Bala or country mallow is known scientifically as Sida cordifolia is one of the most valuable and most widely used herbs in Ayurveda. The tissue strengthening nourishing stabilizing energizing immune-boosting medicinal plant is aptly named Bala, which in Sanskrit means strength or force or endurance.
Charaka, the father of Indian Medicine also says that the herb can also be used as a dietary supplement apart from its wide therapeutic usage in all types of fevers, asthma, colds, arthritis, and nervous disorders. It is one of those rare herbs with the capability to induce both weight gain and weight loss.
A known aphrodisiac Bala is a diaphoretic, diuretic, nervine stimulator, and anti-asthmatic. The sympathomimetic alkaloid substance ephedrine, which is prominent in the Ephedra species is also found in Bala and hence its efficacy in the treatment of asthma, respiratory and cardiac diseases.
According to mythology, the beautiful yellow-flowered plant represents Goddess Parvathi, the consort of Lord Shiva. Bala along with Ayurveda drugs Ashoka (Saraca asoka) and Shatavari (Asparagus racemosa) form a group named Tripurasundari or the three beautiful women. Ashoka denotes Lord Vishnu’s consort Goddess Lakshmi and Shataavari represents Lord Brahma’s consort Goddess Saraswathi.
All these three herbs are very much potent in the management of women's health and treatment of women's diseases and hence are justified to be classified as the “Magical Trio of Universal Beauties”.
Bala- Country Mallow-Sida Cordifolia- The Botany
Classification: Latin Name: Sida cordifolia Family: Malvaceae
Plant Description: Sida cordifolia is a perennial erect tropical herbaceous undershrub growing up to a height of 30-180cm, covered all over with felt-like hairs and flourishing throughout the year, though the abundance is during the months of October, November, and December. The root system is deeply anchored and thickly tap-rooted. The 5-15cm long tap root generally branched at the tip with a few smaller lateral roots. The outer surface of the root is greyish yellow in color and odorless with a slightly bitter taste.
The yellow-green, hairy, long, and slender stem is much branched under shrubby-looking densely stellate-tomentose branchlets. The 2.5-7 cm long and 2.5-5cm broad heart-shaped yellow-green hairy leaves grow as one on each node and are serrated and truncated with 7-9 veins. The small deep yellow or orange-tinged yellow or pale yellow or white flowers with five petals are solitary and grow on axillaries.
The horse gram-sized fruits with loculicidal capsules and 8–10 strongly reticulated mericarps, ciliate on the upper margins. Seeds are smooth and grey or black in color. They are known as Beejabanda in Ayurveda.
Varieties: The identification of Bala is controversial and the plant is identified as different species in different geographical locations. However, the medicinal properties and therapeutic actions of all these species are almost similar. Sida cordifolia, Sida cordata (Sida veronicifolia), Sida rhombifolia (Sida orientalis), Sida acuta (Sida carpinifolia) and Sida indica (Abutilon indicum) are the plants that are frequently used in the name of Bala.
Important Chemical Constituents: Important chemical constituents are Ephedrine, Pseudoephedrine, Sterculic, Malvalic, and Coronaric acid, Fatty acids, Saponine, Betaphenethylamine, Hypaphorine, Ecdysterone, Indole alkaloids, Palmitic, Stearic acid and β–sitosterol.
Propagation and Habitat: The propagation is through the dispersal and germination of seeds. Owing to the increased demand for the plant large-scale cultivation is practiced in India. Vegetative propagation and tissue culture are also adopted for cultivation.
The plant grows as a wild weed in tropical wastelands and along roadsides up to an altitude of 1050MSL and prefers sandy soil. They are found along the Indian peninsula, Srilanka, and across tropical and sub-tropical plains of South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, Portugal, Australia, Hawaiian Islands, New Guinea, and Southern USA.
Useful Parts: Whole plant, stem, root, stem bark, root bark, leaves, and seeds are used for medicinal purposes. The leaves and young shoots are used as greens in food.
Bala and Ayurveda
Qualitative Analysis: Ayurveda classifies and categories drugs on a qualitative basis, after analyzing the Rasapanchakas or the five quality attributes viz. rasa (taste), guna (property), vipaaka (final transformation of quality after primary and secondary digestion) veerya (potency) and prabhaava (unexplainable special quality).
The Pharmaco-dynamics or Rasapanchaka of Bala is
Rasa: Madhura (sweet)
Guna: Laghu (light)
Vipaaka: Madhura (sweet)
Veerya: Sheetha (cool and soothing)
Prabhaava: Balya (body, brain and mind strengthening), Brimhaneeya (body bulk increasing),
Prajaasthaapana (treats infertility and nourishes pregnancy), and Vaatasamshamana (Normalizes the functions of nervous system)
Dosha Action and Therapeutic Usage: Bala is one of those rare drugs that ensure a healthy balance of all the three doshas, Vaata, Pitha, and Kapha. Its potent action is more on the vitiated Vaata and hence is the first choice in Vaata disorders of almost all kinds.
Coolant, astringent, styptic, diuretic, nutritive, tonic, invigorating, tissue strengthening, energizing, immune-boosting, aphrodisiac, febrifuge, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, tissue strengthening, healing, anti-arthritic, anti-asthmatic, anti-catarrhal and stomachic are a few important therapeutic attributes and actions of Bala.
Diseases and Formulations: Bala is used in the treatment of bleeding disorders, cystitis, urinary tract infections, spermatorrohea, gonorrhoea, fevers, delirium, inflamed swellings, elephantiasis, chronic ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis, osteo-arthritis, nervous disorders, convalescence, debility, sciatica, neuritis, neuralgia, hemiplegia, paraplegia, Bell’s palsy, stroke, emaciation, weakness, diseases of reproductive organs, male and female infertility, asthma, respiratory diseases, tuberculosis, hemoptysis, bronchitis, headache, migraine, eye diseases, vertigo, seizures, insomnia, arrhythmia, tachycardia, intestinal colic, menstrual cramps, tenesmus and IBS.
Bala is extensively used in Ayurveda formulations. A few of them are Gokshuradi Choornam, Kachuradi Choornam, Rasnadi Choornam, Balajeerakadi Kashayam, Balapunarnavadi Kashayam, Garbharaksha Kashayam, Aravindasavam, Balarishtam, Kumaryasavam, Abhra Bhasmam, Lakshmivilasa Rasam, Manasamithra Vatakam, Dhanvantaram Tailam 101, Baladhyam Gritham, Amruthaprasha Ghrutham, Rasnadi Ghritham, Agasthya Rasayanam, Haridra Khandam, Valiya Chinchadi Lehyam, Anu Thailam, Mahanarayana Tailam, Sudhabala Tailam, Prabhanjana Vimardhana, Ksheerabala Tailam and Balahathadi Keram.
Dosage, Contra-indications, Side effects, and Purificatory Process
The adult dosage of the powder is 1-5g, the decoction is 50-100ml and the juice is 15-30ml in divided doses per day. The common adjuvants are milk, sugar, honey or warm water, or any prescribed medicine.
The herb is contraindicated in excessive chest congestion and constipation. Bala contains ephedrine, an ingredient found in ephedra. Bala is a relatively safe drug and safe to be used during pregnancy and nursing if prescribed in proper dosage with the right adjuvants and under strict medical supervision.
However improper dosage may trigger similar side effects of ephedra such as irritability, disturbed sleep, and hypertension, and has been found to be as dangerous causing death if not used properly.
Adulteration and impurity are the two main sourcing issues. The plant has to be checked for authenticity before processing. Moisture may lead to fungus formation and hence proper washing, drying, and storing is very important.
Bala -A few home remedies
In cases of Urticaria or cold hives or itching the leaf paste is applied to the itchy areas and washed off with warm water after 30 minutes.
The fresh leaves are cooked into soup or tempered veggies and taken as a natural dietary supplement in cases of emaciation and debility.
The diluted decoction of the roots with honey is good for urinary tract infections and menstrual problems.
The leaves are made into poultices in a soft cloth, warmed, and applied on inflamed swollen areas including around the eyes.
The juice of the leaves or the paste of the leaves in root decoction is applied to the wounds to promote fast healing.
10g of the roots boiled in diluted milk for 15 minutes should be had at 6 pm for 3 months in male and female infertility.
For fever, asthma, cough, and cold decoction of 10g, each of the whole plant and ginger are taken in divided doses of 25 ml every two hours.
In children with deficiency disorders, 150ml of milk is boiled with 5g of Bala for 15 minutes. A teaspoon of cow’s ghee and a teaspoon of sugar is added to this milk and given as a daily health drink during breakfast.