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These plants, funghi and insect illustrations
are part of my botanical oracle deck

Malva sylvestris | Common Mallow

Botanical Overview of Common Mallow

  • Scientific Name: Malva sylvestris

  • Common Names: Common Mallow, High Mallow, Blue Mallow, Cheese Plant

  • Family: Malvaceae

  • Description: Common mallow is a robust, perennial herb that grows up to 1 meter tall. It features round, serrated leaves and strikingly beautiful purple flowers with dark veins, which bloom from spring to autumn. The flowers are funnel-shaped, with five petals, and are about 2-4 cm in diameter. The plant’s fruit, resembling small cheese wheels, give rise to one of its common names, “cheese plant.”

malva sylvestris botanical illustration

Properties of Mallow

  • Chemical Constituents: Rich in mucilage, flavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins, and vitamins A, B, C, and E.

  • Edibility: All parts of the mallow plant are edible. The young leaves can be used in salads or cooked as greens, the flowers can be added to salads for their color, and the immature fruit can be eaten raw, having a mild, pleasant taste. The mucilage content gives a slightly slimy texture, similar to okra.

Distribution and Habitat of Mallow

  • Native Range: Europe, North Africa, and Asia.

  • Preferred Habitat: Common mallow thrives in a variety of environments including fields, roadsides, gardens, and disturbed areas. It prefers well-drained, loamy soils and can grow in both full sun and partial shade. It is hardy and can tolerate a range of climatic conditions.

Medicinal Properties and Uses of Mallow

  • Traditional Uses: Common mallow has been used in traditional medicine for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. The plant's high mucilage content makes it effective for treating mucous membrane irritations, including sore throats, coughs, and gastrointestinal issues. The leaves and flowers have been used to prepare poultices for minor wounds, burns, and insect bites.

  • Modern Applications: Today, mallow is still valued in herbal medicine for its demulcent (soothing) properties. It is often used in herbal teas and syrups to alleviate respiratory and digestive tract irritations. Mallow extracts are included in skincare products for their ability to hydrate and soothe dry or irritated skin. The plant’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties also make it useful in formulations aimed at reducing inflammation and supporting overall health.

Magical Correspondences and Uses of Mallow in Magical Practice

  • Element: Water

  • Planet: Venus

  • Magical Properties: Protection, love, peace, and healing.

  • Uses: In magical practices, common mallow is associated with love and peace. The plant is used in love spells and rituals to attract affection and foster harmonious relationships. Its flowers and leaves can be carried or included in sachets to promote emotional balance and tranquility. Mallow is also used in protection spells and charms to shield against negativity and bring a sense of calm and security. Its soothing properties make it a fitting choice for healing rituals, particularly those aimed at calming the mind and easing emotional distress. The plant can be included in baths, incense, or amulets to enhance its protective and healing effects.

Folklore, Legends, and Mythology of Mallow

  • Historical Context: Mallow has been revered since ancient times for its medicinal and culinary uses. The Romans and Greeks valued it for its ability to soothe and heal, and it was often cultivated in monastery gardens for its versatile applications.

  • Folklore: In European folklore, common mallow was believed to protect against witches and evil spirits. Planting mallow around the home was thought to safeguard the household from harm. In some traditions, mallow was also used as a symbol of love and fertility, with its flowers being woven into garlands or carried to attract a romantic partner.

  • Mythology: The name “Malva” is derived from the Greek word “malakos,” meaning soft, reflecting the plant's gentle, soothing properties. In Greek mythology, mallow was associated with the goddess Demeter and was considered a sacred plant that symbolized nurturing and maternal care. The ancient Egyptians also valued mallow for its beauty and its use in rituals to honor the gods.

Historical Literary Sources

  • Dioscorides’ "De Materia Medica": Provides extensive information on the medicinal uses of mallow, highlighting its soothing properties for the skin and digestive system.

  • Pliny the Elder’s "Natural History": Discusses the various uses of mallow in Roman society, including its culinary and therapeutic applications.

  • Culpeper’s "Complete Herbal" (1653): Nicholas Culpeper praises mallow for its cooling and soothing effects, recommending it for a variety of ailments related to inflammation and irritation.


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