Use mallow for

While modern-day mallow users would scarcely claim it as a cure-all, they would also say it doesn't merit official oblivion. Mallow does have solid virtues, and most of these arise from its high mucilage content: common mallow flowers have around 10% mucilage and the leaves 7%. Indeed, all thousand or so members of the Malva family worldwide possess this gelatinous substance, including okra and hibiscus.

Mucilage, a word that is cognate with mucus, is extremely soothing to any inflamed part of the body, both outside and within. This includes dry coughs, colds, gastrointestinal upsets, stomach ulcers, and urinary tract infections. As one herbalist notes, when you cannot even swallow water, you can take a mallow tea. Further, it is very safe, in any quantity.

Maria Treben advocates mallow foot and hand baths for treating swellings following bone fractures.

One thing to watch out for in wild-gathering mallow is that its low-growing crinkly leaves tend to accumulate heavy metals from vehicle exhausts and also attract a mallow rust and various insect eggs. So it is a good idea to do your picking well away from busy roads and examine carefully any leaves and flowers you collect.

Mallow from Hortus Floridus (1614-16), by Crispijn van de Passe

Mallow is sometimes eaten as a soup, though it is rather "gloupy," and the unripe seed heads make a slightly astringent addition to salads. These seed capsules have long been known as "cheeses," but because of the circular shape rather than the taste. The flowers were chewed to relieve toothache.

Always with mallow, though, you come back to its unrivaled soothing benefits. But do remember that large doses can be laxative as well as purgative! Cicero (106-43 BC) angrily reports being accidentally purged by eating a stew of mallow mixed with beet - and he laments that he had already forgone the oysters in an effort to be good.

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 inside plague, for their wits were at Ne plus ultra about it.

My son was taken with the same disease, and the excoriation of his bowels was exceeding great; myself being in the country, was sent for up, the only thing I gave him, was Mallows bruised and boiled both in milk and drink, in two days (the blessing of God being upon it) it cured him.

And I here, to shewmy thankfulness to God, in communicating it to his creatures, leave it to posterity.

- Culpeper (1653)

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