Althea officinalis. N.O. Malvaceae.
Synonym ► Guimauve, Mallards, Schloss Tea. Habitat ► Marshes near the sea.
Features ► This erect plant grows to a height of three feet, and is distinguishable from the Common Mallow by the velvety down covering the stem and leaves. Stems are round, the soft leaves being five-lobed below and three-lobed above. The pinkish- blue flowers appear in luxuriant axillar panicles between July and September. Roots are thick and fleshy, resembling those of the parsnip, and greyish-white outside, white and fibrous internally. The taste is mucilaginous and unpleasant, with only a very slight odour. The roots should be stored in a very dry place, or a yellowish matter of disagreeable smell will form.
Part used ► Root and leaves.
Action ► The root is preferred, as the demulcent, emollient, diuretic and expectorant properties are present here in greater strength.
Marshmallow, usually in combination with other remedies, is taken
internally for coughs, colds and bronchitis. Its diuretic and emollient qualities adapt it to urinary complaints and, as there is no astringent action (indeed, there appears to be some relaxing effect) it is particularly suitable in the treatment of nephritis, cystitis and gravel.
The powdered or crushed fresh roots make a first-rate poultice, and the leaves also are used as a fomentation in inflammation. The addition of Slippery Elm powder improves the poultice, and the two remedies are frequently made up into an ointment for skin diseases, boils and ulcers.
The leaves are taken as an infusion of 1 ounce to 1 pint of boiling water frequently, in wineglass doses.
Culpeper relates a personal story about this herb ►
“You may remember that not long since there was a raging disease called the bloody flux ; the College of Physicians not knowing what to make of it, called it The Plague in the Guts, for their wits were at ne plus ultra about it. My son was taken with the same disease ; myself being in the country, was sent for ; the only thing I gave him was Mallow bruised and boiled both in milk and drink ; in two days it cured him, and I have here to shew my thankfulness to God in communicating it to his creatures, leaving it to posterity.”