The sweet of this name was once made from the root of this herb. The plants were gathered by fishermen’s wives in the marshes of the East coast.
Marsh mallow, althaea officinalis, is a tall attractive herb growing wild by river estuaries, along salt marshes and by ditches. It is also cultivated as a garden plant and is attractive at the back of the herbaceous border. Marsh mallow is a perennial and dies right down in the winter. The fan-shaped leaves are soft and velvety with bluntly serrated edges. The flowering stems rise from the axils of the leaves and single pale pink flowers grow in clusters at the top. Fine hairs cover the whole plant, giving it a soft appearance amongst harsher greens in the garden. The flowers are in bloom during August when some of the other summer flowers are over.
Marsh mallow can be grown from seed sown in any ordinary garden soil and in any position. When grown in moist ground the leaves and roots will grow larger. Sow the ripe seeds in early autumn directly into their flowering spot and thin out the seedlings when large enough. Marsh mallow can be propagated by root division. In spring or autumn, before the plant is in leaf or after it has died down, lift the roots, put aside those needed for drying, divide the remainder and replant 2 ft (6 I cm) apart.
The flowers, leaves and root are the parts of the herb used in the home. The leaves are picked off the stems for drying just before the flowers come out. The flowers can be gathered when fully open and the roots dug up in the autumn. All are dried and stored separately.
Marsh mallow roots contain, amongst other properties, a mucilage which thickens into a jelly-like substance when mixed with water. It is effective in the treatment of coughs, bronchitis and sore throat and helps to relieve indigestion.
* To make an extract of the root: Soak 3 teaspoons of grated dried marsh mallow root in 1 cup of cold water for about 8 hours; strain and heat by standing the container in a pan of hot water until lukewarm. Take a spoonful as required. For sore throats and tonsillitis, gargle with the extract as frequently as possible to bring quick relief Keep in the cool or in the refrigerator and use within a few days.
An extract of marsh mallow leaves is said to be a useful remedy for chesty colds and coughs.
* To make an extract of the leaves: Soak 2 teaspoons of chopped leaves in 1 cup of water for 6 hours. Strain and reheat as described above and sweeten with honey if preferred. A spoonful can be taken as required. Keep in the cool or in the refrigerator and use within a few days.
For stuffy head colds and sinusitis use marsh mallow in the form of an inhalation.
* To make an inhalation: Into a bowl pour 2 cups of boiling water on to a handful of dried crushed leaves. Cover the head and bowl with a towel and breathe in the warm fumes for up to 10 minutes. Afterwards dry the face and remain indoors in a warm room.
Use the same mixture in the form of a fomentation for congestion. Wring out pieces of lint in the lotion and apply as hot as possible to the chest.
Externally, a strong extract of marsh mallow will help to alleviate bruises, sprains and aching muscles.
* To make an extract for external use: Soak 2 handfuls of dried grated root in 1 cup of water for 6 hours and then strain. Use warm or cold and smooth over the affected part.
For mild burns use an extract in the form of a compress.
* To make a compress: Soak 2 tablespoons of dried leaves in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes. Strain and dip a piece of lint into the solution. Place over the affected part. Renew the compress as necessary.
Marsh mallow ointment is also a remedy for mild burns and bruises and will help reduce inflammation and swellings caused by bee and wasp stings.
* To make an ointment: 1’4elt 4 heaped tablespoons of white petroleum jelly in an enamel pan. Remove from the heat and add 4 tablespoons of extract a little at a time while stirring. Pour into small pots and cover when cold.
A marsh mallow poultice will reduce inflammation and bring boils and persistent spots to a head.
* To make a poultice: Use fresh root crushed to a pulp with a little water, or mixed with a little honey to a thick paste. Spread the pulp between 2 pieces of muslin or cheesecloth. Heat the poultice between 2 plates over a pan of boiling water. Place on the affected part as hot as is bearable and reheat the poultice if necessary to reduce inflammations.
* A freshly crushed or well-bruised leaf is an instant remedy for insect bites and stings.
Marsh mallow is one of the most effective herbs for moisturizing and softening the skin.
* To make a skin lotion: Soak 3 teaspoons of dried grated roots or leaves in I cup of distilled water for 8 hours. Strain into a stoppered jar and use morning and evening after cleansing the face. Use within a few days and keep the lotion in a cool place.
* The jelly-like extract (see Medicinal Use) can be added to plain cold creams available from the chemist (pharmacy) for using as a moisturizer under make up.
* Add the extract to glycerine and use a little every night to soften rough skin and relieve painful chapped hands. It will also help to soothe skin irritations.
A marsh mallow face pack helps to combat dry flaky skin.
* To make a face pack: Use the extract of the root, made with distilled water, and mix into a paste with Fuller’s earth or fine oatmeal. Cleanse the face and brush the pack over the skin, avoiding eyes and mouth. Use cold water compresses on the eyes. Relax for 15-20 minutes. Remove face pack with warm water and smooth on marsh mallow complexion lotion.