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Research on this small perennial, herbal creeper with cute, kidney-shaped leaves called Centella asiatica or, more commonly, Brahmi in Ayurveda, has new and well-documented special effects.
Long known as Ayurveda’s premier brain tonic for mood, clarity and memory, Brahmi is now understood as a powerful agent for microcirculation. Of course, our skin being the end of the line for the circulatory system, it is almost completely dependent on microcirculation.
Keep reading to learn how this long-standing herbal superhero for the brain has been doubling as excellent microcirculation and lymphatic support, how we are just now learning to put these benefits to use, and what Brahmi can do for your skin, water retention, and mood.
The Inner and Outer Skin
The blood moves through arteries, then into small capillaries where it feeds the cellular tissues like the skin and brain. Plasma from the blood then oozes into the intercellular spaces as lymph, where it drains waste and where the majority of the immune system is housed.
If the microcirculation is compromised, the cells all over the body that depend on microcirculation starve and the lymph – which is the drainage system for the body – bogs down. When cells cannot get their oxygenated blood supply they tend to lay down tough circulation-blocking tissues called fibrous tissue that do not require so much blood. Swelling, cellulite, and poor circulation are all linked to microcirculation.
In one clinical trial, 227 patients with scars or keloids, which are both an excess of fibrous tissue buildup after surgery, were given Brahmi for 18 months. In the Brahmi group, 116 out of 139 (82%) participants experienced relief of their keloids and scar tissue-related symptoms. (1)
When the lymph bogs down, toxins accumulate in between the cells, store in the fat and the brain, and cause various hypersensitivity reactions and an immune system that is effectively stuck in traffic. The skin that lines the digestive tract may be most vulnerable.
Brahmi was shown in one study to significantly increase gastric mucin and glycoprotein secretion, which are known as gastric mucosal defense factors and maintain the structural integrity and function of the stomach lining against threatening factors. This study suggests that the stomach lining was protected from harsh aspirin-induced irritation by the supplemental Brahmi. (1)
Take the Lymph Road
Perhaps the most damaging effect of a microcirculation compromise is its effect on lymph drainage. According to Ayurveda, not eliminating waste well and sluggish immunity – which are both lymph functions – are major causes of unhealthy aging and early degeneration.
Remember the skin, whether it is on the inside or outside of the body, is that tissue that interfaces with the outside world (and, in the case of the inner skin, factors coming in from the outside world) first. Interestingly, juxtaposed right next to the skin on the inside and outside of the body are lymph vessels with immune responders waiting to pounce on any foreign invader – this is a good thing!
Water Retention – A Telltale Sign of Lymphatic Congestion
Have you ever noticed that your feet and ankles swell when you fly on a plane? This is a sign of lymphatic congestion. The pressurized cabin affects our microcirculation and lymph flow, which likes to pool in the feet, legs and thighs. Remember, the lymph moves only via osmotic pressures and muscular contractions and is not pumped from the heart.
In one study, Brahmi was given to 66 flight passengers traveling in economy class for 3-12 hours. Subjects were given 60mg of a Brahmi extract (roughly equivalent to a 500mg whole herb capsule) two days before the flight, the day of the flight, and for two days after the flight. The results showed significant improvements in microcirculation function compared to the controls. The rate of ankle swelling approached normal levels of no swelling in those who took the Brahmi supplements. (1)
In another double-blind study, 94 patients who had venous circulation issues and limb heaviness for an average of 14 years were randomly selected to take 60mg of a Brahmi extract per day for 3 months. The Brahmi group had a significant reduction in limb heaviness, and venous circulation was greatly improved. (1)
The Lymph-Nerve-Mood Connection
Without adequate lymph circulation, the cells have trouble removing their waste but also have difficulty getting the blood supply they need. If the waste cannot get out well, the ability to get the nutrients in may become compromised. By restoring normal microcirculation, the body’s ability to heal and feed itself is remarkably improved. In one study, mice given Brahmi recovered more quickly after nerve damage than the controls who did not receive the Brahmi. Brahmi seemed to speed up the natural nerve cell regeneration time, as well as enhance the recovery of normal function. (1)
A New Hat for a Well-Loved Herb
Ayurveda has been using Brahmi for thousands of years for stress-related mood issues, sleep concerns and mental clarity. It is now clear that, as brain functions, all of the above are also dependent on microcirculation.
In one study, 40 healthy subjects were given an acoustic startle response (ASR) test along with a mood self-rating scale. Thirty minutes after ingesting 12g of Brahmi mixed in juice, there was a significant reduction in the ASR. This study suggests that Brahmi supports a healthy mood response to stress, once again affirming what Ayurveda has historically praised and relied on this herb for. (1)