Ingredients derived from the Herb Centella asiatica

What Is It?

Extracts from an herbaceous plant – commonly called Gotu Kola or Asiatic Pennywort – are listed on ingredient labels by its scientific name, Centella asiatica.  Typically, the scientific plant name is listed along with the specific part of the plant used as an ingredient, including: “extract”; “callus culture”; “flower/leaf/stem extract”; “leaf cell culture extract”; “leaf extract”; “leaf water”; “meristem cell culture”; “meristem cell culture extract”; and “root extract.” 

In cosmetics and personal care products, Centella asiatica-derived ingredients function primarily as skin conditioning agents and antioxidants.  The herb has also been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat a wide range of skin conditions.

Why Is It Used?

Centella asiatica-derived ingredients are used as anti-oxidants and skin conditioning agents in skin care and cosmetic products.

Plant derived ingredients were among the very first used in cosmetics. Centella asiatica, commonly known as gotu kola, has been used to treat many conditions for thousands of years in India, China, and Indonesia. It was thought to heal wounds, improve mental clarity, and treat skin conditions such as leprosy and psoriasis.  Some people believe it can be used to treat respiratory infections, such as colds, and in the past it was used in China for that very China. It has been called “the fountain of life” because legend has it that an ancient Chinese herbalist lived for more than 200 years as a result of taking gotu kola.  Historically, gotu kola has also been used to treat syphilis, hepatitis, stomach ulcers, mental fatigue, epilepsy, diarrhea, fever, and asthma. 

According to the American Cancer Society, although Centella asiatica is promoted by some traditional medicines for its health benefits, “…available scientific evidence does not support claims of its effectiveness for treating cancer or any other disease in humans.”

Safety Information

In 2015, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel reviewed the safety of 9 Centella asiatica-derived ingredients, which function primarily as skin conditioning agents in cosmetic products, and concluded that they are safe in present uses and concentration levels in cosmetics, when formulated to be non-sensitizing.  



Given the low reported maximum use concentration of 0.5% in cosmetic products for Centella asiatica -derived ingredients, the CIR Expert Panel concluded that there is little concern over sensitization potential in humans.

The CIR Expert Panel did not have concerns about the carcinogenic potential of Centella asiatica-derived ingredients after reviewing negative results for asiaticoside (a principal component of the triterpenoid fraction of Centella asiatica) in a 2-year dermal carcinogenicity study in mice.

In addition to the available data on Centella asiatica extract (whole plant extract), safety test data on Centella asiatica flower/leaf/stem extract, Centella asiatica leaf extract, and Centella asiatica meristem cell culture were available. The Panel noted that Centella asiatica meristem cell culture and Centella asiatica callus culture are basically the same in terms of their composition; and that the root, stem, and leaves of Centella asiatica are similar in terms of their composition. Thus, based on similarities in composition, the CIR Expert Panel concluded that the available safety test data on Centella asiatica extract, Centella asiatica flower/leaf/stem extract, Centella asiatica leaf extract, and Centella asiatica meristem cell culture were sufficient to support the safety of those ingredients.

European Union (EU)

All nine of the Centella asiatica-derived ingredients reviewed by the U.S. CIR Expert Panel may also be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union .

Medicinal products containing Centella asiatica (L.) Urban refined extracts are authorized and have been marketed in Europe in several Members States: Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.  The European Medicines Agency reports that ointments that contain 1% titrated extract of Centella asiatica (TECA) are authorized for cutaneous use in the treatment of leg ulcers, wounds, and burns, etc.  A cutaneous powder containing 2% TECA is authorized for use in the treatment of scars, keloid scars, and burns.

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