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Updated 18 February 2013

Marsh mallow

There is a variety of mallow plants, one of which is the marsh mallow.

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There is a variety of mallow plants, one of which is the marsh mallow.

The name may conjure up images of soft white and pink confectionary but the only connection between the plant and sweet are the dainty white and pink flowers that bloom on this marsh variety - in all other respects their shared title appears nothing more than coincidental.

Marsh mallow is a famous herb with a long history as a healing agent. Its biological name, Althaea officinalis, is derived from the Greek word altha, which means to cure. The plant family from which mallow stems is called Malvaceae, derived from the Greek malake, meaning soft and believed to be attributed to the soft healing properties of the mallow plants. Just a few other names for the marsh mallow include sweet weed, mallard and schloss tea.


Marsh Mallow is indigenous in most parts of Europe and as the name suggests, it grows in marshes and also damp meadows and along the banks of rivers. The stems lie parallel to the ground and shoot a few branches into the air baring velvety round leaves, which at closer inspection, is a dense covering of fine hairs.

Historical texts talk of mallows as a food substance, eaten as a vegetable by the Romans, Egyptians and Chinese, as well as by poorer populations in Syria and Greece when food is in short supply.

The plant is usually prepared by boiling until soft and then frying in butter and onions. Although it is uncertain as to whether it is the same Mallow, even the bible talks about the plant as a source of food during times of famine. Still today the French eat the young tender leaves of the mallow in salad and believe they stimulate the kidneys.

Medicinally, marsh mallow has been used as a laxative and internal and external anit-inflammatory and some make a confectionary paste from the roots to soothe a sore chest and treat coughs and hoarseness.

Parts used

Leaves, root and flowers.

Constituents

Roots:

  • Asparagin
  • Mucilage – containing numerous polysaccharides
  • Pectin
  • Tannins

Leaves:

  • Mucilage
  • Flavanoids including kaempferol, quercitin and diosmetin glucosides
  • Scopoletin
  • Polyphenolic acids

Other:

  • Starch
  • Oil
  • Sugar
  • Cellulose

Medicinal actions

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Diuretic
  • Demulcent
  • Emollient
  • Expectorant
  • Mucilaginous

Medicinal uses of Marsh Mallow

Internally:

  • Inflammation
  • Irritation of the alimentary canal, urinary and respiratory organs
  • Haemorrhage from the urinary organs and in dysentery
  • Coughs
  • Indigestion
  • Cystitis

Externally:

  • Inflammation
  • Bruises and sprains
  • Aches in muscles and sinews
  • Sore chest
  • Boils
  • Varicose veins
  • Ulcers

Dosage

The dose of March Mallow will vary depending on the symptoms to be treated, the brand of product and the form in which it comes. Consult the product package or a herbal specialist for specific details.

Safety

No information on safe consumption is available. As with most herbs it would be wise to consult a physician regarding the use of marsh mallow, both for safety verification and for possible herb-drug interactions.

(Zaakirah Rossier, Health24, updated October 2010)

 
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