It typically grows to 1 to 2 m (3.3 to 6.5 ft) high, with a soft green or red-tinged stem, and lanceolate leaves 5 to 23 cm (2 to 9 in) long. The crushed foliage has a strong musty smell. The flowers are pink, with a hooded shape, 3 to 4 cm (1¼ to 1½ in) tall and 2 cm (¾ in) broad; the flower shape has been compared to a policeman's helmet, giving rise to the alternative common name Policeman's Helmet. After flowering between June and October, the plant forms seed pods 2 to 3 cm (¾ to 1¼ in) long and 8 mm broad (¼ in), which explode when disturbed, scattering the seeds up to 7 meters (23 ft). Impatiens, meaning "impatient", refers to this method of dispersal. The green seed pods and seeds can be eaten, and also the young leaves and shoots, which is a method of controlling the plant's spread
Although it does not range all over India and is by no means the only Impatiens native to that country, it is also known as Indian Balsam in countries where it is introduced.imalayan Balsam is sometimes cultivated for its flowers. It is now widely established in other parts of the world (such as the British Isles and the United States), in some cases becoming an invasive species weed. The aggressive seed dispersal, coupled with high nectar production which attracts pollinators, often allows the Himalayan Balsam to outcompete native plants. In the UK the plant was first introduced in 1839 at the same time as Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed.