Mallow Is Medicine
Last week, my nieces’ father came from Dulce to have his stitches removed from his cornea. He was in incredible pain. I took him home to lay down afterward. The doctors had given him zero pain medication and he was not well.
I went outside to look for common mallow. Made my offerings, harvested the leaves, flowers, stalks and small fruits. I mashed them with a small amount of water until a thick mush. With his consent, I then cut and laid a piece of fabric over his eyes, scooped the medicine w a spoon and placed it over his eyes, on top of the fabric. I placed another fabric, then wash cloth, on top and asked him to use his hands to press the medicine into his eyes at the pressure he could stand. He had immediate relief.
He indicated the relief was brought on by a cooling and soothing sensation. He slept for three hours. As he did, I’d take a spoonful of water and carefully pour it onto the fabric to keep the compress moist and ensure the medicine continued to be administered into his eyes as he slept.
When he woke up, his light sensitivity had diminished significantly, as well as his pain. He indicated that the progress of his eye healing in those three hours he slept, matched where the progress of his other eye had been only two nights after removing stitches from his other transplant, last year. He was amazed by how helpful the medicine was. After that, we went chokecherry picking with zero complications or pain.
I was pleased considering I had never attempted this before. I had however been extensively researching this medicine and had recently introduced myself to her through offerings and prayer. I was elated by her generosity and power. She is officially a new favorite Homegirl of mine!
I share this story as testimony to the power of mallow. Mallow has a mucosal property that is incredibly healing. Its slimy properties have a cooling and calming effect, and it is known for its power to rapidly reorganize disorganized cells, caused by damage. Which means it speeds up healing while calming hot firey pain. -Both on the outside of the body and the inside of the body.
On the outside, it’s an amazing compress for almost any injury, burn, bite, rash, infection, splinters and foreign objects, sprains,swelling, wounds, etc.
On the inside, it can be drank as a tea to soothe internally. It’s mucosal properties line the body with a heavenly soothing slime like protective coating, that calms hot hurting kidneys and urinary track system. It also helps lubricate the body when needing to pass uncomfortable kidney stones, and even helps soothe heart burn.
Sometimes plants will look like the organ they’re healing. For example, the greens in cedar mimic the bronchial pattern of the lungs and is a huge ally to the lungs in promoting circulation and fighting sickness causing bacteria invading the respiratory. In a similar way, common mallow’s leaf, when stretched out, resembles a kidney. And for the amount of kidney problems we have in Indian Country, she is a blessing to have at hand.
There are two types of mallow that I am aware of in my territory: Common Mallow and Globe Mallow. Common Mallow was brought over by European immigrants, as both their food and medicine. So if you find her, eat her up as a wild food too! But she’s powerful enough that our ancestors noticed and gave her a Dine name, “Azee’ bílátah łigaii,” describing her delicate white flowers she bears on top.
Globe Mallow, in contrast, is a home-grown Indigenous daughter to the Southwestern region of Turtle Island, and beyond. Her spanish name is “Yerba de Negrita.” I find this interesting being that Dine categorization of plants goes by color, which refers to the part of the body that medicine heals. ‘Black’ medicines heal, for example the dark parts of your eyes, your hair, etc. Coincidentally, “Yerba de Negrita” is commonly used as a hair wash,softener and conditioner among Indo-Hispano and Chicano communities. I later discovered, Common Mallow can be used in the same way, again, because of its mucosal properties.
Both Mallows are cousins to one another and have similar healing abilities. If you take one of the blossoms of Globe Mallow and squish it between your fingers, you will immediately feel that it has the same slimey mucosal properties as her cousin, Common Mallow.
The one difference I am aware of is that when making Globe Mallow tea, the little hairs need to be strained prior to drinking to prevent irritation (similar to mullein tea). I’ve also read that in our region, Globe Mallow was used as a hardening agent for adobe floors and also for making casts for broken bones (our ancestors were genius & sophisticated).
My grandmother who is a traditional herbalist shares stories of also using Globe Mallow as a compress on the sprained and injured limbs of my late uncles. Which tells me it’s also good for inflammation. She’s also shared that the beautiful orange flowers of Globe Mallow are used as an ingredient in different traditional tobacco blends. Mallows are also lung medicines, so it being a tobacco ingredient doesn’t surprise me.
For both, the entire plant, including the roots can be used.
Below, are provided an accumulation of hours worth of research and notes on sister Common Mallow, with the hopes that it’ll inspire you to dive down the rabbit hole of endless uses of this abundant medicine we often overlook.
Remember, Common and Globe Mallow are similar in their capacity to heal. You will find Common Mallow where there is more moisture, while Globe is a hardy arid medicine you will find from the desert to mesas to the foothills of mountains.
There is also included a few notes on Marshmallow, -another cousin from this family.
If you are looking for a reliable, affordable vendor to buy Marshmallow and other herbs, check out: https://www.herbco.com. They are not Indigenous owned company, but have been the best, more affordable resource I have found thus far for online purchases of medicine.
Also, when harvesting Mallow, if you desire to dig the roots, remember to leave some of the root system in the ground so that they can regrow for next year. It is our responsibility to resist the tendencies and practices of capitalistic settler society, that take everything without thinking of future generations.
If you look after sister Mallow, she will look after you and your future babies.
And make sure to ask your family, community, and elders about these medicines. There is often a wealth of knowledge via oral tradition that you just can’t find on google, YouTube or books.
Remember family, we already have everything we need within us and around us, to heal.
Love, Asdzaan Nez
Dine Name: Azee’ bílátah łigaii - white flowered medicine
The flowers and leaves should steep in lukewarm water for many hours, as a semi cold infusion. NEVER BOIL!
-All parts of plant edible
-thickener for soups and stews
-Overall helps mucus membranes, lungs, bowels, kidneys, and skin.
-Cools Overheated respiratory, digestive, reproductive, and urinary systems.
-Has a mucopolysaccharides, the same gel-forming starches that are found in human mucus and interstitial gel of our bodies.
-Its mucus serves as a protective layer for the skin. Good for eczema and new born baby skin.
-reduces inflammation and inflamed tissue
-promotes white blood cells
-Reorganizes damaged cells for healing
-bronchial mucosal inflammation
-respiratory congestion and dry coughs
-asthma, emphysema, bronchitis & tonsillitis
-urinary tract irritability
-acid indigestion & heartburn: 1-2 cups of tea/day
-acute mucus membrane problems: juice of fresh plant -2-3 tablespoons of juice 5 times a day.
-Gargle: can gargle the tea multiple times for dry throat, gum inflammation & toothache
-soothes sore throats
-indigestion, bowels and stomach problems
-tea used during childbirth & after for breast feeding.
-infant skin wash
-dermatological use: poultice and infusions for stings, inflammation, puss filled infections, wounds, acne, rashes, boils, dandruff, abysses (Cherokee, Iroquois, Mahuna, Navaho, and Ramah peoples).
-Pain Management: Relieves the pain from these skin conditions.
-Softens skin & hair!
-Expectorant: adds water content to mucus to thin it out, so it’s easier to cough up and spit out.
-laxative, good for constipation
- kidney: used w other herbs to cool hot urination, inflamed kidneys and and to ease the passing of kidney stones. *Leaf shapes like a kidney.
-Enriches breast milk for nursing mothers
-safe food/medicine even for infants.
-Dandruff: wash scalp w tea made from root
-tea can be made in milk instead of water for cough.
-Liver: Promotes normal functioning liver in people w hepatitis, cirrhosis and cancer
-Has anti-Cancer potential
-Poultice for broken bones.
-Reduces hair loss, dandruff, softens/conditions and give bounce back to hair
Can boil fruits, strain and add 2 as much honey.
Eczema /Wash for Baby’s skin /Protective Layer
“What makes it such a useful skin healing plant is mainly the mucilage polysaccharides which when applied to the skin, produce a superficial healing layer that protects and nourishes the skin while enabling any wounds or inflammations to gently subside. This beautiful plant offers protection and nurturing for a baby’s delicate skin on so many levels. Biochemically through the healing mucilage and associated ingredients. Spiritually through the plants hearty softening essence. Symbolically as a gentle layer of protection between baby and the stimuli of the outside world.”
Native Uses of Plants
“The Cherokee Indians put the flowers in oil and mixed them with tallow for use on sores. The Iroquois Indians made a compound infusion of plants applied as poultice to swellings of all kinds, and for broken bones. They also applied it to babies’ swollen stomach or sore back. The Mahuna Indians used the plant for painful congestions of the stomach. The Navajo, Ramah Indians made a cold infusion of plants taken and used as a lotion for injuries or swellings. The plant is also an excellent laxative for young children.”
“Other Uses: Cream, yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the plant and the seed heads. The root has been used as a toothbrush.”
(The roots can be untwisted and dried to make a brush.)
*Sap from the leaves, called ~mucilage~ can treat bites and stings.
*Mallow makes a weavable fiber…useful fiber.”
How Does It Heal?
“The healing properties of common mallow are derived from the mucilage and flavanoid gycosides found in the plants leaves and flowers. Common mallow also contains anti-oxidants, including polyphenols and anthocyanins, which explains its beneficial effect on gastroenteritis.
It is used to help combat colds accompanied by a sore throat, a dry, hacking cough and bronchitis because of it’s ability to induce the removal of mucous secretions from the lungs. Its anti-irritant properties make it helpful as well for treating hoarseness and tonsillitis.”
How to Make Cold and Warm infusions
Marshmallow root is rich in both polysaccharides and starch. When made using the cold infusion method, the healing polysaccharides are the primary component that gets extracted. A decoction (hot water extraction) extracts both.
To make a cold water infusion, fill a jar 1/4 of the way full with cut and sifted marshmallow root, then fill the rest of the jar with warm purified water and allow infusion to sit for 4-12 hours. Strain and serve.
Marshmallow Root Tea Recipe
I’ll be sharing my favorite recipe for marshmallow root tea and other herbs later this week, but for now here’s a super simple recipe:
1.5 cups water
1 tablespoon cut and sifted marshmallow root
Instructions: Bring water and marshmallow to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, strain with a mesh strainer or cheesecloth, and sweeten if desired before serving.”
“Medicinal Plans if the Mountain West.” Michael Moore. Museum of NM press. 2003
Biological Activities of Common Mallow