Mallows are perennial and annual growing wild along road
sides and in waste places throughout most of North America and in cultivation. Most are
native and easily cultivated in well drained soil and likes full sun to partial shade. In
Low mallow the stem is more like a vine but has upright leaves and flowers. Fruits are
round and flat and look like a sliced round cheese, hence the name cheeses or cheese
plant. Low mallow has rounded, 5 to 7 lobed leaves that have rounded or scalloped teeth
along the edge and long leaf stems. The leaves of Marsh mallow are more pointed and heart
shaped, stems are upright and grow to about 4 feet. Both of these plants are covered with
a fine down or hair. Rose mallow is a much larger plant with larger flowers and leaves are
slightly to 3 lobes, not covered with down. The flowers in all are white to light purple
or pink (dark purple center in rose mallow) with five petals and grow from the leaf axils
(the point the leaf stalk attaches to the stem). Blooming from May to November. Low Mallow
is gathered while in full bloom the above ground plant (best used fresh), collect roots of
Marsh mallow in fall (used fresh or dried). Gather flowers, leaves and young buds from
Rose mallow in bloom and roots in the fall.
The flowers are edible and make an attractive
addition to a salad. The leaves and roots abound in mucilage, Okra is also a family
member. See more recipes for Marshmallow below. The proven active constituents in these
plants are Asparagine, Althein, Ascorbic-acid, flavonol glycosides (including
gossypin-3-sulfate), Malvin, Pectin, Phenolic-acids, Quercetin, Salicylic-acid, and
Sucose. Mallows are analgesic, antitussive, demulcent, diuretic, febrifuge, highly
emollient, slightly laxative and odontalgic. Mallow or Hibiscus tea is well known in
alternative medicine for its
use as a demulcent to soothe throat inflammations and laryngitis, as an expectorant for
coughs and bronchitis. It is used in the treatment of dysentery, lung ailments and urinary
ailments. The tea is also taken for gastritis and enteritis or used as an enema for
intestinal inflammations, and is an excellent laxative for young children. Used externally
to wash wounds and sores or made into an emollient salve or poultice to soothe skin
inflammations. The root is used as a toothbrush or pealed and given for teething children
to chew. A decoction of the roots has been used to treat fevers and to reduce blood
pressure. The seeds are also chewed as a nervine, stomachic and to sweeten the breath,
also said to be aphrodisiac. Fragrant flowers are also used in potpourri.
Pliny believed that Mallows would cure all the
diseases of man. The ancient Celts believed that placing the disk shaped fruit over a dead
(holy) mans eyes would keep evil spirits from entering the body in an attempt to get into
heaven. According to the doctrine of signatures the hairs on the plant meant that it would
help to grow hair.
Photo by Deb Jackson
Cough syrup: Place 3 tbsp. fresh crushed herb in ½ cup cold
water, let stand 8 hours. Press and strain, add to honey and lemon. Take in tbsp. doses as
often as needed.
Tea: To 1 cup cold water add 3 tsp. dried herb or root, or ¼ cup fresh herb, let stand 8
hours. Press and drain, warm, and sweeten to taste.
The root is used dried then ground into a powder, made into a paste and roasted to make
the sweet 'marshmallow'. When boiled and then fried with onions it is said to make a
The water left over from cooking any part of the plant especially the root, can be used as
an egg-white substitute in making meringues, it is concentrated by boiling until it has a
similar consistency to egg white.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen