MALVA FLOWERS ~ BLUE
In the days of antiquity all mallows were highly revered, though most authors reserved their greatest admiration for the healing virtues of Marsh Mallow. Nevertheless, other species of Mallow such as Malva sylvestris, or the closely related Malva neglecta, were also commonly used, especially among country folk, who, depending on local availability, may not have had easy access to true Marsh Mallow. Mallows are humble and gentle herbs, soothing and cooling in nature. The whole herb including roots, leaves, flowers and seeds are useful and edible and in previous times were commonly eaten as vegetables. Not everybody likes their mucilaginous texture though, when they are served as food, except when it comes in the form of Marshmallow candy. Mallow is also said to stimulate a different sort of appetite: Mallow seeds sprinkled on the private parts are supposed to enhance the sexual appetite in men, while eating the seeds is said to act as an aphrodisiac for women.
In Italy and Spain it was said 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 keeping in mind. The flowers contain a blue pigment, which was used as a natural 'blue rinse' for greying hair in the days before chemicals were commonly used in cosmetics and hair care. Mallow flowers make a lovely and colourful addition to bathwater, not only giving it a tint of pink or blue, but will also add their soothing and softening qualities for the benefit of the skin.
Mallows soothing and softening quality is due to the great quantities of mucilage contained in all parts of the plant. The flowers are particularly useful as a soothing gargle or tea for afflictions of the throat, such as hoarseness or a tickling cough. It is best to make a cold water extract though, as this preserves the soothing qualities of the mucilage compounds much better. A steam inhalation of Mallow, Elderflowers and Chamomile flowers is useful for coughs and pulmonary infections. A steam bath of Mallow flowers is also said to be useful for ear infections. A hair rinse can be prepared that not only serves as a mild dye, but also softens the hair and gives it elasticity, which is especially useful as a tonic conditioner for fragile and easily breaking hair. The rinse can also be used for skin sores, dry or hardened skin, although true Marshmallow may be even more effective in such cases. Mallow softens and moistens anything that is hard and dry.
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 can be added to incense mixtures for protection against disease, to enhance fertility and facilitate easy delivery of healthy babies.