Marsh mallow - Althaea officinalis L.

Marsh mallow

Synonyms:  mallow, white mallow, common marsh-mallow, marshmallow, mortification root, sweet weed, wymote
Scientific Name: Althaea officinalis L.
Family: Malvaceae


Habitat

The Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, the eastern Mediterranean.



Constituents

Mucilage, pectin, flavonoids.



Description

Any gardening enthusiast must have come across mallows. Their perennial sibling, the marsh mallow, is very similar, as would be expected as they are from the same family. It is also called the white mallow because, unlike its sister, it has white flowers which are a light violet at the base. Large and arranged in bunches, they open from June until August. Striking are the strongly notched leaves, which are arranged in spirals on the stems that grow up to a height of 5 ft/1.5 m. They are covered on both sides with velvety, felt-like hairs and have a bluish-green appearance. The marsh mallow is best-suited to salt-containing or chalky soils. It is also at home in damp meadows and on embankments.



Uses

In addition to the leaves, it is mainly the root of the marsh mallow that is used. It is harvested from the two-year old plant and has been valued from ancient times because of its high mucilage content. It has been used internally for stomach pains, diarrhea and intestinal complaints, lung complaints, coughs and irritation of the mouth and throat including the gums. Traditionally it is used externally for skin injuries and burns, boils and carbuncles. In all these cases the plant mucilage covers the area like a protective layer supporting self-healing.

The flowers and leaves of the marsh mallow also have their place as a home remedy. A paste boiled from the leaves is placed on injuries. Boiled with honey, the flowers are used as a cough remedy. A simple solution against headache is to chew the unprepared marsh mallow root.

The marsh mallow is also used in cosmetics, soap, skincare products, shaving lotion, toners, mouthwash and toothpaste.



Interesting Facts

Virgil found the marsh mallow among the Celts of the plain of the Po and recorded its name in Latin as ibiscum. In Old High German this became ibisca, in Middle High German ibische, and then later it became Eibisch (the German name for marsh mallow). The scientific name Altheae comes from the Greek althein = to heal.

Charlemagne encouraged the growing of marsh mallow in small gardens on farms on account of its beneficial effect.

There is a popular belief that burning marsh mallow cleanses and clears the house and the farm. The mucilage in which converted sugar is stored is the energy reserve of the marsh mallow.

Therefore the mucilage content of the marsh mallow root increases throughout the winter and, after spring, when the energy is needed for growth, decreases again. This is why the marsh mallow root is harvested in winter in the WALA herb gardens, generally from the middle of January on dry days.



The plant from another perspective

The marsh mallow has learned to cope with the drying areas of salt-containing soils. This can be seen in its ability to keep its roots fleshy and full of water and to form many mucilage cells within. This ability to maintain a balanced moisture content against extreme external conditions is used as a model for the skin.



The plant in our products

Dr. Hauschka skincare products use both the leaves and the roots because of their moisturizing properties. An essence of the leaves is found in: