As a person with Celiac disease, I often suffer from digestive issues caused by foods that irritate my already sensitive and damaged gut mucosa. When I eat anything with gluten, or more irritatingly, foods withgluten cross-reactive proteins, which can be anything from eggs to most grains, some legumes, chocolate, and coffee, I become ill. When my digestive system is unhappy, my mood instantly takes a spiral. (Did you know that your gut health could have a significant impact on your mental health? There is some fascinating research coming out about this.) When my stomach is aching, I turn to my soothing, cooling, coating, and healing demulcent herbs. Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) and common mallow (Malva neglecta) are two go-to herbs for such ailments.
I first met mallow when trying to resolve my irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, before I found out that I had Celiac disease. It was one of the few herbs that, when combined with peppermint, could either calm down my intestines when things were moving too quickly, or moisten things up and get them moving again when things were too slow. Once I figured out the Celiac aspect of my bowel issues, and went on a gut-healing diet, I need mallow much less, but it is still an essential first aid for the digestive system, which I don’t travel without.
Mallow isn’t only great for digestive issues, though: It is an herbal ally for any dry, hot, irritated conditions that can use a nice mucilaginous, coating, cooling, healing hug. In this issue, you will find we are mostly talking about marshmallow, which is easiest to find in herb shops, but know that many of the Malvaceae family have similar properties. I will be discussing in particular my friend Malva neglecta, common mallow, because it has many of the same uses as marshmallow, and it’s a weed in most people’s yards! Y ou know how much I love weeds.
So, sit back, relax, drink a cup of demulcent goo, and enjoy our friend mallow.