Common Mallow

Common Mallow, 2021, 6 X 8″, Morning light, Gouache, Walnut Ink

10% of all print sales are donated to Story County Conservation, Iowa Arboretum, and Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

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About Common Mallow

Malva neglecta is an annual growing to 0.6 m and is known as common mallow .

Other Common Names

Common names for Malva neglecta include common mallow, buttonweed, cheeseplant, cheeseweed, dwarf mallow, and roundleaf mallow.

Native Origin

A Eurasian species, common mallow can now be found growing throughout North America but was originally from Europe.

Folk Lore

“Mallow was/is traditionally used as dermatological aid in the healing of sores and swellings by the Cherokee, Iroquois, Mahuna, Navaho, and Ramah peoples in various topical poultices and infusions. Incredibly fond of “malache” as medicine, Pliny the Elder (23–79 A.D.) recommended a decoction of the root for dandruff, the warm juice of the plant to treat melancholy, and the leaves boiled as a potherb in milk to cure the common cough. Pliny also touted the plant’s action as a mild laxative . Pliny the Elder held that simply sprinkling mallow seeds on to your genitalia would produce sexual desire to “an infinite degree,” making it an aphrodisiac or love potion of sorts. Mallow was eaten and ritualistically vomited by the Iroquois in beliefs of a love medicine. The juice of mallow was said to have been used with oil to prevent hair loss . In Eastern Anatolia, Malva is traditionally used as a potherb and cure for stomach ache, diarrhea, and asthma. Even when toasted as a tea, the slightly thick quality mallow leaves impart to water is soothing to sore throats during sickness. In Pakistan, ingesting the plant is thought to help with hemorrhoids, and pulverized mallow seeds are used to treat bladder ulcers and coughs. Italians use the plant for tea to help with inflammation and as a “gargle,” presumably, to help with a sore throat. The people of Turkey are reported to use mallow as a compress to promote the maturation of abscesses.”

Source: Plants!, Pull Up Your. “Common Mallow: A Strangely Erotic Medicinal Powerhouse.” Medium, Medium, 25 Oct. 2020, pullupyourplants.medium.com/pull-up-your-plants-mallow-e1ef51ac8c13.

Traditional Uses

Mallow is not aggressive in terms of its flavor, and its texture can be described as crisp to soft and viscid. The leaves and stems can be eaten fresh in salads. Since the leaves are markedly textured, it is important to wash them thoroughly as they can accumulate dust and dirt. Mallow can be dried/toasted and used as tea, or used to give soups a thicker body. The fruits are a delightfully crispy nibble raw, and can be pickled much like capers. The seeds are also edible as well. The leaves can be used as an attractive garnish, or sautéed with oil, salt, and vinegar. The common mallow is consumed frequently in Turkey. Fried mallow leaves in hot oil can make delightfully crispy chips!

As with many wild food plants, the common mallow has also had a long history of medicinal use. Due to its high mucilage content, mallows make excellent soothing demulcent herbs, especially for cases of inflammation, either for the urinary, digestive or respiratory systems. Pregnant women or new mothers may like to know that mallow leaves can provide useful amounts of iron, as well as being quite high in zinc and most vitamins.  With their high mucilage content, the leaves can usefully be taken as an emergency antidote to irritation or burning that may be caused by the accidental consumption of acrid plants in the buttercup family.

The plant exhibits potential antimicrobial and anti-fungal activities. A particular use of mallow extract to treat acne is legally patented and ethanol extracts of Malva neglecta have shown promising antibiotic properties against certain species of Staphylococcus (a group of bacteria that can cause a number of infectious diseases in various tissues of the body), and relatively strong ACE inhibitory effects highlighting its potential effectiveness in relieving hypertension.”

Sources: “Benefits of the Common Mallow (Malva Sylvestris).” Permaculture Magazine, 31 Mar. 2020, http://www.permaculture.co.uk/readers-solutions/benefits-common-mallow-malva-sylvestris

Conservation Status

Not Extinct.

“Common mallow is a handsome, large, spreading “weed” plant with beautiful deep pink flowers that appear from June to October. It can be found on roadside verges, along footpaths, on waste ground, and in gardens. Its deep pink, striped flowers provide nectar for insects throughout the summer.”

Source: “Common Mallow.” The Wildlife Trusts, http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/wildflowers/common-mallow.

10% of all print sales are donated to Story County Conservation, Iowa Arboretum, and Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

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Thank you for visiting and spending time learning about the botanicals in my backyard. May this bring you a deeper understanding and joy in your own ecology.

Kristin M Roach

Published by kristinMroach

Hi! I am an artist, author, and owner of a modern apothecary called Little Woods in Ames, Iowa.