Indian Medicinal Plants – Vallarai (Gotu Kola)
Vallarai (Gotu Kola) leaves
In India, there is a belief that “Food is Medicine”. It is thought that the type of food we eat will determine our general body health as well as mental health. It’s not just an old wife’s tale, but a scientific fact. The increasing number of blogs and articles talking about food for health validate this age-old belief. Indian cuisine is not just an amalgamation of the spices and veggies. Each ingredient added to the dish has a special reason and a medicinal benefit. That’s why special dishes are made for each festival and special dishes with certain ingredients when a person is sick. The Indian cuisine makes use of medicinal plants for special as well as everyday dishes. One such medicinal plant that is used in cooking is Vallarai. It is a green herb that easily grows even in a small container.
Scientific name: Centella asiatica
Plant type: Evergreen herb
Leaf: Palmate (Rounded heart shape), heavily veined
Flowers: Grow in bunches, white or pink
Taste: Slightly bitter
Chemical Breakup: Contains nitric acid, iron, Asiatic acid, Brahmic acid, Asiaticoside, Madecassoside, centellose, centelloside, anti-oxidants
Other names: Mooligai Brahmi, Centella, Gotu Kola, Brahma Manduki
Medicinal Uses of Vallarai
This green leaf is used in the traditional treatment for many conditions. It is not just used in traditional Indian ayurvedic medicine, but also in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine. The various medicinal benefits of Gotu Kola are:
Proper functioning of liver
The leaves have hepato protective properties and are believed to strengthen the liver.
Vallarai helps in improving memory retention. As it has high amounts of nitric acid, this herb enhances brain function to improve clarity and thinking. The brain neurons are stimulated by this herb and enhance the capacity of the brain. In some studies, regular consumption of Vallarai juice has been found to have positive effects in Alzheimer’s disease. Memory loss and confusion, which are major symptoms of this degenerative disease, have been found to reduce with Gotu Kola medication.
Culinary solution: Vallarai chutney, Vallarai juice
Another important medical benefit of this herb is that it relaxes the nerve ends, reducing stress and strain. So, it has been found to be beneficial for those suffering from post-natal depression and insomnia. This herb has also been found to be effective in calming hyperactive children. Vallarai is also good for people suffering from anxiety attacks and epilepsy.
Hair loss and anemia
The high amount of iron in the herb strengthens hair follicles and improves hair growth. Its rich iron content also makes it a good option for the anemic. Gotu Kola helps improve hemoglobin levels in the bloodstream.
Culinary solution: Vallarai poriyal
Regular consumption of Vallarai has been found to be useful in reducing complications due to infections, indigestion, common cold, asthma, respiratory problems, and diarrhea.
To kill worms in stomach, mix Vallarai powder (dry Vallarai leaves in shade and powder them in a mixer) in milk and have every day
For urinary infection, grind equal amounts of Gotu Kola and keelanelli (Phyllanthus Niruri), and drink it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
Vallarai also reduces blood sugar levels, which makes it a great add-on to a diabetic patient’s diet. It strengthens the optic nerves, and helps improve eye power. Vallarai is also believed to improve general body resistance. It is also used as a mouth freshener.
As mentioned in the intro, Indian cooking is based on the fact that we can treat all conditions by taking the proper diet. That’s why many dishes are created using medicinal plants and herbs. If these dishes are made once or twice a week, they will help improve your family’s health and wellbeing. If you have children at home, then it is even more important to add dishes with these medicinal herbs. Strengthen your child’s body and improve his/her resistance power so that they are not easily infected and fall sick. Here is one common recipe that you can try out in your house.
- 1 full cup Vallarai leaves, chopped into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon Mustard seeds
- 2 teaspoons Urad dal
- 2 to 3 Red chilies
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Sesame seed oil
- 10 to 12 Shallots, peeled and chopped
- ½ tablespoon Tamarind
- 2 tablespoons Grated coconut
How to make Vallarai chutney?
- Add sesame seed oil to a dry pan and let it heat
- Add mustard seeds and wait till they crackle
- Add urad dal and red chilies (after removing stalk) and fry till the dal turns golden brown
- Add shallots and fry till they become transparent
- Add Vallarai leaves and sauté
- After the Vallarai is cooked, add the coconut scrapings
- Turn off the gas and let it cool
- Once it gets cool, grind the mixture with a little water and salt in the mixer
Vallarai chutney is ready. You can use it as a side dish for idli, dosa, or even snacks like samosa. To entice children to eat this dish, make Gotu Kola chutney sandwich with sliced onions and tomatoes.
Instead of grinding, if you serve it as it is, then it is called poriyal. It can be served as a side dish for rice.
How to grow Vallarai at home?
This sturdy herb can be grown in a small container. It will be perfect for your window or terrace garden. You can get seeds from a nursery and plant them in your garden. If you don’t have space outside, you can also grow them in containers filled with garden soil. Regularly water the soil to keep it cool and moist. Vallarai grows well in swampy land, so it needs regular watering. It takes a few weeks to grow. When fully grown, you can harvest the leaves and use it for cooking or as medicine. New leaves keep sprouting, so you just have to plant once and harvest the leaves at regular intervals.
Vallarai is a sturdy herb with medicinal properties
Gotu Kola relaxes and calms nerves and enhances memory power
This medicinal herb is also used in treatment of cold, tuberculosis, anemia, and hair loss
Vallarai can be eaten raw or cooked
This herb can be easily grown in tubs and containers at home
Prevention is better than cure. With proper diet and the use of the best ingredients in your daily cooking, you can take care of your family’s health. Good for health need not mean bad to taste. So, check out various other tasty and yummy dishes that you can make using this medicinal herb. Enjoy cooking and serving healthy food for your family with Vallarai.
Vallarai (Gotu Kola) Herb
© 2016 Hemalatha