- Family Malvaceae
- Malva sylvestris
- Common mallow, Blue Mallow, Mauls, Cheeseflower, Cheeseplant, Dwarf mallow, Spanish: Malva, Malva del Campo, Malva Grande, Malva Real, Yerba del Negro
- Nahuatl: Alahuacciopatli
- None listed.
Native to Europe and Asia, the plant is now naturalized in much of the Americas and Australasia. It is a biennial plant, growing to about three to five feet producing a pulpy taproot, erect stem, five-lobed leaves with scalloped margins, reddish-pink to mauve flowers; and its flat fruits produce seeds that are kidney shaped. Its stem has been described as stiff with hair, and its leaves have sharp teeth on the edges. It generally grows at lower elevations in open areas, along roadsides, and on hedges and fences. The leaves are gathered in the spring and the flowers when in bloom during the summer.
The young leaves and shoots have been eaten as a vegetable since at least the 8th century BCE.
The usefulness of the plant gave rise to the Spanish adage, “A kitchen garden and mallow, sufficient medicines for a home.”
The Aztecs used mallow to ease childbirth and as a remedy for burning urination.
In the late 18th century in northern “New Spain”, a Jesuit physician used it as a remedy for palsy, stomachache, colic, liver obstructions, hemorrhoids, and water retention.
- flavonol glycosides (including gossypin-3-sulfate)
- anthocyanin (including malvin, found only in the flowers)
- Leaves, flowers. root
Although mallow is less useful than the marshmallow, it is still an effective demulcent used to soothe sensitive areas of the skin. Poultices can be applied to areas to reduce swelling and draw out such toxins as those in boils and abscesses.
Taken internally as an infusion, the leaves reduce gut irritation and have a laxative effect.
When combined with eucalyptus, mallow makes a good cough remedy for bronchitis or other chest complaints.
As with marshmallow, common mallow can be given to children to ease teething pain.
It is especially useful for the relief of inflamed mucous membranes. As a gargle, it can reduce inflammations of the mouth or throat. As a douche, it will help vaginal inflammations; and, in ointments or as a wash, it will help relieve hemorrhoids. Taken as an infusion, it is used to treat urinary tract inflammation and fevers.
In Costa Rica, it is thought to stimulate lactation. It is also sold as an emollient and for use as an enema; but it is also used for throat irritations, bronchitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis, and hoarseness.
Throughout Central America and the Caribbean, it is used to treat sores and wounds.