Mallow or Common Mallow

Malva sylvestris

Mallow family (Malvaceae)

Energetics: neutral to cooling
Taste: sweet, bland
When to harvest: Harvest leaves in spring, as they tend to get rust as season goes on. Harvest flowers throughout summer.
Identification: Mallow grows in wayside, neglected areas, as well as cultivated areas, and can reach heights of 120cm. Its leaves are lobed and folded like fans, have ridged margins, and often have a dark spot in the centre of the leaf base, and the five-petaled flowers are pink with darker streaking. The seeds are in the form of nutlets - a structure that looks like a cheese wheel, so the plant has also been referred to as ‘cheese’. Mallow can be a biennial (living for 2 years) or perennial plant.

Mallows are widely used throughout the world, and renowned for their slimy, mucilagenous quality, like other plants in this family, such as okra. This quality is often associated with inflammation-calming effects - both topically and internally.

While the slipperiness generated by a mallow infusion or poultice can soothe and protect tissue it comes in direct contact with; when taken internally, mallow also triggers a response which can then have a similar effect for tissues it doesn’t directly come in contact with. Different demulcent herbs or foods can have this effect for particular organs or tissues, and mallow (and other mallows) has an affinity for mucous membranes. In many cultures, the leaves are added to soups to thicken them.

Mallow contains flavonoids, fatty acids (omega 3 and 6), beta carotene, and vitamins C and E, tannins, and many minerals, including zinc, copper, manganese, and magnesium (Mousavi et al., 2021). It absorbs so many metals from soil that contains them, that care is warranted where mallow grows in contaminated soils.


In vitro, extracts of mallow aerial parts have been found to inhibit C. Albicans, S. aureus, M. luteus, Bacillus subtilis, S. epidermidis, E. coli, and S. cerevisiae, and that ethanol extracts of M. sylvestris were active against P. aeruginosa, B. subtilis, and E. coli (Mousavi et al., 2021).

Respiratory system

The mucilage can help calm irritation in the respiratory tract and suppress cough.

Digestive system

The mucilage in mallow calms inflammation and irritations in the digestive tract, such as with ulcers and colitis. Mallow has also been used as a gentle laxative that’s safe enough for children.

Immune system

Mallow contains many organic acids that contribute to immunostimulant and antioxidant properties of the plant (Mousavi et al., 2021); the immune system is very sensitive to oxidative stress, which antioxidants can help counter (Hajjan, 2015). Oxidative stress is also a factor in the development of many chronic diseases and cancers, so antioxidants have wide-ranging benefits.

Urinary system

The mucilage in mallow calms inflammation and irritation in the urinary tract.


Leaves and flowers can be applied as a poultice to inflammations, eczema, rashes, swellings, insect bites, or other skin irritations.

Wound healing

Research has shown that mallow leaves increases the rate of contraction of skin ulcers and reduces the duration of its repair process in animals (Mousavi et al., 2021).


It is thought that the polysaccharides contained in mallow may help regulate blood sugar (Mousavi et al., 2021).

Plant preparations

Generally with mallows of any variety, cool infusions are used to extract the most mucilage - the slippery property that soothes tissues. For a cool infusion, it’s best to allow a few hours of infusion time.


  • Infusion - leaf, flower, root
  • Edible - flowers; leaf, root (soups, stews)


  • Poultice
  • Compress
  • Oil
  • Balm


Mallow is considered very safe, although it can impact blood sugar levels, so it may interfere with diabetic medication and warrants monitoring of blood sugar to assess impact. There is not enough information about safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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