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Sunday, May 29, 2011
MALLOW - A SOOTHING HERB: HISTORY, HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF MALLOW: HOW TO MAKE MALLOW TISANE
The Common mallow can grow almost everywhere and its habitat ranges from the UK and Europe through North Africa and the Middle East and into the Indian subcontinent where it is a weed. It has become naturalized in many parts of the world (such as eastern Australia) as it was introduced as an ornamental into many gardens across the globe. In the UK it can be found in hedgerows, on wasteland and on roadsides and most websites seem to have concluded that it has fallen into disuse as a medicinal herb in places where the Marsh Mallow (Althea officinalis) grows. However, that could be because it doesn’t grow in the same habitat as its cousin which likes marshes. The Common Mallow on the other hand must be salt tolerant to some degree as it can be found close to the sea where it grows in abundance in South and West Wales.
Both my father and grandmother swore by this plant’s efficacy to bring down swellings, and I have had hot poultices put on my ankles and knees many times to reduce bruising and swellings, so I can personally vouch for the fact that it works. (I am a little accident prone.)
The pretty mauve-pink flowers are edible, like those of borage, lavender and kachnar and look good in salad and for garnishes, with its seeds being edible too and tasting a little like peanuts. The leaves can be used as a thickener for soups or blanched for 2 minutes, rinsed in cold water and used instead of lettuce in salads. They are also fine eaten as a green vegetable.
Eucalyptus leaves or bark and mallow leaves and flowers are a good tisane to make if you have a cough or other respiratory problems. The flowers and immature fruits can be made into a tisane too which is useful for whooping cough. The leaves are cooling and a tisane can be made and used on the skin to relieve inflammation or to stop the pain of insect bites or stings. If you get stung when you are outside you can use a bruised leaf to take the pain away as the leaves are mucilaginous and soothing.
A tisane of the leaves is a pleasant diuretic, and also has a mild laxative action, so is much more pleasant to take than senna.
You should gather the plant (not the roots, just the above ground parts) in June when the flowers appear and bloom, then hang it to dry in a light, airy room until crumbly and pack into a jar and keep for future use, as it can be used for coughs and colds in winter.
The fruits or seed pods of the common mallow look a bit like little cheeses, as do those of the cheese tree. A dye can be made from them, and the whole plant will produce different dyes of cream, yellow and green. In ancient Greece baskets were woven from the stems of this plant, and it is possible to make cloth from it as was done in the ancient world and in Mediaeval times.
Mallow was mentioned by several Roman writers, with Pliny the Younger recommending a tisane made with the seeds for nausea. Earlier, in 700BC or thereabouts, Hesiod wrote that only a fool would not consider a little mallow beneficial in their diet. Later around 30 BC Horace in his Odes 31 verse 15 says “As for me, olives, endives and mallows provide sustenance.” (We believe that Pliny was referring to chicory rather than the Belgian endive which is a relative newcomer on the vegetable scene.) In those times mallow was planted on graves to provide nourishment for the dead. Clearly it was not only my relatives who thought highly of this plant. It has been used as medicine wherever it grows and is in the French and Swiss Pharmacopoeias.
Young girls would make garlands of mallow and chaplets for their heads to wear on May Day, in Europe.
The plant is related to the hibiscus and hollyhock and is in the Malvaceae family of plants. It gets the name mallow from the Old English “malwe”
The Physicians of Myddfai used mallow with other herbs for the treatment of
intermittent fevers. “Take the mugwort, dwarf elder, tutsan, amphibious persicaria, pimpernel, butcher's broom, elder bark, and the mallow, and boiling them together as well as possible in a pot, or cauldron. Then take the water and herbs, and add them to the bath.”
While this was a treatment for piles: -
“Take the mallow, and boil it in wheat ale, or in spring water. Then take that which grows in the earth of the elder (bark,) bruise well in a mortar, and mix it, crude as it is, with the above mentioned decoction, and administer it quickly to the patient, so as to act upon his bowels. Let him afterwards be forbidden beef, cheese, leeks, large fish, salmon, eels, ducks, garlic, and all kinds of milk diet, except whey made with warm milk”
Modern medical research into this plant has found that it may be able to protect the kidneys. The German E Commission has approved its use for oral and external use as it is anti-inflammatory and can soothe mouth ulcers as well as irritated skin. There is some evidence that the mucilage it contains can soothe disorders of the gastrointestinal tract too.
2-4 tsps dried leaves or flowers (or a mixture of both)
150 ml boiling water
Pour the boiling water over the dried mallow and leave to steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
Strain and drink one cup three times a day for colds etc and other ailments mentioned above, or used it externally on irritated skin.
This has Taste and is a Treat(ment).