Althaea officinalis. Malvaceae
Found in waste places and in gardens. Likes especially salty marshes along sea shores. Leaves are grayish, softly hairy, toothed, ovate, flowers are mauve, lightly veined with red. The whole plant order of Malvaceae, which includes the Althaea Malva and Lavatera genera (the hollyhock ) is one of the most beneficial known to the herbalist, and all the species should be encouraged on farms and in gardens, and never eradicated as useless weeds. The whole plant is medicinal, from the roots to the fruits. It is also used in confectionery.
Treatment of all lung complaints, also sore throats, hoarseness, sore mouth and gums. All bowel troubles, inflammation, dysentery, diarrhea, hemorrhage. Internally and externally for all venereal diseases. The leaves when young are a good raw salad herb, and are much eaten by Bedouin Arabs and others. The fruits, called “cheeses” by peasant children because of their round form, are highly toxic.
Mallow leaves and flowers yield a healing lotion. Mallow stems are chewed by Gypsies, and when the pulp is mixed with saliva, they apply this, warm from the mouth to inflamed parts of the skin and to sores and swellings. They achieve wonderful cures with this primitive remedy. Mallow roots make a useful poultice, and were once used to check mortification, one ancient name for mallow being “mortification plant.” They contain a quantity of mucilaginous matter, also starch, asparagin, albumen (its most valued property), and a crystallizable sugar and a fixed oil. The root in fact contains over half its weight of sweet tasting mucilage, which gives the plant its well-justified reputation, this mucilage having unique healing, soothing and lubricating powers. For irritation of the vagina, internal and external as a medicine and as a douche. As a lotion or poultice for all skin eruptions, sores, swellings, wounds, bruises, sprains. For breast troubles, soreness, inflammation, swellings. As a lotion to bath sore or inflamed eyes, and for treatment of styes.
Of a Standard Brew of the flowers and leaves, sweetened with honey, a wineglass three times daily. Or, of three or four roots, sliced small boiled gently for one hour in four cups of water, sweetened with honey, a wineglass three times daily.
Use the roots, prepare as above. The pulped leaves and flowers are applied to the surface of all inflamed areas, or used, slightly warmed, as a poultice. Or the leaves, crushed, can be steeped in light beer and used as a rub for bruises, sprains. A popular confection known as Marshmallow Sweets is made from the dried, powdered roots. The ingredients are: two ounces marshmallow root and fourteen ounces fine sugar mixed with some mucilage (or gum) tragacanth and water of orange flowers sufficient to bind all together.