Mallow for Food and Medicine

Malva parviflora (and other Malva species), called cheeseweed or mallow, is a common introduced “weed” found throughout California in urbanized areas.

The whole plant is edible, and has a mild and pleasant taste. The larger, older leaves and stems can be a little tough, so are better cooked.

The tasty fruits look like miniature cheesewheels, from which the name comes (although it tastes nothing like cheese).

The whole plant has a mildly mucilaginous texture, but the mucilage is especially concentrated in the roots. The fresh or dried roots, chopped up and brewed into a tea, is an effective medicine for stimulating the healthy function of the bodies’ mucus membranes (internal organs, stomach lining, trachea, mouth, nostrils, eyelids, genitals, and anus).

Mallow root tea is an ancient remedy for sore throat, cough, and upset stomach because it soothes the irritated mouth, throat, and stomach.

In fact, the original marshmallow (now a wholly artificial concoction) was made by brewing a decoction (strong tea) of the marsh mallow’s roots, adding a lot of sugar, whipping the concoction into a froth, and drying dollops of it to form cough drops that were sucked to sooth the cough, sore throat, or stomach ache.

California Foragers's photo.
California Foragers's photo.
California Foragers's photo.

2 thoughts on “Mallow for Food and Medicine

  1. Isaiah

    If it stimulates mucus membranes in the eyelids, do you think this would have any effect on a chalazion? Do you know any natural remedies (topical or internal) for styes or chalazia? I’ve got a small chalazion on my eyelid that has not gone away for months. I’ve tried all the usual google search remedies.

    1. ringtailcats Post author

      Since chalazia are clogged glands surrounded by mucus membranes, mallow may or may not help. I got my first chalazion 4 1/2 years ago, and have gotten them somewhat regularly since then. The longest one lasted about a year. I’ve tried most remedies; wet and dry heat, vinegar, essential oils, soap, and even antibiotic eyedrops. The only remedy I’ve found noticeably effective (inducing drainage) is a towel or rag dipped in hot water and repeatedly held against the eye for long periods. But that never seemed to make them go away completely. I think keeping it clean with soap and regular washing of the eye, opening the eye under hot water, and drying the eye after getting it wet also help. I’ve read that the juice from the roots of foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum) applied to the affected area is a specific treatment for styes, so that may help for chalazia. It’s not a herbal medicine available to buy but it grows in Alaska. I actually felt a chalazion coming on the other day and used a hot wet towel, cleaned it thoroughly, and kept it dry, and it went away in a few days. I also then realized that every single time I developed a chalazion, it was under exceptionally humid weather conditions. I’m very careful to keep my eyes clean now and seem to hardly get them anymore.


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