Marshmallow-Althaea Officinalis, Malva Rotundifolia, Malva Sylvestris, Malva Neglecta
Also known as: Althaea, sweet weed, wymote, mortification root, mallards, schloss tea, malva, mallow, cheese weed, button weed
Parts used: Root, leaves, flowers, peas
Meridians/Organs affected: respiratory, digestive, urinary
Properties: diuretic, demulcent, mucilaginous, emollient, tonic, vulnerary, alterative, lithotriptic, mild laxative
Marshmallow is a native of Europe and as with many herbs before it, it has made its way here to the usa. This plant has soft, toothed, downy leaves that can resemble a maple leaf depending on the variety. The flowers are pink or white with pink streaks through them and have 5 petals. It can get anywhere between 2-4 feet tall. It grows in damp meadows, marshes, by the ocean or rivers, ditches and basically anywhere the is considered moist. It blooms from July to September. The leaves are best gathered before the plant blooms however. The root is best gathered in the fall. Marshmallow is typically an annual but it can over winter and become a perennial in the proper climate.'
Marshmallow is well known across the globe by many cultures. It is mentioned in Chinese and Arab medicinal texts and in the Bible (in the book of Job where it is partaken of in times of famine). Theophrastus (370-287 BC) talks of mallow root being soaked in wine and used for coughs. The Romans and Chinese would eat it as a delicacy. It does contain a high mucilage content which helps to loosen phlegm and expel it from the respiratory system. It is also very beneficial for gastrointestinal issues for the same reason. As it is mucilaginous it soothes the body and has been used for diarrhea, dysentery, ulcers, whooping cough, sore throats, etc. Externally it works much the same way to soothe and heal wounds, bruises, burns and infections.
In fact, other members of this family can be substituted for mallow as they have similar qualities (hibiscus and hollyhocks being examples). The Greek 'athos' means 'to cure' and it had quite a reputation as a cure all. King Charlemagne (742-814 AD) demanded that it be grown throughout his kingdom. It is rumored he suffered from ulcers and found it to be a wonderful remedy. Culpeper's son was diagnosed with what was termed a 'plague of the guts' and suffered something terrible. Culpeper gave mallow to his son (boiled it and served it with milk) and two days later his son was cured. It was used for many different ailments and seemed to work well for a host of diseases. It was used for diabetes, tuberculosis, septicemia, gangrene, vomiting, blood in the stool, nose or urine, kidney and gall stones, inflammations, stomach disorders, bedsores, etc. There are many documentations of it being used as a poultice for blood poisoning, burns, bruises, gangrene, sores, wounds, etc. (The root or leaves were lightly steamed and then applied warm and changed three times a day). The root was also commonly used in combination with parsley root, juniper berries or gravel root to assist with the pain and expellation of stones. Since it does contain a decent amount of calcium and magnesium it has also been found useful for arthritis. It seems to have the ability to bind to toxins in the body and eliminate them. The root was also used to increase the milk production in nursing mother's. While most people know nothing about this plant they are familiar however with the term 'marshmallow' in general. The white fluffy confection....and although the original marshmallow was made using this plant, it has not been done so for hundreds of years. The roots were boiled in water and then beaten like egg whites into a froth and used in pies, desserts, etc.
Dr. Christopher used marshmallow in a great many formulas for things, including the well known 'black salve'. He speaks of a man who had an infection in his leg that turned gangrenous. The man went to the doctor who recommended amputation. The man refused and instead went to Dr. Christopher who made a large decoction of marshmallow root for the man to immerse his entire leg in. In a matter of hours the leg had returned to normal. There are several stories like this one where marshmallow is concerned with miraculous results. Clearly it is an herb that should be kept in the garden for medicinal and nutritional benefits.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Also known as: bitter buttons, hindheal, bachelor buttons, scented fern, Johnson's remedy, cheese, wurmkraut, ginger plant, parlsey fern, stinking willie, alecost, costmary, bible leaf
Parts used: leaves, blossoms
Meridians/Organs effected: digestive, circulatory, reproductive, hepatic, respiratory
Properties: anthelmintic, tonic, emmenogogue, diaphoretic, stimulant, diuretic, nervine, vulnerary, aromatic, stomachic, antispasmodic, carminative
Tansy is a member of the Sunflower family. It is a stout perennial with deeply divided segmented leaves and bright yellow button like flowers that bloom from July to September. It can get up to 6 feet tall and is very aromatic. It grows along ditches, roadsides, pastures, public parks, vacant lots, meadows, dumps, etc. It does well in compact soil with a high pH level and full sun.
Tansy has been used for thousands of years-both as a culinary and a medicinal agent. There are recipes dating back to the 1400's for this herb. It was most commonly used during Easter for cakes, cookies, omelets and salad. The ancient Egyptians used it as part of their embalming process which was carried on to other cultures. It was also packed in coffins to repel insects and delay putrefaction before funerals. It was scattered on floors to repel insects and to freshen the air after feasting. It was also used under mattresses, between blankets and clothing and around food to kill or repel insects there. It has been used in dried floral arrangements and can still be found used that way today. They would also make a strong tea from tansy and use it in the garden to kill insects and as a headwash for lice or scabies. The tea was also used for rheumatism, indigestion, menstrual difficulties, nerve pain, lack of appetite, gout, migraines, jaundice and hysteria. The oil of the plant is high in thujone and in the past has caused miscarriages or been used for abortions. As such this plant has been banned by the FDA. It should not be used by pregnant women for this reason as it stimulates the uterus.
Tansy is a native of Europe. It was brought to the usa and cultivated here by John Winthrop's Plymouth colony in 1631. Its Greek name 'Athanasia' means 'immortal'. Probably one of the reasons they used it for embalming. It was also used to preserve meat (was rubbed on the meat) to keep the flies away. By the 17th century it became one of the bitter herbs partaken of at Passover. The tea from the leaves was commonly used in Europe for flatulence, sore throat, dyspepsia, jaundice and inflammation. Some studies have shown that it can help to relieve intestinal discomfort, reduce blood lipid levels, kill bacteria and fungi, fight intestinal worms, combat tumors, stimulate bile, influence blood sugar levels and enhance one's resistance to encephalitis. Most modern establishments consider it to be a poison and won't use it. I say 'More for Me!'
Tansy was once also used to make an ointment for bruises, burns due to gunpowder blasts and for parasite infestations. It is best gathered between July and August between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. when it is in full bloom.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your own benefit. Use them as you deem necessary. Happy healthy living!