The wild mallow (Malva sylvestris), also known as the common mallow, is a beautiful lilac flower of great medicinal value. Mallow is best known for its capacity to reduce inflammation in the body and help treat common afflictions such as gastritis, sore throat, rashes, ulcerations and toothaches. It makes an outstanding antibacterial, astringent and anti-inflammatory and is thus useful for the treatment of a wide range of medical conditions. Mallow flowers and leaves are an excellent cough soothing tea, while the roots make a good summer salad.
What is mallow and where can one find it? Mallow is both a beautiful wild flower and a strong medicinal herb found throughout Western Europe, Asia, the US, Canada and Australia. Other names include wild mallow, common mallow, tall or high mallow (because it reaches up to 3 meters in height), blue mallow or country mallow. The flowers, leaves and seeds of the species have a variety of uses. For example, the flowers are used in various herbal preparations, the leaves in salads, stews or over wounds and the seeds for making natural dyes.
What does mallow look like? Mallow is a tall field flower with deep green lobbed leaves and bright pink, purple or lilac wrinkly petals with darker-colored veins. When infusing dried flowers (and leaves), you will notice your tea turning an almost beautiful lavender-blue color. Mallow seeds are contained in tiny, pod-like fruits that are green when unripe and brown when ripe. The seeds are tiny, mucilaginous, brown capsules. The seeds (and stems) may or may not have small hairs. Mallow flowers, seeds and leaves are all used in traditional medicine for a variety of purposes.
Uses and benefits
1) Respiratory problems. Mallow is recognized as an efficient herbal remedy for colds and asthma. According to research, the leaves and flowers boast strong anti-inflammatory properties and thus efficiently reduce inflammation at the level of the throat. Moreover, mallow seeds contain mucilaginous substances which cover the inflamed tissue, forming a protective layer which allows the tissue to recover.
Mallow appears to be highly efficient in treating inflammations and irritations of the mouth as well, and provides relief in cases of dry cough, making a good natural antitussive. Rinsing your mouth or throat with a mallow gargle is said to help maintain calm throat irritation and maintain a healthy mouth and throat mucous lining.
2) Soothes gastritis pain and helps reduce inflammation at the level of the stomach and the rest of the digestive tract. Apparently, the same mucilaginous substances that promote sore throat healing allow the stomach mucosa and intestinal walls to heal through the same mechanism. If you are suffering from gastritis or stomach acid, it might help to drink one or two cups of mallow tea (with roots) a day. Mallow will not only calm irritation, but it will also reduce inflammation throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Studies suggest that the roots are particularly efficient at reducing inflammation.
3) Treats rashes, ulcerations, insect bites, burns and eczema. Traditional medical practices recommend applying a poultice made from crushed flowers and seeds locally on affected areas in order to reduce itching, redness, swelling and soothe the skin.
4) Good for gum inflammation. A mallow gargle used at regular intervals is said to reduce painful gum inflammation. This is believed to be a result of the presence of compounds with antibacterial properties.
5) Recommended for kidney problems. In traditional medicine, mallow is used to treat kidney stones, kidney inflammation and gallstones. Herbal infusions were drank to promote diuresis and help restore normal kidney function.
6) Other benefits. Mallow infusions are said to treat headaches, insomnia and constipation. Poultices were sometimes applied on the stomach to help relieve cramps and pain. Mallow owes its benefits to potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory natural compounds such as flavonoids, tannins and other polyphenols which offer significant protection against free radical damage. Also, its high mucilage content is supportive of the soothing effects it has on the pharynx, mouth and gastric mucosa.
Overall, mallow is a lovely ornamental plant and a strong medicinal herb. It boasts incredible soothing properties due to its strong anti-inflammatory action. The roots, leaves, flowers and seeds of the plant are all edible, adding to its value. Nevertheless, remember that, when consumed in large amounts, mallow preparations can cause side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting and gastrointestinal discomfort. Mallow can also cause severe allergic reactions and those allergic to it should avoid the plant in all forms and preparations.