Marshmallow, Guimauve

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Marshmallow, Guimauve

Althea officinalis Malvaceae

Botanical Description A herbaceous perennial, growing up to 2 metres, erect and rarely branched. The plant is covered in soft down. The leaves are pale green-grey; they are heart shaped with a toothed margin. The flowers are pale pink and held on short stalks in spikes. Many related species are used for similar purposes; Althea rosea Hollyhock (not native but widely grown as an ornamental), Malva moschata Musk mallow, and Malva sylvestris Common Mallow. Musk mallow and Common mallow are better for culinary uses, although the flowers of all species are good in salads.

Part used Root, leaf and flowers

Habitat, cultivation and harvesting Native to Europe It grows in salt-marshes, brackish marshes, ditches and by streams, not normally far inland. The flowering tops are harvested when in flower, the root in autumn from plants at least two years old, the leaves may be harvested for culinary use at any stage. Young seed heads are also traditionally eaten and known as bread and butter. Malva moschata grows in dry grassy places and ditches in richer soil. Malva sylvestris grows in grows in dry banks, waste places and at the edge of beaches.

History/Folklore/taste/energetics: The name derives from the Greek word although meaing to heal. Traditionally dried root sticks used as chew sticks for teething babies. Sections of root were candied to make the original marshmallow sweets. Flowers and young leaves can be added to salads, stews and stirfries. A cold infusion is traditionally used to prepare both the leaf and the root as it releases more of the mucilage responsible for it’s soothing action. This should be carried out overnight (for 12 hours). The plant has a soothing, comforting energy, like a warm hug that makes everything feel better for the upset, confused child. Sweet, cool, moist

Constituents: Leaf up to 10% mucilage

Root 15-25% mucilage (xylan and glucosans), Sucrose, Fatty acid esters, Sterols, Asparagine, Lecithin, Starch, Pectin, Flavonoids, Phenolic acid


Leaf Demulcent, Expectorant, Diuretic, Antilithic, Emollient

Root Demulcent, Diuretic, Emollient, Vulnerary, Mildly laxative

Traditional and current uses


  • Bronchitis,

  • Respiratory catarrh,

  • Dry coughs, Asthma, Pleurisy,

  • Allergic rhinitis,

  • Earache associated with chronic catarrh,

  • Cystitis, Urethritis,

  • Urinary gravel or stones,

  • Respiratory catarrh with digestive weakness,

  • Topically for abscesses , boils and ulcers,

  • As a wash for itchy, inflamed or sensitive skin. The flowers are even better for this.


  • Gastritis, gastric or peptic ulcers,

  • enteritis, ileitis, colitis, diverticulitis,

  • Excessive stomach acid,

  • Inflammation of mouth or pharynx,

  • IBS,

  • Respiratory catarrh with irritating cough,

  • Cystitis,

  • Topically for varicose and thrombotic ulcers

Mallow Soup Melokhia

1 onion , finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

A clander full of mallow leaves (musk mallow or common mallow are best)

1 litre of stock (or water with vegetable bouillon added)

A handful of fresh oregano, chopped (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Sweat the onions and garlic in the olive oil until transparent. Roughly chop the mallow leaves and add them to the pan with the stock and oregano if using. Simer for 15 minutes, season with salt and pepper. The soup can be blended if wished to give a wonderfully creamy texture.
Marshmallow root Brownies

125 g butter

40 g marshmallow root powder

200 g rapadura sugar

50 g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ginger (optional)

75g Chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 180 oC . Line an 8 inch square cake tin with parchment. Melt the butter and stir in the marshmallow powder. Beat the eggs and sugar together, then add the butter and marshmallow root mixture to it Fold in the flour and spices. Stir in the nuts. Spoon into the cake tin and bake for about 40 minutes until cooked. Allow to cool in the tin then cut into squares

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