It belongs to the Malvaceae family. It is better known as Malva Sylvestris. The morphological characteristics of this plant are very varied, but easy to identify. It has large, serrated, round leaves divided into seven lobes.
It can have several flowering stems: the most important one takes on a woody consistency. At the top of the stems we find, arranged in irregular groups, the characteristic mauve-colored flowers (in fact the name of the plant comes from the French language): there are all shades ranging from pink to violet, changing even during flowering.
At the base, the five petals take on a very dark color compared to the top. The numerous stamens are gathered in a kind of "column", from the center of which, when the pollen has fallen, the ten stigmas open forward and occupy the same position that the anthers occupied before.
Pollination by insects is facilitated by the form: there is a notable scattering of pollen in the plants visited.
After the petals fall, there is a characteristic formation containing the seeds. It is very curious: some herbalists have called it the "donut of the field"!
Characteristics of mallow
The common mallow, or malva sylvestris has been known since ancient times for its medicinal virtues. The first evidence of its use comes from the Greeks and Romans: they collected the most tender leaves and exploited its laxative virtues. Later it became indispensable in the vegetable gardens of the convents since, alone or in combination with other herbs, it was used for medicinal preparations aimed at treating constipation, inflammation of the oral cavity, upper respiratory tract and urinary tract.
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What parts of mallow can be used?
All parts of the mallow find a use even if the most common ones are undoubtedly the young leaves and flowers. Once a medicine was extracted from the roots to relieve pain in the gums (especially in infants).
What active ingredients does it contain?
The most interesting are flavonoids, tannins and anthocyanins (with an important antioxidant role). The laxative properties are instead linked to the large amount of mucilage, capable of reaching the intestine and facilitating transit.
Use of mallow
The most common use is the internal one. Herbal teas and decoctions are obtained from it to be taken regularly.
They are recommended for dry coughs, sore throats, mouth ulcers, bronchitis, laryngitis and colds. They are also a cure-all for constipation.
You have to boil a liter of water and let it rest for about 5 minutes. At that point we will add two tablespoons of fresh leaves and flowers or a tablespoon of dried. Let's wait 5 minutes. The ideal is not to filter and drink lukewarm.
Against diseases of the respiratory system and intestinal irritation, it is possible to associate mallow with other herbs such as althea, barbasso, toxilaggine, dioecious antennaria and fragrant violet.
For external uses it is good to obtain a more concentrated extract: the decoction is used frequently.
Four tablespoons of fresh leaves and flowers (or two of dried product) are put in a liter of cold water. We slowly bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes. We let it cool and then filter it carefully.
The product obtained can be drunk, but it also has other applications; it is mainly used as a soothing agent for skin and mucous membrane irritations. In the first case we will have to soak a cotton pad and leave it on the area for at least 30 minutes.
It is also useful for relieving conjunctivitis and small sores.
For oral diseases (canker sores, gingivitis) we rinse several times a day, keeping the liquid in the mouth for at least 30 seconds. In the cosmetic field it can be used instead of a skin tonic, especially for people with couperose.
The fresh juice of the leaves is very useful for relieving pain and itching resulting from insect bites.
Poultice of mallow
It can also be very useful to make a poultice. It is used in cases of muscle or joint pain, to relieve inflammation and to promote the disappearance of hematomas.
Proceed by simmering four tablespoons of dried leaves and flowers in a little water for one minute. They wrap themselves in a clean piece of cloth and expect the temperature to drop to around 50 ° C. It is applied directly on the painful area, leaving it to act for at least 20 minutes.
Cultivation and harvest
If we make extensive use of this medicinal herb we can decide to grow it in our garden (or even simply on the balcony). It is an undemanding plant, it will grow very easily giving us the possibility to have access to its benefits at any time.
Sowing and cultivation of mallow
Sowing can take place in late autumn or spring, both in the open ground and in pots. The ideal substrate is obtained by mixing field earth and universal potting soil in equal measure. We keep moist in a shady place until germination takes place. Then we move to a very sunny area and irrigate when the earth is dry in depth.
It is generally resistant to parasites: one must only fear the rust that affects it in the basal leaves.
Collection and storage of mallow
It is advisable to wait at least mid-May before starting the harvest. We collect the youngest and healthiest leaves and flowers, possibly early in the morning.
We can also collect entire stems to be kept in water for a few days.
However, it must be remembered that the active ingredients present degrade easily and it is therefore advisable to use the leaves, and especially the flowers, in the shortest possible time.
A short storage can be done in the refrigerator, wrapping in a damp cloth.
Common mallow - Mallow: Drying of the mallow
Instead, in anticipation of winter it is good to use drying: we hang the stems in a cool, airy and shaded room until they are completely dry.
Then remove the flowers and leaves and place them in an airtight jar to be kept in a dark and cool place.