MARSH MALLOW, Althaea officinalis malvaceae

Marsh Mallow Herb

I doubt if there are any of us who didn’t eat “cheesettes” when we were children. Cheesettes, or cheeses, are the little, flat, round fruit that comes on a mallow plant when the blossom dies out. It very likely got its name because it looks like a miniature round cheese that you used to see in the butcher shop or the old grocery store. The mallow plant has a round leaf and spreads along the ground. Roots go down five feet and pick up many trace minerals. The mallow family has hundreds of species, the most common being the marsh mallow or low mallow. Other species are globe mallow, or high mallow, and hollyhock. Perhaps the most valuable commercial member of the malvaceae order or family is the cotton root (gossypium herbaceum) from which we get our cotton.

One of the main attributes of the mallows is their mucilagimous properties, as a demulcent to soothe the mucous membrane, and as an emollient to soften and soothe the skin. The powdered root is high in oxygen and pectin. When applied to a moist surface, it will draw out the moisture and help to heal.

A man in one of the classes I attended told of walking in the country with his grandfather. The old gentleman picked up an herb and ask the boy if he knew the name of the herb was and the boy replied, “We call them cheesettes, Grandpa.” “that’s right,” the old man said, “But, it is really marsh mallow and I don’t want to forget it ‘cause it saved my life.”

Then the grandfather said, “When I was a boy about your age, I hurt my leg real bad. After a while, it got gangrene in it. My dad took me to town in the buggy to see old Doc Wilson. After lookin’ and pokin’ around, old Doc Wilson said to my dad, “You ain’t gonna cut my leg off! Then old Doc Wilson said,’Look boy, unless I cut that leg off you’ll be dead in two day days’ Then I hollered “I don’t care, you’re not gonna cut my leg off.’ Finally my dad said, “If he don’t want his leg cut off, he don’t have to.’

We got in the buggy and drove over to the other side of town and stopped to see an old man. Some of the bigger kids called him ‘the old coot,’ but I think he was an herb doctor. He looked ay my leg for a minute and said, ‘don’t look good, we better get goin’ on it. He said to dad, ‘You pick these mallows and I’ll get the tub and start the fire.’ We picked a bunch of mallow and he boiled it up in an old tub out on an open fire. He put my foot and leg in a bucket of hot mallow tea for a while and then he would put it a bucket of cold water for a few minutes, and then back in the tea and then the cold water. They made up a tub full of new tea quite a few times. He kept this up ‘till it got dark. Then he put a poultice on my leg and told Dad to take me home and put me to bed. Then he told dad to soak my leg in some more tea the next day and then put another poultice on it for a while to heal up the hurt place.

Grandpa pulled up his pant leg and slapped a big scar and said; “Now sonny, you can see that mallow tea worked pretty well, ‘cause this old leg has lasted me good for over sixty years.”

Mallow has been used to help the kidneys and the urinary system as well as the lungs, bronchioles and the respiratory system. It is one of the main herbs in Grandma’s herbal kidney. Mallow is also good for coughs, sore throat, hoarseness, and is excellent for nursing mothers.

So the next time you see some mallow growing, be sure to remember where it was just in case you need it.

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