oval to polygonal parenchymatous cells. Secretory cells are also present.


Stem: Single layered epidermis composed of round to cubical cells covered by striated cuticle. Two or three layers of collenchymatous cells are found below the epidermis, collenchymatous cells are followed by six to eight layers of thin walled, isodiametric, parenchymatous cells with intercellular space present; vascular bundles collateral, open, arranged in a ring, capped, by patches of sclerenchyma and traversed by wide medullary rays. Resin ducts are also present in parenchymatous cells of cortex; pith consists of isodiametric parenchyma cells with intercellular spaces.


Leaf: Single layered epidermis covered by a thick cuticle, two- or three-layered collenchyma in the midrib region on both surfaces, central zone occupied by vascular bundles, mesophyll consists of two or three layers of palisade cells, five to seven layers of loosely arranged, more or less isodiametric spongy parenchyma cells. Rosette type crystals of calcium oxalate and anisocytic stomata are also present. Few anomocytic stomata are also seen.


Chemical Constituents


The drug contains triterpenoid saponin glycosides, indocen-telloside, brahmoside, brahminoside, asiaticosides, thankuni-side and isothankuniside. The corresponding trirerpene acids obtained on hydrolysis of the glycosides are indocentoic, brahmic, asiatic, thankunic and isothankunic acids. These acids, except the last two, are also present in free form in the plant from isobrahmic and betulic acids. The presence of mesoinositol, a new oligosaccharide, centellose, kaempferol, quercetin and stigmasterol, have also been reported.





The plant is used as tonic, in diseases of skin, nerves, blood and also to improve memory. It also strengthens our immune system. Asiaticosides stimulate the reticu-loendothelial system where new blood cells are formed and old ones destroyed, fatty materials are stored, iron is metabolized, and immune responses and inflammation occur or begin. The primary mode of action of centella appears to be on the various phases of connective tissue development, which are part of the healing process. Centella also increases keratinization, the process of building more skin in areas of infection such as sores and ulcers. Asiaticosides also stimulate the synthesis of lipids and proteins necessary for healthy skin. Finally centella strengthens veins by repairing the connective tissues surrounding veins and decreasing capillary fragility.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparations known as Iqmen (Lupin Herbal Lab.) and Abana, Geriforte, Menosan and Mentat (Himalaya Drug Company).


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