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Mallow is a very beneficial, common weed. Fun fact, most “weeds” are actually herbs in disguise! Weeds are just plants that grow in abundance in places that we don’t want them. But even though we might not want them to grow where they do so well, if we dig a little, we might just find a use for the weeds that we so casually spray, throw away, and generally despise. On that note, PLEASE don’t spray for weeds! The chemicals used to kill weeds (and bugs) are dangerous and harmful to the earth and to us. That’s why I always try to find natural solutions for bugs, and never worry about weeds in my yard.
Okay, I’ll get off my soap box and back to the subject. Common mallow (botanical name Malva neglecta) grows like crazy in neglected lawns, gardens, and pastures. It usually grows where the water supply hasn’t been adequate. If you stop watering your lawn, you will notice that the grass will die and mallow will pop up everywhere! I actually pulled a ton out of my garden (which makes me wonder if I’ve been watering enough…and don’t get me started on garden neglect!).
Common mallow is a close relative of the marshmallow plant, which was originally used to make marshmallows. The medicinal constituents of common mallow are considered similar but inferior to marshmallow, but since it is found in abundance it is still a great medicinal ally.
Mallow is both edible and medicinal. It has a pleasant, mild flavor, and can be added to salads or even chopped very fine and sprinkled onto other dishes. Both the leaves and the seeds (also known as cheeses) can be eaten raw or cooked.
Nutritional benefits of mallow
Mallow contains iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, tannins, vitamins A, B1, B2, and C; and contains high amounts of mucilage.
Uses for mallow
- Antitussive (prevents or relieves a cough)
- Demulcent (relieves inflammation or irritation)
Mallow is great for both respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments. When taken internally, it is beneficial for flu, colds, emphysema, asthma, as well as constipation, heartburn, gastritis, ulcers, and diarrhea. It can also be useful in treating kidney stones, headache, and toothaches. External uses (via a poultice) include treatment of insect bites, boils, rashes, abscesses, wounds, pink eye, and even oral thrush.
Common Mallow has had no reports of side effects, contraindications, or interference with other medicine. There is, however, no studies to show whether or not it is safe during pregnancy.
Next time you are weeding your garden or cursing at the weeds popping up in your lawn, please re-consider the lowly plant, common mallow. It is nutritious and very beneficial. You really should consider drying some, or eating some fresh while it is in season (which is almost all the time!).
If you are interested in foraging for medicinal plants, I have a post on foraging several beneficial herbs, a post on mullein, and a post on elderberries here. I also have a YouTube channel that has some good foraging videos. Go check them out for more info!