Sida spp (Ex., S. acuta, S. cordata, S. rhombifolia, S. spinosa, etc.)
Country mallow, wireweed, common wireweed, broomweed, ironweed, fanpetals, arrowleaf, Cuban jute, Queensland hemp
Sida is a genus of a flowering plant with possibly 200 or more species found around the globe. Most of the time, sida is found in the tropics and subtropics, with a number of species thriving in temperate regions. S. rhombifolia and S. spinosa being two specia that thrive in most of the United States, with S. spinosa as far north as southern New England. Sida belongs to the Malvaceae family, making sida a relation to marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), a well-known, mucilaginous, demulcent herb.
Sida grows as either an annual or a perennial flowering shrub, and can grow up to 6 feet tall. It’s flowers have five lobes, similar to other mallows.
Arrowleaf Sida, Cuban Jute (Sida rhombifolia)
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)
The species of sida with the most scientific study behind it is Sida acuta, pictured below.
Common Wireweed, Broomweed (Sida Acuta)
All parts of the plants can be used. The root contains a minute amount of ephedrine. If you would prefer to avoid the ephedrine, opt instead for the aerial parts. Ephedrine, however, can be useful in some cases, such as opening up breathing passageways.
The sale of products containing ephedrine (except pharmaceutical products) in the United States has been banned. Ephedrine was banned because of the risk of heart attack and death resulting from individuals taking excessive amounts of an ephedrine-based product to lose weight. Excessive ephedrine can increase blood pressure and in large doses, can lead to a seizure or a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack.
The likelihood of the amount of ephedrine in sida to be an issue for the overwhelming majority is very slim, but something to be aware of as a possibility. There are better plant sources of ephedrine if it is really needed, such as the Ephedra genus.
On the other hand, small doses of ephedrine can assist with opening tight lungs, bronchitis, and asthma. Providing that blood pressure is monitored, sida would make a good choice for chronic bronchitis and asthma attack prevention.
For reduction of asthma attacks (not for acute attacks), if sida is not providing complete relief, other non-ephedrine-containing options, such as grindelia (Grindelia robusta, G. squarrosa) or codonopsis (Codonopsis pilosula, C. tangshen), or a combination of these, may be better for reducing the number of asthma attacks for that individual.
According to The Dispensary of the United States (1918), Sida rhombifolia was reputed to be an important botanical medicine in the treatment of tubercuosis. Specifically, the dispensary describes sida’s effectiveness in tuberculois care this way.
“It contains a large quantity of mucilage. The fluid extract has been asserted to possess expectorant properties and to be especially valuable in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.”
When this was written, tuberculosis recovery took a minimum of six months to several years without modern antibiotics. This is an indication that Sida is probably safe for long term use. Of course, modern care can also take longer if the infected person has a strain that is resistant to antibiotics.
Like its cousin, marshmallow, sida is a demulcent and highly mucilaginous. These qualities make sida an excellent choice for respiratory ailments, wound healing, and soothing mucosal tissues. Demulcents stimulate the body to moisten the mucosal tissues, as well as being emolient locally. Mucilaginous plants sooth the delicate tissues of the mouth, esophogus, upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts, and the urinary tract.
Sida is one of the most important herbal antibiotics we have. Sida is one of the few that works systemically and its medicine makes its way into the bloodstream. It is the only known plant that grows in the United States that contains cryptolepine. Cryptolepine is the prime alkaloid in sida, followed by quindoline. Additionally, sida is antiprotozoal and somewhat antiviral.
As a processed pharmaceutical powder, cryptolepine used to fight malarial infections and cancerous tumors. Cryptolepine extracted from the aerial parts of sida was shown to be effective against Staphylococcus aureas, including resistant strains like MRSA.
Cryptolepine is a DNA intercalculator. An intercalculator is a substance that fits in between the planar bases of DNA, thus interferring with DNA replication. This is what makes cryptolepine effective at interrupting the growth of cancerous tumors.
Internal and External Infections
Sida spp are a good choice for many types of infections. Use topically as a powder for wound care, or in formulas for skin rashes. Use in eye drops for conjunctivitis. Sida has been used for dysentery, and shown effective against Salmonella spp, Shigella spp, E. coli, Klebsiela pneumoniae, herpes and outbreak prevention, Candida spp. and cancer of the blood. In long term use, such as one would see with Lyme, tuberculosis, and malaria, sida is adaptogenic.
Use sida for any systemic infection, and add to any broad spectrum herbal antibiotic blend. severe diarrhea, UTIs, septicemia, and sepsis. The use of side in combination with other herbs specific to those very conditions. Do not forgo modern medical treatment for serious illnesses, like septicemia and sepsis, if a hospital and medical care are available.
Sida is unusual for more than just its cryptolepine content. It also is a plant high in protein, potentially up to 25%. The plant has been used to make brooms, as well as cordage and netting, hence folk names like broomweed, hemp and jute. Sida is also adept as cleaning up toxic soil, easily removing heavy metals.
This sida can be composted, but not for use in your garden. The compost, once it has fully matured and gone through all of its biological processes, can break down the heavy metals into less toxic particles, and then bind those particles. This compost would never be suitable to grow tomatoes, but it would prevent the toxic substances from getting back into the environment.
Only use sida grown in healthy soil for your herbal preparations.
Sida can be made into a powder for skin infections, wound care, rashes, and eczema. The leaves are the most common part of the plant used to make tea. Sida is a source of saponins if a water extraction is done with cold water, which could be irritating to the stomach, so cold infusions would not be my first choice if taking internally. Either the fresh or dried plant can be used for extractions using alcohol or hot water.
The addition of apple cider vinegar also assists hot water extractions (tea) and alcohol extractions (tinctures). I would suggest not including the vinegar if you are using the tea for eye drops. Be sure to thoroughly drain all plant particulate out of any herbal eye drop formula. A muslin bag is extremely helpful for this.
To prepare sida tea, use 2 teaspoons of the powdered leaf and steep in hot water for 15-20 minutes. Any of the aerial parts could be used, but it is easier to powder the leaves than the stem. The particulate can either be strained out through a cloth, or allowed to settle to the bottom of the cup and the tea decanted.
Here are three ways to make the tincture:
- Based upon the instructions in Herbal Antibiotics (Buhner), Use the dried leaves. Use a ratio of 1:5 (1 ounce of plant material by weight to every 5 ounces of menstruum by volume). To make your solvent, use a mix of 60% alcohol and 40% water. Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the menstruum.
- To percolate a sida tincture, use 60% alcohol to 35% water and 5% apple cider vinegar as your menstruum. Percolate that menstrum through the powdered sida leaf per the instructions in my percolation tutorial video below.
- In The Herbal Medic (Coffman), an additional step is included. Make a tincture with a high alcohol content (about 70% for dried, and 95% for fresh). When this is done macerating (6 weeks), strain to separate the tincture (liquid) from the marc (macerated plant material). This is normally where the process ends with bottling the tincture In this case, take the marc and make a decoction.* Strain the plant material out of the water, reserving the liquid. Then blend the water and alcohol extractions together with a ratio of 30% alcohol to 70% decoction.**
*I would use 2 cups of water for every ounce (by weight) of plant material for whatever the plant material weight before making the tincture. If a scale is not available, I would use about 2 cups of water for every half cup of plant material.
**Anything less than 20% ABV (alcohol by volume) will run the risk of growing microorganisms.
Adult dosage of the tincture can range from 20 drops (.20tsp or 1mL) up to 100 drops (2tsp or 10mL), taken 3 to times per day.
(Article on calculating child dosage coming soon)
Side Effects and Contraindications
Sida can interfer with the implantation of a fertilized egg. If you are trying to conceive, or are in the first trimester of pregnancy, do not use sida. Sida may cause elevated blood pressure, though not likely. Sida may also lower blood sugar, so be sure to check your blood sugar frequently if you take diabetic medication. Do not take if also taking a medication containing ephedrine. Large quantities can result in stomach upset.
Where to Purchase or Find
To purchase seeds:
- Sida cordifolia seeds are available from Strictly Medicinal Seeds (formerly Horizon Herbs).
- Sida spinosa seeds are available from Southern Habitats.
To buy dried Sida acuta:
- Monteagle Herbs– Herbal wholesaler located in Canada. Bulk orders only. Expect extra time in shipping, but really nice to work with.
Sida is a weed that grows along the sides of roads, disturbed soil, forests pastures, wasteland, poor soil, good soil, sea level and high elevations. An invasive plant that shouldn’t be too hard to find in most areas around the country.
Sida can be grown in containers, but it will need a deep container. Sida has long tap root.
- The Dispensary of the United States, downloadable PDF
- Antibacterial activity of alkaloids from Sida acuta, downloadable PDF
- Herbal Antibiotics, by Stephen Harrod Buhner
- The Herbal Medic, by Sam Coffman