The Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis) is indigenous to Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. It has been naturalized in the eastern United States. The habitats for Marsh Mallow include the upper margins of salt and brackish marshes, sides of ditches, and grassy banks near the sea. (Plants For A Future, 2011) The stems, which die back in the autumn, are erect, 3 to 4 feet (1.2 m) tall, and unbranched with only a few lateral branches. The leaves, attached by a short petiole, are ovate-cordate in shape, 2 to 3 inches long and about 1 1/4 inch wide, irregularly toothed at the edge, and thick. They are soft and velvety on both sides, due to a dense covering of stellate hairs. The pale pink flowers of the Marsh Mallow are in bloom during August and September and are followed by the flat, round fruit. The leaves, flowers, and root of A. officinalis are all purported to have medicinal properties. Marsh Mallow has been traditionally used as a treatment for the irritation of mucus membranes, including use as a gargle for mouth, throat, and gastric ulcers. The use of Marsh Mallow to make a candy dates back to ancient Egypt, where the recipe called for extracting sap from the root of the plant and mixing it with nuts and honey. Candy makers in early 19th century France made the innovation of whipping up the Marsh Mallow sap and sweetening it to make a confection similar to modern marshmallows. In the late 19th century, French manufacturers devised a way to get around the need to extract the sap by substituting egg whites or gelatin, combined with modified corn starch, to create the chewy base. This French recipe more closely resembles contemporary commercially available marshmallows, which no longer contain any actual Marsh Mallow. (Wikipedia, 2011)
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
cm in diam.; petals ca. 1.5 cm, obovate-oblong. Staminal column ca. 8 mm. Ovary 15-25-loculed. Fruit a disk-shaped schizocarp, ca. 8 mm in diam., enclosed by calyx, puberulent. Seeds reniform. Fl. Jul.
Habitat & Distribution
larva of Apion soror feeds within stem of Althaea officinalis
In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / saprobe
scattered, or aggregated in oblong patches, fuscous pycnidium of Diplodina coelomycetous anamorph of Diplodina malvae is saprobic on dead stem of Althaea officinalis
Remarks: season: 4-11
Foodplant / feeds on
gregarious, covered by blackened epidermis, finally erumpent by a slit pycnidium of Phomopsis coelomycetous anamorph of Phomopsis malvacearum feeds on stem of Althaea officinalis
Remarks: season: 7-9
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Althaea officinalis
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Althaea officinalis
Public Records: 6
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
Althaea officinalis (marsh-mallow, marsh mallow, or common marshmallow) is a perennial species indigenous to Africa, which is used as a medicinal plant and ornamental plant. A confection made from the root since ancient Egyptian time evolved into today's marshmallow treat.
The stems, which die down in the autumn, are erect, 3 to 4 ft (0.91 to 1.22 m), simple, or putting out only a few lateral branches. The leaves, shortly petioled, are roundish, ovate-cordate, 2 to 3 in (51 to 76 mm) long, and about 11⁄4 inch broad, entire or three to five lobed, irregularly toothed at the margin, and thick. They are soft and velvety on both sides, due to a dense covering of stellate hairs. The flowers are shaped like those of the common mallow, but are smaller and of a pale colour, and are either axillary, or in panicles, more often the latter.
The stamens are united into a tube, the anthers, kidney-shaped and one-celled. The flowers are in bloom during August and September, and are followed, as in other species of this order, by the flat, round fruit which are popularly called "cheeses".
The common mallow is frequently called "marsh mallow" by country people, but the true marsh mallow is distinguished from all the other mallows growing in Great Britain by the numerous divisions of the outer calyx (six to nine cleft), by the hoary down which thickly clothes the stems and foliage, and by the numerous panicles of blush-coloured flowers, paler than the common mallow. The roots are perennial, thick, long and tapering, very tough and pliant, whitish yellow outside, white and fibrous within.
The entire plant, particularly the root, abounds with a mild mucilage, which is emollient to a much greater degree than the common mallow. The generic name, Althaea, is derived from the Greek "ἄλθειν" (to cure), from its healing properties. The name of the family, Malvaceae, is derived from the Greek "μαλακός" (soft; Latin "mollis"), from the special qualities of the mallows in softening and healing.
Most of the mallows have been used as food, and are mentioned by early classic writers with this connection. Mallow was an edible vegetable among the Romans; a dish of marsh mallow was one of their delicacies. Prosper Alpinus stated in 1592 that a plant of the mallow kind was eaten by the Egyptians. Many of the poorer inhabitants of Syria subsisted for weeks on herbs, of which marsh mallow is one of the most common. When boiled first and fried with onions and butter, the roots are said to form a palatable dish, and in times of scarcity consequent upon the failure of the crops, this plant, which grows there in great abundance, is collected heavily as a foodstuff.
The leaves, flowers and the root of A. officinalis (marshmallow) all have medicinal properties. These are reflected in the name of the genus, which comes from the Greek ἄλθειν (althein), meaning "to heal". In traditional Chinese medicine, Althaea officinalis is known as 藥蜀葵 (pinyin: yàoshǔkuí). It is claimed to increase the flow of breast milk and soothe the bronchial tubes.
Marshmallow is traditionally used as a treatment for the irritation of mucous membranes, including use as a gargle for mouth and throat ulcers, and gastric ulcers. A study on rats concluded that an extract from the flowers has potential benefits for hyperlipidemia, gastric ulcers and platelet aggregation. The root has been used since the Middle Ages in the treatment of sore throat.
The root extract (halawa extract) is sometimes used as flavouring in the making of a Middle Eastern snack called halva. The flowers and young leaves can be eaten, and are often added to salads or are boiled and fried.
The later French version of the recipe, called pâte de guimauve (or "guimauve" for short), included an eggwhite meringue and was often flavoured with rose water. Pâte de guimauve more closely resembles contemporary commercially available marshmallows, which no longer contain any actual marshmallow.
Chemical constituents include altheahexacosanyl lactone (n-hexacos-2-enyl-1,5-olide), 2β-hydroxycalamene (altheacalamene) and altheacoumarin glucoside (5,6-dihydroxycoumarin-5-dodecanoate-6β-D-glucopyranoside), along with the known phytoconstituents lauric acid, β-sitosterol and lanosterol.
- "BSBI List 2007" (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original on 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
- Gualtiero Simonetti (1990). Stanley Schuler, ed. Simon & Schuster's Guide to Herbs and Spices. Simon & Schuster, Inc. ISBN 0-671-73489-X.
- "Marshmallow Remedies | Gaia Garden Herbals". Gaiagarden.com. Archived from the original on 11 December 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
- John S. Williamson & Christy M. Wyandt 1997. Herbal therapies: The facts and the fiction. Drug topics
- Hage-Sleiman, R; Mroueh, M; Daher, CF (2011). "Pharmacological evaluation of aqueous extract of Althaea officinalis flower grown in Lebanon". Pharmaceutical biology 49 (3): 327–33. doi:10.3109/13880209.2010.516754. PMID 21281251.
- Petkewich, Rachel (2006). "What's that stuff? Marshmallow". Chemical & Engineering News 84 (16): 41. doi:10.1021/cen-v084n011.p041. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
- Rani, S.; Khan, S.A.; Ali, M. (2010). "Phytochemical investigation of the seeds of Althea officinalis L". Natural Product Research 24 (14): 1358–1364. doi:10.1080/14786411003650777. PMID 20803381.
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