Mallow - The Natural Skin and Hair Softener

I fell in love with this plant ages ago and feel like apologizing for not doing a post on it sooner. Mallow (INCI: Malva Sylvestris) is not only beautiful, it has some lovely (and surprising) properties that make it an ideal addition to a skin and/or hair care product.

The name derives from the Latin Malva which means soft, or capable of softening.

Where's it From

Mallow is native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Not only is it related to the Marsh Mallow plant, it also has similar properties and has, throughout history, been used where marsh mallow was otherwise unobtainable. Mallow flowers and leaves have a history of medicinal use.

Internal Uses

The young leaves of the plant are edible when boiled and have been served up as vegetables in some regions. I haven't tried eating them – mostly because I have never read any descriptions that included words like 'tasty' or 'delicious' – only words such as 'edible'.

Mallow has been more popular for medicinal uses. For example, mallow tea can be an effective help for soothing and calming dry coughs. It's natural mucilage content makes it an excellent choice for battling any kind of irritation of the mucous membranes.

I recently used dried mallow to make a tincture, and the packaging included instructions for brewing tea (along with a warning not to consume more than 3 cups a day).

What's it Got to Offer Skin

Mallow makes good on it's name by offering soothing and softening properties. Used as a poultice, it is helpful for sores, psoriasis, boils, bites, and other wounds.

Because of its natural mucilage content, mallow offers emollience as well. Dropping a few flowers into bathwater is said to provide skin softening properties (if I ever get a bathtub, this will definitely be on my 'to try' list)

In addition mallow is also mildly astringent. In short, it's an ideal addition to skin cleansers and tonics.

What's it Got to Offer Hair

Added to a rinse, mallow helps soften hair and enhance elasticity – especially useful for damaged and fragile hair. Herbalist Lesley Bremness, (author of Herbs) suggests making an infusion using mallow leaves (and/or roots). This creates a gel-like liquid that can be used straight up as a conditioning shampoo for damaged hair. Bremness maintains the same mixture will soften and soothe dry hands as well (another one for my to-do list).

Makes Grey Go Away - So They Say

The color of mallow flowers is incredibly powerful. In the old days (you know, before phones and computers), the blue pigment was used as a rinse to cover greying hairs. I haven't a clue how well it works, but could be tempted to give this a shot as I stopped coloring my hair and now have visible greys. I also happen to have a stash of dried flowers...

Mallow could be a healthy natural (blue) hair dye but be warned: this plant stains everything it touches. A single flower that meets moisture is enough to create a very visible inky-blue stain (my sink can verify this).

Photo of Mallow courtesy of Wikipedia