Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs

There’s this leaf which looks like a tiny lily pad. It’s edible and claims to have health benefits like improved skin texture,  increased cognitive function, and detoxifying qualities to name just a few. Because it has so many benefits it is marketed as a supplement. People are ingesting the pills or drops daily but are warned that there may be side effects. The plant is Gotu Kola, a.k.a. Asiatic Pennywort or Centella.

 

leaf
Gotu Kola in its’ food form. It can be purchased at Hong Kong Supermarket in Calgary. Photo by Kerry Kaufman

 

It’s easy to get overzealous when we like what we hear. Reading about the healing qualities of a plant triggers the desire to ingest pounds of it, with the hope that the benefits come through faster and stronger. People get a little crazy for things that may enhance their performance, appearance or lives in some way. Conversely, not all foods bring more value in huge quantities.  Supplements can have side effects due to the enormous, concentrated quantity within a tablet or drop.  When the food we eat is disguised so, how can we be in tune with our bodies? If ya’ just eat the real food, chances are your body will tell you when it’s had enough.

tablets
Gotu Kola Supplements.

Taking delicious, healthful food and transforming it into a quick daily dose in pursuit of maximum benefit offers little satisfaction. It is to miss out on the enjoyment of such food! Even if it has a unique taste, the body is not given the opportunity to acquire that taste. Getting too into supplements creates a disconnect between the brain and the body.

I prefer to eat real food, according to what my body craves. Cravings signal what I need. I generally ingest what my body tells me it wants, and avoid what I don’t feel like eating, all within reason.

Supporting information to almost any claim can easily be sourced. For example, I read that Gotu Kola should not be taken while pregnant or nursing. I also read that it is good for new Moms, promoting lactation.  I ate Gotu Kola when I was nursing in Napaya, on the advice of our Napaya elders. I ate loads of it and both baby and I felt fine. In fact, she turned out to be healthy, happy, and a darn clever kid and I’m still kicking too, so it didn’t appear to do any damage. BUT it was part of my diet, not taken as a supplement, and maybe that makes the difference. It’s a pretty low risk if taken as food rather than drug.

kid
You see? This lil’ egg grew up just fine.

In Thailand Gotu Kola is served on a plate with other fresh, raw leaves, cucumber slices, and a variety of legumes as a refreshing side dish. It’s so easy, so healthful and just perfect in a hot climate, alongside some spicy dish(es).

Jack has this incredible family recipe for a spicy peanut paste which is spooned into the Gotu Kola leaf. It’s one of my top 5 favorite Thai dishes. You won’t find it in a restaurant, not here, nor in Thailand so you will have to visit your Thai friend’s home and request Pak Wen Gap Nam Prik Keav. It’s truly a name worth remembering.

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