Kurunthotti or Sida is an annual herb or shrub with yellow flowers and leaves with distinct shapes. Know by the name Bala in Sanskrit, it is quite useful in Ayurveda and traditional medicines. Although there are different species treated as Kurunthotti, Sida rhombifoila is more popular in places like Kerala where it has been a popular home remedy for many problems.
In many parts of North India, Sida cordifolia is considered as Bala. In fact, there are around 21 similar plants with the same common name. A few such species are:
- Sida acuta
- Sida spinosa
However, all these plants belong to the same genus and have almost the same chemical constituents.
Plant Type: Annual Shrub
Scientific name: Sida rhombifolia / Sida retusa
Flowers: small, yellow, 5 petals
Distribution: Native to India, tropics
Sanskrit: Bala, Vatyalah
Description of Sida rhombilfolia
As the scientific name suggests, Sida rhombifolia’s leaf is 2.5cm long and has a rhombus shape. It may also resemble a heart towards the tip. This shape of the leaf is the main tip for identifying the plant.
The leaf has smooth surface with jagged edges.
As a small shrub, Kurunthotti can be 30cm to 1m tall. Although lean, the stem is hard with greenish grey outer bark.
The small yellow flowers are around 1 cm across with 5 petals. They bloom in the morning and wilt by afternoon. The petals have a trapezoidal shape.
Flowers occur alone near the leaf petiole. They have five sepals and several short stamens. The fruits are tiny and are packed inside the sepals. The seed is dark brown.
Distribution & Habitat
It is common all across Kerala, especially the central districts like Kottayam and Idukki.
It was so popular as a herbal remedy for various problems. There won’t be anyone in the elder generation who haven’t heard the name Kurumthotti. However, like many indigenous plants, its numbers are also diminishing. So many of the younger generation don’t know such precious herbs.
- As an effective cure for problems related to arthritis and rheumatism, Kurunthotti is the main ingredient in several Ayurvedic medicines like Dhanwantaram, Balataila, and Balarishtam.
- Traditionally, it has been used since early times to prepare herbal shampoos (thaali) to treat hair problems and to promote the growth of healthy hair and maintain color.
The leaves of Sida acuta are long with pointed tips which help to distinguish it easily. The flowers often appear in groups.
The leaves are oval with silky hair like projections on both the surfaces.