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Althea officinalis

Of all the Mallows, Marshmallow was the most highly respected species and the one most commonly used for medicinal purposes. The whole herb including roots, leaves, flowers and seeds are useful and edible and in previous times were regularly eaten as vegetables. Indeed, in Italy and Spain it was held that a daily draft of Mallow tea would preserve one against any illness at all. While this sounds a little bit too good to be true, Mallows do soothe a great variety of conditions and are worth remembering. Not everybody likes their mucilaginous texture though, when prepared as food, except when it comes in the form of Marshmallow candy. However, Mallow is said to stimulate a different sort of appetite: Mallow seeds sprinkled on the private parts increase the sexual appetite of men, while eating the seeds is said to act as an aphrodisiac for women, which is not surprising since Marshmallow is a herb of Venus. The overall character of this herb is cooling and soothing, which it achieves by virtue of the high mucilage content. For internal use Marshmallow should not be boiled or even infused with boiling water since this destroys the mucilaginous properties. Instead the tea is prepared by cold water extraction. Place a tablespoon of the herb or root in a cup and cover with cold water. Leave to infuse over night. Strain and gently heat up the liquid, but do not allow simmering.

Marshmallow leaves can be used externally as a cooling, soothing, anti-inflammatory plaster, or applied as a healing wash to inflamed or irritated skin. They can be applied to any boils or sores, or other types of hardened swellings. Rubbed on insect bites and swellings they will take away the sting and heat. The ancients claimed that they are effective against the bites of any venomous beast. The softening qualities are excellent for skin care preparations, e.g. as an addition to bathwater or in home made cosmetic preparations. They can cool sore or inflamed eyelids when applied as a compress, or may be used as a gargle for sore throat or inflammatory conditions of the mouth or abscesses. The leaves are a common ingredient of cough mixtures and will greatly aid expectoration and soothe a dry, hacking cough, or one that just doesn't want to go away. Mallow leaves are equally soothing in cases of bladder /urinary inflammation and will soothe the burning sensation of passing water.

Mallow is cooling and soothing, yet due to its mucilage properties it is also useful for stimulating the heat of passion. It can be used as an aphrodisiac and for fertility rites. It has also been added to incense mixtures for protection against disease, to enhance fertility and ensure the easy delivery of healthy children.