The mallow family, which includes the marshmallow, musk mallow, common mallow and high mallow, share similar therapeutic properties. Their mucilaginous quality made them ideal folk remedies for a range of internal and external problems. Malva sylvestris, commonly known as high mallow, is one member of the mallow family. Plants For A Future, an online database for edible and medicinal plants, rates high mallow a three for medicinal and culinary value, meaning the plants are considered useful enough for commercial cultivation.
High mallow grows between 1.5 and 3.5 feet fall and flowers all summer. The flowering herb features purple or red flowers and round, lobed leaves. Edible seeds emerge in the autumn. A wildflower that can also be cultivated, Malva sylvestris prefers moist woodland or partially shaded areas.
Mallow leaves are demulcent, meaning that they contain mild pain killing properties and form a protective layer over wounds, insect bites and bruises. According to Plants For A Future, the most common way to utilize these healing properties involves making a poultice made from the leaves or flowers. Herbalist Lesley Bremness also suggests infusing the leaves or roots and using the resulting gel-like liquid as a shampoo for damaged hair or as an emollient for dry hands and sunburned skin. The boiled leaves also make a moisturizing, soothing eye mask, Bremness notes.
Mallow plants are useful for fighting both dry coughs and chest colds because of the gelatinous quality of the plant's various parts. Drugs.com notes that commercially, marshmallow is employed more frequently in cough products than other mallow types. The plant family's leaves, roots and flowers also contain compounds that make mallows useful as an expectorant. Other folk remedies utilizing Malva sylvestris involve making a mild laxative tea.
According to Plants For A Future, marshmallow is considered superior to high mallow for internal use. Although no known common side effects or drug interactions currently exist for the mallow family of plants, ask your doctor before using Malva sylvestris to treat coughs or as a laxative. Teas from the leaves or flowers of high mallow are a common form for respiratory or digestive issues. Boil about 3 tsp. of the dried plant in 6 oz. of water for 10 minutes, then strain and drink. To make poultices for wounds or damaged skin, soak 6 tsp. of the dry herb in 1 qt. water overnight, strain and apply a cloth soaked in the gelatinous solution to the affected area.