This month we have chosen to highlight the humble Country Mallow, otherwise known as Sida cordifolia, or as balā in Sanskrit, as our Ayurvedic herb of the month.
Balā means strength in Sanskrit, and it is so named as it is a powerful anti-aging tonic, or rasāyana, herb which promotes strength and rejuvenation of the body, muscles and other tissues.
Growing in many places (native to India but naturalized throughout much of the world) as a common garden or roadside weed, it is yet considered by many ancient Ayurvedic texts to be one of the best among the balya-class of herbs, or anabolic herbs which promote strength and muscle mass.
In fact, balā contains a small amount of natural ephedrine, similar to the traditional Chinese herb ma huang (Ephedra sinica), which imparts to the herb many of its Ayurvedic healing properties. The highest concentration of ephedrine is found in the seeds of the Country Mallow plant, though it is much less concentrated than in ma huang.
- Vāta-hara – nerve tonic helpful in pacifying excess of the Vata dosha and in treating Vata disorders
- Balya – helps to improve muscle tone, reduce fatigue, build muscle mass and nourish and strengthen the body’s tissues
- Ojo-vardhaka – increases ojas, the natural vigor of the body, boosts immunity and supports the body against stress
- Vṛṣya – a natural aphrodisiac, enhancing virility and supporting a healthy libido
- Decongestant – helpful in treating asthma, bronchitis and congestion
- Anti-spasmodic – reduces muscle spasms and cramps
- Anti-inflammatory – reduces inflammation and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, joint stiffness and muscle/tendon injury
Balā is sometimes prescribed orally in the form of an herbal decoction. One famous Ayurvedic formula is balāriṣṭam, a powerful nerve tonic with balā and other Ayurvedic herbs fermented with water and jaggery.
However it is most commonly included in therapeutic herbal massage oils, or taila, in a sesame oil base. Such massage oil formulas are most often combined with the synergistic Ayurvedic herb, aśvagandhā (Winter Cherry), and may include other beneficial herbs like lakṣa (said to help strengthen bones and promote bone healing in case of fracture).
These formulas promote relaxation, healing and pain relief and are thus recommended by Ayurvedic practitioners to be applied in one’s daily self-massage practice (abhyaṅga) in cases of fatigue, over-exertion, injury, rheumatoid arthritis and other similar ailments (don’t forget to massage the feet!). It is specially recommended for athletes and laborers as well as the elderly or those suffering from debilitating illnesses. Specific formulas, like dhanvantara-tailam, are traditionally recommended for use in massage during and after pregnancy.
Auromère Ayurvedic Massage Oil — Highly recommended by Ayurvedic practitioners and massage therapists, this is traditional Ayurvedic massage oil formula with balā and aśvagandhā, with cold-pressed Sesame oil as a base. It includes 23 additional Ayurvedic herbs and oils such as castor oil, sandalwood oil, cardamom and rock salt. Deep-penetrating and effective for all types of therapeutic massage and muscle/ tendon treatments, including sports massage and daily abhyaṅga.