Mallow family (Malvaceae)
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).
The mucilage can help calm irritation in the respiratory tract and suppress cough.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.