Thankuni is a creeping perennial that belongs to the Apiaceae family, and that goes by several other names. It is a relative of various other better-known herbs such as parsley and cilantro. Its aliases include its botanical name, Centella asiatica as well as pennywort. While it has been naturalized to other parts of the world, it grows primarily in Southeast Asia and prefers humid and swampy climates. In some parts of the world, many know thankuni by another alias: gotu kola.
The kola part of the name may seem to imply a relationship with the kola nut, but the kola nut — which is the flavoring in cola sodas — comes from an entirely different plant.
Indians and Chinese have used this herb for millennia. In Ayurveda, it is considered a kind of anxiolytic. You can find thankuni documented in ancient Sanskrit texts as a remedy for cardiovascular illness as well as for respiratory ailments like bronchitis. Chinese legend has it that a herbalist who consumed thankuni lived for over 250 years. The herb is still used in traditional Chinese medicine. Thankuni became popular in Sri Lanka as well when people noticed that elephants seemed to be attracted to it. Elephants are known to have long lives.
In recent years, thankuni has gotten a significant amount of attention with the popularity of certain supplements for cognition known as nootropics. Its purported benefits for improved brain function are why many in the West know of this herb’s existence.
Most of the world’s supply of thankuni comes from India, though Madagascar is also known to produce the best quality.
Thankuni flavor profile
As a relative of parsley, thankuni shares many of the same properties. It has a similar appearance in that it looks like a combination of watercress and parsley. It also has a similar flavor to that of parsley, with a hint of bitterness and a slight cooling effect.
Health benefits of thankuni
Thankuni is a versatile medicine and nutritious culinary herb because of properties like:
- Vitamins: Thankuni is a good source of some B vitamins as well as vitamin C.
- Antioxidants: You can find several phytonutrients in thankuni that have antioxidant properties.
You can use thankuni to treat or prevent health conditions like:
- Swelling: Studies have shown thankuni to be useful for relieving edema and other symptoms of poor circulation.
- Rheumatism: Because of its antioxidant properties, thankuni can help to fight inflammatory diseases like rheumatism.
- Stomach problems: Thankuni is known to be beneficial as a remedy for some stomach problems. It is even used to ease gastric ulcer symptoms.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Studies have shown that thankuni can interfere with the formation of the brain plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the most common uses for thankuni is as a raw salad green. Some South Asian salads feature it along with shallots, lime juice, and coconut flakes; others pair it with peanuts and onions. It is used in salads throughout Asia. It is also juiced and served as a beverage in parts of Thailand.
Alternatively, dried thankuni leaves can be steeped and consumed as a tea. Thankuni leaf tea is often sweetened with honey. The herb is also used in various vegetarian Sri Lankan dishes where it gets paired with ingredients like jackfruit. The leaves and stems are sometimes dried and steeped as a tea.