There are a few versions of an ancient Laotian legend about the origins of Centella asiatica out there, but this is our basic understanding: A young man, in love with the beautiful daughter of a wealthy landowner, has been slashed in the stomach by the girl's father, who deems him an unworthy suitor. The only way he can marry her, says the father, is if he proves his strength by coming back the next day with a healed scar.
Instead of telling dad he's a complete lunatic, the young man ventures into the forest, where he's seen tigers rolling in the grass to heal their battle wounds. He rubs the magic plant on his stomach and by morning, the skin is good as new. He gets the girl, the village discovers the power of Centella asiatica, everyone lives happily ever after.
Fake news? Probably, but according to dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, the antioxidant-rich herb does work wonders (within reason) on burns, psoriasis, dermatitis, and generally itchy/dry/red/irritated/sensitive/blah skin, thanks to its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and highly moisturising properties. "It's often recognised for its anti-ageing ability to protect your skin molecules from degradation and bolster the skin’s healthy barrier," she says.
And in the dry, cold winter months, your face needs all the extra protection it can get, so it's a good thing Centella asiatica is starting to pop up everywhere — from pharmacies to Boots — under the nickname "cica cream."