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Malva sylvestris was known as a medicinal plant in ancient times. The wild mallow has many names. It is called hemp poplar, piss flower, black mallow or even poplar. The name Poplar has nothing to do with the tree, but is derived from the old word Papp, which means porridge, because mallow served as food for children.
Mallows are a separate plant order. The distant relatives of the wild mallow include cocoa and the baobab tree. Marshmallow and hibiscus also belong to the mallow in a broad sense, but not to the real mallow. This easily leads to confusion, for example the mallow tea available in tea bags in supermarkets is usually hibiscus. The real mallow is divided into about 30 species.
The wild mallow grows up to 125 cm high, held by a tap root in the form of a spindle, which has many root fibers. The stem is covered with rough hair, woody on the floor on the outer wall, but inside it has a soft marrow. The mallow forms leaf buds at the foot of the stem, which sprout the following year.
The leaves sit alternately, their stems are also covered with rough hair. The leaf blade is reminiscent of ivy in the shape of a heart, but other leaves that sit at the bottom of the stem are round. The leaf margin is notched. The stipules have the shape of lancets.
The mallow blooms from late spring to early autumn, up to ten flowers then grow in the armpits of the leaves, the stems of the flowers are shorter than the petioles.
There are five small flowers, up to 5 cm in size, in one calyx, which consists of two to three separate leaves.
The wild mallow is a mock flower, followed by a male followed by a female phase: initially the anthers are enclosed in the stamen, when the pollen empties, the female phase begins, in which the ripe red stylus branches spread.
The scar papillae now open to insects. The main pollinators are bumblebees, but bees and hoverflies also absorb the nectar.
An early medicinal plant
Hesiod wrote about the plant as early as 700 BC, and the Roman Dioskurides used it 800 years later against burns, Pliny around the same time against malaise, perhaps against a flu infection. The blind Simeon should have regained sight in the Bible with the help of the mallow.
In the Middle Ages, the mallow continued to be a popular cure. Hildegard von Bingen recommended it against melancholy, now known as clinical depression, against fever and the effects of too much "black bile". She mixed the mallow juice with vinegar and rubbed the patient with it.
The names of the mallow that end in poplar come from this period. Sick children got a porridge from the seeds to gain strength.
That certainly made sense, because the mallow actually works against colds and mild infections that infect children; but the plant was also at the center of little useful customs. This is how it should wither if a pregnant woman's urine dripped onto her. That is why our ancestors watered the mallow with it in the Middle Ages, and if it remained healthy after three days, the woman was fertile.
The effects against irritable cough, gastritis, bronchitis and cold are clinically proven. In animal studies, the mallow relieved the accumulation of leukocytes at the site of the inflammation and contained the prostaglandins, which intensify the inflammation.
However, the effects of the following uses of the mallow in the past and today are not sufficiently documented:
Aphthae, bladder and kidney diseases, asthma, eczema, hives, hoarseness, larynx infections, ulcers, acne, heartburn, menstrual pain, digestive problems, constipation, inflammation of the gums, wounds and burns.
The mallow is important for skin care. Mallow extract strengthens the elastin in the skin, including the vaginal mucosa. Mallow cream serves as a remedy for dry skin, it brightens the skin and relieves pigmentation. So far, however, there have been no systematic clinical studies.
Wild mallow extracts are today combined with olive, evening primrose and jojoba oil, for example, and are intended to restore the elasticity of the skin after pregnancy, as well as giving it a "velvety-smooth" feeling on the skin. In any case, it cannot do any harm because the mallow does not irritate sensitive skin.
Mallow also acts as a preservative, because it inhibits the growth of mushrooms similarly to cinnamon and lavender, surpassing peppermint and garlic.
The "Syrian mallow" originally comes from the Middle East and southern Europe, but people spread the medicinal plant on all continents except Antarctica. In Germany, it grows in locations that resemble its hot habitat: field edges, rubble areas and fallow land with lots of sun.
Growing mallows is very easy: the garden owner should only make sure that the seeds are in a sunny location with humus-rich, slightly calcareous soil. The wild mallow particularly likes clay soils.
We either sow the mallow seeds directly outdoors or in small plant pots. The seeds outside should be about 40 cm apart so that the plants can develop. We press it a centimeter into the earth with a finger and then cover it. The germs emerge from the earth in just under two weeks.
Use as a medicinal herb
We collect the flowers and leaves from June to September, remove the stem and dry both; the flowers turn dark blue. Mallow goes well with eucalyptus and cowslips, which enhance the healing properties.
The flowers contain potassium, flavonoids, tannins and dyes such as malvin and malvidin-3-glucoside.
Mallow tea helps particularly against cough. The mucilages work against colds, complaints in the respiratory tract, cough and inflamed throat. They especially relieve dry, irritable cough.
The tannins help against infections in the gastrointestinal system; when applied externally, they alleviate skin irritation, swelling and skin rash.
We put the dried leaves in hot water and let them steep for ten minutes.
Mallow is also a good home remedy for colds, skin complaints and gastrointestinal disorders because there are no side effects.
The mucilages envelop the inflamed mucous membranes and so dampen pain in the throat and throat, so they relieve the urge to cough. Chilli can also be defused with the mallow.
Mallow mucus and tannins are not only suitable as medicine, but also as food:
The mallow can also be used as a vegetable, for this we pick the young leaves in spring, cut them into strips and eat them as a salad, or we put them in soups where the mucilages thicken the liquid.Our ancestors put the unripe fruit in oil a.
For a mallow jelly, we put the mallow flowers in a saucepan with water and white wine, add cloves and boil everything up briefly. If you don't like white wine, you can alternatively use diluted elderflower syrup.
Then we let the liquid steep for ten minutes and pour the cold brew through a fine sieve. We mix the whole thing with gelling sugar and lemon juice and boil it again for 5 minutes - with constant stirring. Then we remove the foam and fill the hot jelly into preserving jars, fresh mallow flowers are just as suitable for this as dried ones.
Mallow flowers taste good in puddings such as creams, tarts or ice cream. Rice pudding or semolina porridge with mallow, almost all desserts get a special note with the medicinal plant. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- The herb book: www.kraeuter-buch.de (accessed: April 19, 2016), mallow
- Medicinal plant knowledge: www.heilpflanzenwissen.at (access: April 20, 2016), wild mallow
- Schilcher, Heinz; Kammerer, Susanne; Wegener, Tankred: Phytotherapy guidelines: Urban & Fischer Verlag, 2016
- Hensel, Wolfgang: Which medicinal plant is it?, Franckh Kosmos Verlag, 2017
- Prentner, Angelika: Medicinal plants of traditional European medicine: effects and uses according to frequent indications, Springer, 2017