Herb: Marsh Mallow


Latin name: Althaea officinalis


Family: Malvaceae (Mallow Family)



Medicinal use of Marsh Mallow:

Marsh mallow is a very useful household medicinal herb. Its soothing demulcent properties make it very effective in treating inflammations and irritations of the mucous membranes such as the alimentary canal, the urinary and the respiratory organs. The root counters excess stomach acid, peptic ulceration and gastritis. It is also applied externally to bruises, sprains, aching muscles, insect bites, skin inflammations, splinters etc. The whole plant, but especially the root, is antitussive, demulcent, diuretic, highly emollient, slightly laxative and odontalgic. An infusion of the leaves is used to treat cystitis and frequent urination. The leaves are harvested in August when the plant is just coming into flower and can be dried for later use. The root can be used in an ointment for treating boils and abscesses. The root is best harvested in the autumn, preferably from 2 year old plants, and is dried for later use.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
120 cm
(4 feet)

Flovering:
July to
September

Habitat of the herb:

The upper margins of salt and brackish marshes, sides of ditches and grassy banks near the sea.

Edible parts of Marsh Mallow:

Leaves - raw or cooked. They are used as a potherb or to thicken soups. When used as a small proportion with other leaves, the taste and texture is acceptable, but if a lot of the leaves are cooked together their mucilaginous texture makes them unpalatable. The leaves can be eaten raw but are rather fibrous and somewhat hairy, though the taste is mild and pleasant. We have found them to be quite acceptable in salads when chopped up finely. Root - raw or cooked. When boiled and then fried with onions it is said to make a palatable dish that is often used in times of shortage. The root is used as a vegetable, it is also dried then ground into a powder, made into a paste and roasted to make the sweet "marshmallow". The root contains about 37% starch, 11% mucilage, 11% pectin. The water left over from cooking any part of the plant can be used as an egg-white substitute in making meringues etc. The water from the root is the most effective, it is concentrated by boiling until it has a similar consistency to egg white. A tea is made from the flowers. A tea can also be made from the root.

Other uses of the herb:

The dried root is used as a toothbrush or is chewed by teething children. It has a mechanical affect on the gums whilst also helping to ease the pain. The root is also used as a cosmetic, helping to soften the skin. A fibre from the stem and roots is used in paper-making. The dried and powdered root has been used to bind the active ingredients when making pills for medicinal use. A glue can be made from the root. The root is boiled in water until a thick syrup is left in the pan, this syrup is used as a glue. An oil from the seed is used in making paints and varnishes.

Propagation of Marsh Mallow:

Seed - sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. The seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in late summer, the germination is often erratic. Stratification can improve germination rates and time. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring or autumn. Fairly easy, it is best to pot up the divisions in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are growing away well and then plant them out into their permanent positions. Root cuttings in December.

Cultivation of the herb:

The upper margins of salt and brackish marshes, sides of ditches and grassy banks near the sea.

Known hazards of Althaea officinalis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.