Pot Luck

Pennywort: Secret to Longevity or Lawn Pest?

Four dollars a pound is pretty pricey for an herb. So when I saw this stuff called pennywort at Hong Kong supermarket, I wondered what it was used for. One internet source said that pennywort is a name given to lots of plants, including the dollarweed that suburban home owners try to kill every spring. I am thinking that the green stuff at Hong Kong Supermarket was the herbal remedy called pennywort in Australia and gotu kola in China.

Gotu kola was a favorite of a Chinese herbalist named Li Ching Yuen, who died in 1933. Some reports claim this guy was more than 200 years old when he kicked the bucket. According to a Time magazine article about him that came out shortly after he died, Yuen said the secret to a long life was his tortoise-pigeon-dog philosophy. Sit like a tortoise (with a tranquil mind), walk like a pigeon (sprightly) and sleep like a dog (well, you know).

And according to a modern herbalist named Vena McGrath, the secret of Li Ching Yuen's long life was pennywort. (He also took ginseng, reishi mushrooms and the Chinese herb called shou wu.) McGrath makes some outrageous claims for the medicinal herb. I am not even sure it's the same stuff they are selling at Hong Kong supermarket.

Can pennywort cure cancer and keep you alive more than 200 years? If so, I am thinking four dollars a pound is cheap.

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Robb Walsh
Contact: Robb Walsh