My mom gave me balguti when I was a baby. She gave it to my sister too.
And I give it to my little girl today. I started the daily guti when she was 3 months old and gave her the guti for cough and cold even before that! Balguti is a set of essential Ayurvedic herbs to foster a baby’s development and build immunity. It is a traditional home remedy for most baby ailments and is given in Maharashtra and various states in South India.
Even when I was to give Meera her first balguti, I was skeptical. Like all mom’s of the 21st century I too went through the motions. I too wanted to analyse, dissect and research this age-old tradition before deciding on whether to follow it or not. I asked moms around me. I asked doctors. I researched the web. I even researched the individual ingredients listed on the label, before giving it my ‘go-ahead’. So I presume you’re doing the same. For the fear of giving something to your precious little baby that may actually be bad for her!
I understand. The fear is real. Especially after the US FDA has warned consumers not to use balguti kesariya. It showed high lead content during testing.
But I stand by my balguti, the homemade balguti. Not the generic ‘one dose for all’ syrup forms available in the market. But the actual herbs contained in a balguti pack. The kind that you can grind on a sahan (sandalwood grinding stone) as per your particular need. I use the balguti pack by Green Pharmacy myself (I am not an affiliate or a blogger paid to give you this information). This packet contains all the herbs in their dry form. You can grind them as per your desired dosage. You can also increase or decrease any particular herb/s to get the necessary medical benefits of the same.
Didn’t get it? Let me explain better.
The word balguti splits into ‘bal’ and ‘guti. Bal means baby and guti stands for paste. In other words, balguti is a paste made from 20 medicinal herbs. It is given to prevent or treat minor illnesses that affect babies. Such as constipation, stomach aches, dysentery, cough, colds and fever. Balguti is quite simply a DIY home remedy that is free of artificial ingredients and harmful chemicals.
I questioned my mother and grandmother about this. Both concurred, balguti can be safely given from the 21st day of a child’s birth (once the child turns 3 weeks). Of course, the dosage is really small and this will be discussed further in the coming paragraphs. The label on my Green Pharmacy balguti pack just mentions that it has a history of countless years and that it is effective and safe for infants. It does not give any clear guideline on when to begin giving it.
Personally, I gave my child her first balguti when she turned 3 months. This is not to say that I did not treat her with balguti herbs before that. For I did give her balguti for cough and cold for a consecutive 4 days when she was about 2 months old, to ease her chest congestion and treat her cold.
Each mother, if she chooses to give balguti to her child, must choose a timeline that she is comfortable with. Of course she must also talk to her paediatrician before she begins. This is the best way to start balguti safely.
Personally, I am not a proponent of the balguti syrups available in the market. For one thing, that I do not know the exact dosage that goes into every spoonful of it. Secondly, they don't feel safe. When you make your own balguti, there is usually no issue of contamination or lead poisoning. Since you can ensure that you use clean, sealed herbs for each dose. There is also no question of additives such as sugars or colours. It is easier to trust yourself as a mother, than to trust unknown faces who have prepared and packaged a product that they claim is for your child!
This must be so with a lot of mothers out there. Most would rather follow the traditional methods and decide on dosages measured by the number of turns one takes per herb.
Gosh, this is all so complicated for the uninitiated! Let’s try to make it simpler.
One can prepare balguti at home using a rubbing stone (or sahan in marathi), the kind that you use to rub sandalwood on. Rub the herbs on the stone in turns or rounds, using water or breastmilk as a lubricant. You can see that as you increase the number of turns on the stone, the herbs leave behind a pasty residue on the stone. This pasty mixture of all the herbs in different dosage proportions is the baby's balguti.
For a very young baby, give a paste of only essential herbs along with badam (almond) and kharik (dried dates). The dosage is low, only one turn per herb. As the baby grows, one turn (rotation) increases for every month the child gets older. As per the child’s needs, the dose of each herb is adjusted by reducing its turns on the stone.
“Yatha visham yatha shastram, yathagnirsh niryatha, tathaoshadham vidnyatam, vidnyatamritam tatha”
- Herbs used knowingly act as an elixir. But if used without their proper knowledge, they are as dangerous as a poison, a weapon or a fire.
So, is your balguti safe for your baby? There are three parameters the determine the answer for me.
• Do you believe in Ayurveda and the science of herbs?
• Do you trust ancient Indian knowledge and tradition enough to base judgement on it?
• Can you question and cross check facts, to decide on whether balguti good or bad for your baby?
There are a lot (and there really ARE a lot!) of ancient Indian traditions that I do not follow. There are quite a few more that I look down on with the disdain of a feminist and the skepticism of a scientist. With some, I experience the utter horror of just how they got passed down to today. It is the 21st century isn’t it?
But balguti isn’t one of them.
Ayurveda claims that balguti is safe. Scientific tests conducted by the FDA (and other institutions too) claim that it isn’t, at least some brands aren’t. The best way to navigate this dilemma is to trust one over the other and then say yes or no.
If you choose to trust Ayurveda though, there are no second thoughts on this. But it is better and safer to make your own balguti than to use any branded, packaged syrup. Dry herbs of balguti are available everywhere, even the local Ayurvedic clinics. It definitely takes more effort to make balguti than to serve a syrup in a spoon. But at least you know that you’re choosing what is best for your child.
If you were wondering how to use balguti safely, here are a few essential steps to follow. These prevent contamination and keep the efficacy of the herbs intact.
• Dry your herbs after you have used them, before storing them again in a sealed, dry container.
• It is important to sun dry your herbs frequently. This prevents the growth of fungal residue on the herbs.
• Wash your herbs before and after you use them.
• Wash your stone after use and keep it clean and dry.
• Even if you keep the herbs clean and dry, they can keep their efficacy for a year or so only. It is best to discard unused herbs thereafter and buy fresh ones for further use.
Balguti is a preparation made from Ayurvedic herbs. As with all such medications, there is a risk of side effects. Especially so with the self made version. For example, using too much of dried dates and almonds in your daily guti in an (misguided) effort to make your baby chubbier, can backfire. Both of these in excessive doses can be hard for your baby to digest. Thus giving side effects such as constipation and stomach ache. Giving the doses in correct dosages and with the correct herbs has less risks of side effects.
Balguti is an Ayurvedic science that has stood the tests of time and generations. Like with all medications, formal or otherwise, the risks of side effects are always there. You should use balguti only if you are comfortable giving it and if your baby tolerates it well.
The most basic balguti recipe, or the one that is given daily, has just 9 out of the 20 essential herbs. For the daily guti, rub the following essential herbs on stone with mother’s milk or preboiled water:
(1) Dry Dates (Kharik) (2) Almonds (Badam) (3) Liquorice (Jeshthimadh) (4) Sweet Flag (Vekhand) (5) Chebulic Myrobalan (Bal Hirda) (6) Winter Cherry (Ashwagandha) (7) Dry Ginger (Suntha) (8) Atis Roots (Atis / Ativish) and (9) Turmeric (Haldi)
The logic for using just 9 herbs stems from the thought that only the minimum, most essential ones be given to the baby.
Till your baby develops her immune system, she is susceptible to minor ailments such as worms, cough, cold and indigestion. Daily balguti supports her immune system in this nascent stage of its development. Almonds and dried dates provide essential nutrients, while dry ginger aids in smooth digestion. Winter cherry strengthens bones and liquorice helps prevent cough. Atis has a detoxifying effect and bal hirda helps with swift excretion. Turmeric also helps in digestion and is additionally an anti bacterial as well as a blood purifier. Sweet flag kills germs and worms.
The seeds of this herb are used in balguti. This bitter tonic improves appetite and is useful in bringing down fever. This herb is bitter, pungent and stringent. It is useful in sorting out minor liver disorders and worms. It eases stomach pain due to gases and also works on diarrhoea, dysentery and colitis.
The strong-odoured resin part of this herb is used in balguti, as it has a strong antiseptic action. It is especially useful during the teething phase. A baby is prone to inflamed gums, diarrhoea, fever, pain, vomiting and gases. Apply Dikemali paste on the swollen gums to reduce pain and swelling, and to strengthen the gums. Kids having PICA syndrome (i.e. kids who are fond of eating clay, mud, etc.) are give dikemali . Its repulsive taste and smell help to put kids off tasting anything foreign.
The fruits of this tree form part of the regular balguti. These fruits are demulcent by nature. They are useful in colic pain, dysentery and diarrhoea. It is very useful for gripe pain and intestinal colic as well. Give fried pods of murudsheng to older children to kill intestinal worms.
The mature fruits of this tree have astringent properties are mild laxatives. Giving hirda with ghee promotes longevity. It also boosts energy levels. To ease asthma issues or constant hiccups, give hirda and dry ginger. The most important use of hirda is that it helps to clear out the bowels and improve appetite.
Maiphal galls have astringent action and are useful against excessive phlegm. Maiphal is neither a fruit nor a herb, but is in reality just galls that arise on the branches as a result of gall wasps. Use it to soothe cough, running nose, etc. and dysentery and vomiting that is a result of excessive phlegm. It has anti fungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties.
The immature fruit of the cherubic myrobalan tree is a mild laxative. It has the same properties as the more mature hirda. The only difference between the two is that bal hirda is blackish in colour and is without seed.
Kuda in balguti actually stands for the bark of the kurchi tree. This bitter bark is only soluble in butter milk. Its paste acts as a bitter tonic that is useful against diarrhoea, amoebic dysentery and irritable bowel syndrome.
Atis roots are a bitter tonic that act against fever. Contrary to what the name suggests, these anti-toxic roots are not poisonous. In fact, they have a detoxifying effect on the body. They remove poisonous toxins from the body and work on the digestive system to correct metabolism. Atis roots are the often the drug of choice for curing most paediatric health problems. The roots are also helpful in clearing the airways of phlegm and help to purify blood too.
Vekhand is my go to herb during fever and the fact that I love how it smells is just a bonus. The rhizomes of Vekhand are used in balguti as an anti-infective. This rhizome is also a stimulant that is used with ghee to improve speech and reduce stammering. It is also useful against infections of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. It also treats cough, inflammation and fever. Vekhand in paste form can be gently rubbed on the chest and forehead of babies. This brings down fever and prevent cough and sinusitis.
The whole world now knows the glory of turmeric. This rhizome is anti-inflammatory, anti-septic as well as anti-periodic. It treats cough, fever, gastric ailments and even skin diseases. It also soothes respiratory disorders such as allergic rhinitis and allergic bronchitis. When a baby is given cow milk instead of breast milk, a pinch of turmeric may be added to the milk to make it easier to digest.
Nutmeg seeds are soothing and are useful in treating diarrhoea, dysentery and vomiting. This aromatic seed is a digestive tonic that controls loose motions. Higher doses of nutmeg can induce deep sleep. External application of nutmeg treats headaches, cough, colds and even mild symptoms of asthma.
This astringent gall treats respiratory disorders as it controls the secretion of phlegm. In paediatric balguti, kadakshingi treats common cold and eases teething troubles. It also treats throat infections, hiccups, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough and symptoms of asthma.
Nut grass tubers have a cooling action. They soothe burning micturition, gastric disorders, fever and excessive thirst. These tubers also have carminative, febrifuge, diuretic and anthelmintic properties. Nagarmotha is useful for new mothers as well. Its paste is applied externally to increase the quality of breastmilk. Nagarmotha is an excellent galactagogue.
Better known as liquorice in English and mulethi in Hindi, jeshtimadh is a demulcent root with soothing properties. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and is an excellent expectorant. It treats cough, asthma and voice hoarseness. Liquorice improves vision and skin texture, and is often called a ‘rejuvenating herb’. It also has mild laxative properties and works as an effective antacid.
Suntha is the dried form of the ginger rhizome. This digestive increases appetite and has carminative properties. Dried ginger has slightly different actions than normal, fresh ginger. Suntha is a rich source of anti-oxidants and is also rich in gut-strengthening enzymes. It increases body temperature and improves immunity. It also relieves constipation and aids in cases of abdominal colic. It can also be applied externally to relieve headaches.
Ashwagandha roots are a rejuvenating force that help in strengthening the immune system. These roots give nutrition to the building blocks of the body. Though they are good when taken at any age, they are especially necessary for kids. Ashwagandha also acts as a nerving tonic.
Pimpli or long pepper is actually a fruit and its main action is on the lungs. It acts as an expectorant and prevent cough. It is also useful to treat asthma and fever when it is combined with honey. Pimpli stimulates the liver and spleen and also acts as a detoxifying agent. Pimpli should be used in a controlled manner in the balguti of very young children as it is a hot spice.
Kharik or dry dates are jam packed with nutrition. They are veritable treasure trove of vitamins and minerals, especially iron. They contain vitamins like A, C, E, K, B2, B6, niacin and thiamine. Dry dates give strength and energy and improve the body’s capacity to handle routine wear and tear.
Beheda fruit has an astringent action and is useful in respiratory disorders. It also has rejuvenate properties. It imparts longevity and boosts immunity. Beheda helps in improving appetite and treats flatulence, thirst, piles and worms. It is also beneficial for hair and eyesight. Beheda alleviates cough, blacked phlegm, and bronchospasm. It also helps to control bleeding in the sputum.
Almonds are a good skin and brain tonic. Not just a good source of vitamin E and A, almonds are also rich in fiber. They help in preventing constipation and help to maintain a proper digestive system. Almond oil is also great to massage newborns with.
Dry cough is troublesome for the baby and distressing for moms. Especially so when it gets worse at night. Make a paste of beheda and liquorice in pre-boiled water. Give it mixed with a little honey if the baby is old enough and not susceptible to the risks of giving honey.
When your baby suffers a cold, he may have trouble feeding, breathing and even sleeping. Running or choked nose, cough and sometimes fever may increase her discomfort. Give a guti of dry ginger, long pepper, sweet flag, liquorice and kadakshingi 3 times a day. If the baby is older than 1 year, you can add honey to sweeten the mixture.
Sore throat is a common problem with babies. Bacterial throat infections are more common in toddlers over 2. A guti of sweet flag, turmeric, beheda, kadakshingi and liquorice work wonders on a sore throat.
Allergies are also common in babies as every type of food, clothing or even medicine is new for them. Just about anything can trigger an auto-immune allergic reaction in them. To treat mild rashes, inflammation and irritation, give a paste of nut grass and turmeric, 3 to 4 times a day.
Above normal temperature is termed as fever and fever should always be treated on time. Bal Sanjivani, a paste of ativish, nut grass and kadakshingi, works well on fevers. Adding dry ginger and long pepper to the mixture makes it work against all types of fevers.
Teething is a troublesome phase for most babies. There may be swelling, gum redness, irritability and even fever during this time. Teething also affects appetite and motions. Apply a paste of Dikemali mixed with honey on the swollen gums to strengthen them and to ease swelling and pain. Dikemali may also be ingested to prevent infections.
You need a stronger remedy for worm infections that affect appetite and motions. Give a paste of sweet flag, dikemali, hirda, bal hirda and ativish with ova arka (ajwain water / ajowan caraway water).
Occasional loose stools in babies is not a cause of worry. But, if they are suddenly watery, sticky, frequent or smelly, it could be due to indigestion. This may be accompanied with stomach ache and vomiting. To treat this, make a paste of kurchi bark, nutmeg, murudsheng, maiphal, ativish and nutgrass. Give this paste 3 to 4 times a day.
If your baby is unusually fussy and you find her constantly crying and folding or throwing her legs, she probably has indigestion, gases and colic pain. To treat these, give her a mixture of fever nut, dry ginger, ativish, bal hirda and nut grass. Make this with 1:3 ratio of ova arka and pre-boiled water. This can be given after every food intake, in slight quantities.
Under normal circumstances, your baby should have a bowel movement very 24 hours or so. If she goes 48 hours or more without her motions or gets hard stools, you can treat her for constipation. For this, you can give her a paste of bal hirda, hirda, dry ginger and liquorice. Additionally, give your baby a soft massage in and around her umbilicus with lukewarm oil. This helps to soften that entire area and helps her in passing her stool.
By now you already know that I am a big proponent of Balguti. Yet, in order for you to make a balanced and informed decision on whether to use it or not, you need to know the entire set of precautions and contra-indications that go with it.
• Ideally, give the balguti in the morning, giving the baby ample time to digest it.
• It is important to keep all herbs and your rubbing stone clean and dry. Any tardiness here will affect the quality of your balguti and thus render it unsafe for your child.
• There is no ‘this comes before that’ chronology for the herbs you use in your balguti. But it is important to pay attention to the number of rounds/turns you do with them on your stone.
• There are no known side effects of balguti when it is self made and made with diligence. But, the resultant paste is slightly bitter and your baby may not like it.
• Not all babies are Ayurveda lovers. If you baby does not take to it well, you should talk to your paediatrician or stop using it entirely.
• As mentioned before, when the balguti is self made, with the attentiveness, intelligence and a mother's discretion, it is safe. The same cannot be said for the balguti syrups available in the market. Tests conducted on them by agencies such as the FDA should be taken seriously.
If you’d like to give balguti a shot, or if you’d like to keep this ayurvedic information handy, download a free printable copy of my balguti infographic. Just print it and keep it handy. Use it whenever you need it and don’t want to rely on allopathic medicines and antibiotics.
Disclaimer: Though thorough research has been put into this article, and though personal experience as well as the experience of others has been considered here, this article is and will always remain the writer’s personal view. The writer is not a qualified paediatrician and does not claim to have any qualification that allows her to dispense any kind of medical advice.
Balguti is a result of centuries of traditional herbal knowledge. References to the same can be found in numerous Ayurvedic books. This article only supplies introductory information about this vast treasure trove of knowledge and is NOT a substitute for timely medical treatment.
Special thanks to Dr. Amod Sane, Ph.D, whose book on Balguti helped me immensely in compiling this article.