How does it feel?
This small shrubby perennial is renowned for its tough stem and root and grows all over India and Sri Lanka. Bala is an erect perennial that reaches 50 to 200cm tall, with the entire plant covered with soft white felt-like hair that is responsible for one of its common names, “flannel weed”.
The stems are yellow-green, hairy, long, and slender. The yellow-green leaves are oblong-ovate, covered with hairs, and 3.5 to 7.5 cm long by 2.5 to 6 cm wide. The flowers are dark yellow, sometimes with a darker orange centres, with a hairy 5-lobed calyx and 5-lobed corolla.
What can I use it for?
Bala is a nourishing tonic, especially to the nervous system strengthening and energising it. The rejuvenating action of this herb extends to the circulatory and urinary systems.
It has a diuretic effect and is useful in urinary problems, including cystitis or infections.
The leaves contain small quantities of ephedrine, an alkaloid known to stimulate the central nervous system helping to bronchodilate constriction and prevent restricted breathing. The ephedrine content of the root is 1/15 of that found in Ephedra with the seeds containing a quarter of the amount per gram usually found in Ephedra.
Into the heart of Bala
Bala is an excellent energy tonic for nervous conditions as it can stimulate the adrenergic receptors. It has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity, helping to reduce pain, neuralgia and sciatica in nervous conditions where mobility is affected. It possesses both anti-stress and adaptogenic activity, reducing plasma cortisol and blood glucose levels. Soft, sweet and demulcent Bala is a rejuvenative for vata disorders; it is a superb tonic for the nervous system. These nourishing properties of Bala offset the potentially vata aggravating nervous system stimulating properties of ephedrine. The seeds are even considered as aphrodiasic enhancing sexual potency and increasing fertility.
Bala also has nourishing and tonifying effects within the urinary and respiratory systems. Bala has diuretic, tonic and antispasmodic action helping to support the urinary system in case of infections and cystitis. It can also be used as nasal decongestant, bronchodilators supporting the health of the lungs and the upper airways. It is useful in bronchitis, rhinitis as well as common colds and flu. Presence of ephedrine has highlighted the utility of this plant in respiratory conditions.
Indicated in cystitis, stones, infection, haematuria, polyuria, urgency; high pitta and vata in mutravahasrotas.
Indicated in pain, neuralgia, sciatica, paralysis and neurosis; all structural and nervous disorders with high vata. It is an excellent energy tonic when there is exhaustion due to an aggravated nervous system. An external oil massage using warm Bala siddha tailais commonly used for these conditions along with internal treatment.
Indicated in infertility, leucorrhoea and apanaksetra congestion along with reproductive weakness (shukrakshaya). Bala is a renowned energy tonic that enhances sexual potency and ojas. Used to aid the growth of the foetus and keep the mother strong.
Indicated in dry cough, asthma, tuberculosis and haemoptysis; vata-pitta disorders of the lungs. The low levels of ephedrine help to bronchodilate constriction and prevent wheezing and restricted breathing.
Indicated in high temperature from an underlying deficiency and weakness.
Bala is a great heart tonic used for treating arrhythmia, tachycardia, irregular pulse and palpitations. As it benefits both mamsa dhatu and mamsavahasrotas it can be used to strengthen the heart muscle.
Adaptogens are strengthening herbs that help us adapt to stress by interacting with the endocrine system. They help normalise metabolism and nourish the tissues. Examples include Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Ashwagandha root (Withania somnifera), Rhodiola root (Rhodiola rosea) and Ginseng root (Panax ginseng)Analgesics
Analgesics are medications that are applied internally or externally to reduce pain. Many of them work by depressing the functions of the central nervous system, Examples of effective analgesics include Jamaican Dogwood (Piscidia erythrina), Pasqueflower (Anenome pulsatilla), California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Corydalis (Corydalis yanghusuo) and Wild Lettuce (Lactuca virosa). Topically, Aconite (Aconitum napellus) and Cayenne (Capsicum minimum) are powerful anodynes.Anti-inflammatory
Anti-inflammatory herbs reduce inflammation in the body. There are different systems in the body that anti-inflammatory plants target. For example for the gastrointestinal tract chamomile, fenugreek and meadowsweet are useful. For the musculoskeletal system rosehips, turmeric and celery seed are useful. For inflammation against immune mediated inflammation gotu kola (centella asiatica), rehmannia (rehmannia glutinosa) and feverfew (tanacetum parthenium) can be useful.Antimicrobial
Antimicrobials are herbs that interfere with the proliferation and life-cycle of microbes; bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Examples include Thyme leaf (Thymus vulgaris), Echinacea (Echinacea species), Elderberry (Sambucus nigra).Antispasmodic
Antispasmodic plants reduce or relieve smooth muscle spasm. They can be helpful for an array of issues including menstrual cramps. Also known as spasmolytics, these plants include aniseed (Pimpinella anisum), blue cohosh (caulophyllum thalictroides), cramp bark (viburnum opulus) and lavender (Lavandula angustofolia).Astringents
Astringents contain tannins that act to precipitate proteins and draw tissues together, tightening and toning them to reduce secretions and discharge. Astringents also tend to stop bleeding and can act on tissues with which there is no direct contact. Examples include Raspberry leaf (Rubus ideaus), Lady’s Mantle leaf (Alchemilla vulgaris), Agrimony leaf (Agrimonia eupatoria), Shepherd’s Purse leaf (Capsella bursa-pastoris), Witch Hazel leaf (Hamamelis virginiana) and Yarrow leaf (Achillea millefolium).Demulcents
Demulcents are soothing mucilaginous and silky herbs that can be taken internally to soothe and protect damaged or inflamed tissue. Examples include Slippery elm bark (Ulmus rubra), Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis) and Limeflower (Tilia cordata).Diuretics
Diuretics are herbs that stimulate the flow of urine, and help remove fluids from the body. Common examples are Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinalis), Burdock root (Arctium lappa) and Corn silk (Zea mays).Emmenagogues
Emmenagogues are herbs that stimulate and promote menstruation. Examples include Marigold flowers (Calendula officinalis) and Chaste Tree fruits (Vitex agnus-castus), Turmeric root (Curcuma longa).Expectorants
Expectorants are herbs that assist the body in expelling mucus from the upper respiratory tract. Examples include Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Elecampane root (Inula helenium) and Thyme leaf (Thymus vulgaris).Nervines
Nervines are herbs that soothe the nervous system and have a calming effect on the emotions. Examples include Oatstraw flowering tops (Avena sativa), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Lavender (Lavandula officinalis), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Rosemary leaf (Rosmarinus officinalis), and Gotu Kola leaf (Centella asiatica).
Did you know?
Bala is used as a primary ingredient in massage oils for treating arthritis, nervous system disorders and paralysis. It is often taken with milk and almonds to enhance its calming and tonifying effects.
Due to its ephedrine content it may interact with caffeine and MAO inhibitors exacerbating effects and elevating blood pressure, Beta blockers by reducing drug efficacy due to opposing activity, Ephedrine by additive sympathomimetic effects inducing further toxicity and arrhythmia and Steroids (dextamethasone) by enhancing clearance levels and thus reducing effectiveness of the drug.
Tincture: 3–15ml of a 1:3 @ 25%
- Rasa (taste) Sweet
- Virya (action) Cooling
- Vipaka (post-digestive effect) Sweet
- Guna (quality) Heavy, unctuous
- Dosha effect: mainly clears high pitta and vata, can increase kapha and ama if used excessively
- Dhatu (tissue) All tissues, primarily nerve and reproductive
- Srotas (channels) Nervous, reproductive, urinary, circulatory, respiratory