Sida Cordifolia

Sida cordifolia, more commonly known as the mallow plant, is a small, green, seed-bearing plant that has been prized for over 5,000 years for its medicinal properties. Sida cordifolia is widely used in the Indian alternative medicine philosophy called Ayurveda, "the science of life." Ayurveda is a series of concepts that are rooted in the Hindu religion, with principles that are believed to be even older than those of the traditional Chinese medicines. Ayurveda remains a prominent part of modern Indian medicine, with designated schools that instruct students in applications of Ayurveda healing techniques. Ayurveda advocates a whole mind/whole body approach regarding the treatment of physical ailments; yoga and meditation are also components of the holistic philosophy that is Ayurveda.

Sida cordifolia is not of the same botanical family as the well-known medicinal herbs ephedra or the North American variant Mormon tea, but Sida cordifolia shares a common medicinal component with each: the alkaloids (plant-based substances) that include ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and vasicinone.

Sida cordifolia and ephedra have a similar amounts of ephedrine present within their structures. While all parts of the Sida cordifolia plant have ephe-drine present in them, the seeds of the plant possess the greatest percentage of the stimulant. Ephedrine is a well-known stimulant, which when consumed in any form, will tend to have an immediate effect on a number of the processes of the body. The most pronounced of these effects is an increased heart rate, and a corresponding increase in blood pressure.

Ephedrine has been used for many years and in many forms as a stimulant for athletes to assist with concentration and to reduce fatigue. It is also prized as a catalyst to facilitate weight loss (often described in various applications as "fat burning"). Ephedrine, like every other stimulant, will increase the body's metabolic rate. Persons who are engaged in significant weight training or other muscular strength and development activities often consume dietary supplements that contain varying proportions of Sida cordifolia to obtain the effect created by its ephedrine properties, caffeine (often present through the natural plant root guarana), and either willow bark or aspirin, each valued for the anti-inflammatory qualities of its chief ingredient, salicylic acid. These training products are known to strength athletes as the "ECA stack." This particular type of formulation is designed to provide the athlete with the stimulation of the ephedrine and caffeine, coupled with the analgesic effect of the aspirin, desirable for those who train hard and with great frequency.

Sida cordifolia was first determined to possess ephedrine in 1930, and for this reason it was subsequently recommended in India by physicians as a heart stimulant. In Ayurveda practices, Sida cordifo-lia had three common applications: Mashabaladi Kvatha, where the plant seeds were mixed with other ingredients to relieve muscular pain; Balataila, a process for the treatment of nervous system complaints, stomach problems, and as a cardiac tonic; and the crushed leaves of the plant as an astringent for the treatment and dressing of wounds or skin injuries.

Sida cordifolia has another alkaloid present within its structure that also has a pronounced effect on the body. Vasicinone, a substance formed from carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, is expressed as the chemical equation C11H12N2O. Vasicinone is an effective bronchodilator, tending to assist the body in the opening of restricted breathing passages.

Ephedrine poses risks to the body based on its chemical structure. The increase in heart rate and blood pressure creates an increased risk of heart attack. There are no formulations in which ephedrine is contained that reduce those risks. Ephedrine, coupled with the ingestion of a companion stimulant such as caffeine, can serve to accelerate the effects of ephedrine. All stimulants create a risk of both dependency for the user, and a danger that the user will feel compelled to increase the amounts consumed, risking toxicity.

The legal restrictions on the use of Sida cordifolia are not entirely clear in North America. Ephedrine, the subject of considerable debate in international sport as to its impact as a stimulant, given its broad availability and popular use in various cold and decongestant remedies, remains a prohibited substance in any competition that is subject to the control of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), where the concentration of ephedrine found in the system of an athlete exceeds 10 mcg per milliliter of urine when tested. In the United States and a number of other Western world countries, the ephedra plant and its herbal products have previously been the subject of bans by regulatory agencies; Sida cordifolia (and other ephedra containing herbs such as bitter orange) are not similarly restricted.

SEE ALSO Dietary supplements; Ephedra; Herbs; Mormon tea; Stimulants.