Mallow

Mallow is not only a useful herb offering various medicinal and nutritional properties, but it is also a lovely ornamental addition to any garden.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Common mallow
  • Scientific nameMalva sylvestris
  • Plant typeHerb
  • Native regionWestern Europe, Eastern or Central Europe, Central Asia
  • Main Economic UseMedicinal
Mallow

Mallow, or Malva sylvestris, is a perennial herb believed to hail from Europe and Asia. It now grows all over the world, to the point where it is considered a weed because of the ease in which it grows wild. Its traditional use was at first limited to inducing childbirth and promoting fertility, although during the 16th century, mallow developed a reputation as a cure-all herb and it began to be used to treat stomach and bladder illnesses, and as a soothing ointment for wounds.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionAnti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Astringent, Demulcent, Laxative
  • Key constituentsMucilage, anthocynins, tannins
  • Ways to useHot infusions/tisanes, Tincture
  • Medicinal rating(2) Minorly useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafe

Health Benefits of Mallow

Mallow has found several medicinal uses since its discovery, making it a useful plant for healing various ailments. Its traditional applications include:

  • Healing cuts and wounds
  • Reducing swelling
  • Providing laxative effects
  • Relieving inflammatory pain
  • Offering diuretic effects
  • Soothing throat and mouth infections

How It Works

The main ingredients to thank for mallow's medicinal properties are mucilage, anthocyanins, and tannins. Malvin, an anthocynanin contained in mallow, provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The tannins in mallow are responsible for the astringent action, which helps clean wounds and protect the skin from infections.

Mallow is helpful for cleansing wounds, soothing insect bites, and reducing swelling. It is also a diuretic and laxative. The mucilage in mallow helps treats mucosal irritations of the mouth and throat that cause dry cough. It acts as a demulcent, forming a protective film over inflamed mucous membranes.

How to Consume Mallow

Main preparations: Tea, tincture, cream

Different parts of the mallow plant can be consumed a number of ways, depending on taste preferences and the desired therapeutic effect. The flowers and leaves can be made into tea or tinctures to be taken therapeutically. Mallow is also available in supplement and cream form for medicinal purposes.

Culinary Information

Mallow leaves and flowers can be distilled to make liquor. Young mallow leaves can be boiled or eaten raw in salads. Mallow leaves are also added to soups for their thickening effects and pleasant taste. Additionally, raw mallow seeds can be eaten as a healthy snack, offering a nutty flavor.

Other Uses

The tannins found in mallow make it useful for dyeing clothes. Furthermore, the fibers found in mallow stems can be used for making textiles and paper.

Traditionally, mallow was used for decorations woven into garlands for celebrating May Day.

Buying

Mallow is sold year-round in most locations worldwide, including nurseries, herbal nutrition shops, and online. Although mallow leaves are not widely sold and are more easily found harvested from a garden, supplemental forms of the plant can be purchased. Mallow supplements are available in liquid extract or capsule form. In addition, mallow tinctures and creams are available for therapeutic purposes.

Plant Biology

Classification

Mallow, or Malva sylvestris, is a tall, perennial herb with a pulpy taproot and erect stem. It can grow up to 3 feet (1 m) in height and boasts beautiful pinkish-purple flowers with prominent, dark veins and lobed leaves. Mallow is a member of the Malvaceae family.

Varieties and Subspecies of Mallow

Nowadays, botanists do not classify Malva sylvestris into distinct subspecies, but prefer to speak of cultivar groups instead. The subspecies formerly known as Malva sylvestris subsp. malaca is now referred to as the Malva sylvestris L. Mauritiana cultivar group, and it is the predominant type found in the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, and Algeria. The Canescens group hails from further up north (France - Montpelier region), and unlike Mauritiana, it is almost completely covered by fine, white hair. Meanwhile, the M. sylvestris L. Eriocarpa group grows mostly between the Himalayas and Central China, and can be identified because only its seeds and stems are hairy.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cyclePerennial
  • Harvested partsFlowers, Leaves
  • Light requirementsFull sun, Partial shade
  • Soil pH6.6 – 7.3 (Neutral), 7.4 – 7.8 (Slightly alkaline)
  • Growing habitatCool temperate regions, Temperate climates

Mallow commonly grows in the wild, such as in open areas, roadsides, and wastelands. Though it is a hardy plant, the best season for sowing mallow seeds is summer. If it is planted indoors, it should not be transplanted until after the last frost. Plants should be spaced 12 - 36 inches (30 - 90 cm) apart, depending on the size of the variety. Mallow prefers light, well-drained soil or peat moss with an approximate pH of 7.0. The herb can grow in either full sun or partial shade, and requires moderate watering. It is a relatively low-maintenance, fast-growing plant, making it a nice ornamental garden plant.

Additional Information

Quick Facts (Additional Information)
  • Other usesTextiles, Paper, Dye

Historical Information

According to archaeological findings, the first use of mallow was nutritional rather than therapeutic, as evidence points out that young mallow leaves were consumed by humans around the 8th century BCE, possibly due to their pleasant, sweet taste and nutritional value. Sometimes, mallow is given to children to ease teething. Today, mallow is mainly used for medicinal and culinary purposes, as well as an ornamental garden plant because of its pretty pinkish-purple flowers.

Economic Data

Mallow is technically considered a weed that grows wild on nearly all continents, so there is no substantial information about its economic value. The biggest industries for mallow, however, are medicinal and culinary. Mallow is often used as a therapeutic herb taken for several ailments or consumed in various soups and salads.


Bibliography