The Greek poet Hesiod laughed, in one of his poems, at those who did not know the properties of the plant, compared to real treasures. Orazio used to say that he ate only this plant, olives and chicory and Charles the Great ordered its cultivation in all the imperial gardens. We are talking about common mallow, a plant whose properties have been known since ancient times, so much that in the sixteenth century the doctors declared that anyone who drank a mallow tea for that day would chase away all diseases. The point is that mallow has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. As the herbalist Messeguè states, there are not many plants with the same soothing and emollient properties, capable of repairing tissues and making them heal quickly. So let's see how to use mallow in cooking and herbal medicine, also trying to understand what science says about it.
Inflammations, gastritis and cystitis
The well-known herbalist Maria Treben talks about mallow in great detail, focusing in particular on the ability of mallow to counteract inflammation of the internal mucous membranes.
Therefore, mallow is useful in case of gastritis, ulcers but also inflammation of the urinary tract. To understand the usefulness of mallow in case of inflammation of the internal mucous membranes, it is enough to think that scientific research has shown that extracts of mallow leaves have a useful action against gastric ulcers, proving even more powerful than cimetidine, which is a drug commonly used in the treatment of gastric ulcers (Gasparetto et al, JPP, 2011). You can prepare a mallow herbal tea, in order not to destroy the properties of the mucilages present, it is important to prepare the herbal tea by cold maceration. It is noteworthy to underline that mallow is one of the plant varieties with the highest content of mucilage, beneficial against inflammation (Gasparetto et al, JPP, 2011). Pour a teaspoon of the plant, flowers, leaves and stems, in a cup full of water. Let it rest overnight then, the next day, filter and heat slightly, then drink. To combat body inflammations, Maria Treben's advice is also to consume raw mallow leaves. You can add them to salads or, even better, to barley soups after cooking. In fact, in this way, you can take advantage also from the soothing and anti inflammatory properties of barley (Arcidiacono et al, Sci Rep, 2019).
Cough, phlegm, sore throat and dry eyes
Hoarseness, sore throat, but also cough and phlegm can be countered thanks to mallow (Razavi et al, Iran J Basic Med Sci, 2011). In these cases, a mallow herbal tea is prepared. Pour a teaspoon of dried plant, flowers, leaves and stem, in a cup full of water. Let it rest overnight, the next day filter and heat slightly, drink up to two cups a day. In the same lukewarm herbal tea it is possible to soak a gauze and use for compresses on the eyes in case of dry and irritated eyes. You can also use the herbal tea prepared in this way to rinse the mouth and gargle in case of canker sores. It has been observed that the mallow, added to a mouthwash based on cetylpyridinium chloride, has enhanced its action, going from an effective action against only three strains of bacteria to an action against 28 strains of bacteria (Gasparetto et al, JPP, 2011).
Skin irritations, wounds and ulcers
Mallow can help with skin allergies, which cause itching and irritation. Not only that, boils, wounds, ulcers and phlebitis can also benefit. In fact, mallow is anti-inflammatory and protects the integrity of the skin (Gasparetto et al, JPP, 2011). Prepare an herbal tea with a handful of mallow in a liter of cold water, let it rest all night. The next day, filter and heat slightly, use for compresses on the affected areas.
Acne, impure skin, skin spots, psoriasis and couperose
According to the well-known French herbalist Messeguè, mallow is one of the best plants capable of fighting acne and blackheads, removing all impurities and deeply cleansing the skin. Even science recognizes mallow as antimicrobial and with protective properties for the skin (Gasparetto et al, JPP, 2011). Not only that, mallow helps fight dark spots on the skin, it is in fact characterized by anti-aging and antioxidant properties, and counteracts couperose (Gasparetto et al, JPP, 2011 - Najafi et al, PLoS One, 2017). Finally, it was observed that the topical application of mallow extracts led to improvement in cases of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (Prudente et al, Biomed Pharmacother, 2017 - Meysami et al, Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets, 2020). Add a generous handful of the plant, flowers, leaves and stem, to a liter of water, let it sit overnight then filter, heat a little and use to cleanse the skin or as a tonic.
Mallow, where to find it and warnings
There are different varieties of mallow. The best known and also the one commonly found in chemist's and herbalist's shops is malva sylvestris, which is also the species with the greatest amount of mucilage (Gasparetto et al, JPP, 2011). In general, apart from specific allergies that can arise in predisposed people, the use of mallow is considered safe and without side effects.