Althaea officinalis Open-pollinated. Cousin to the hollyhock, used to soothe and soften irritated skin and membranes and to relieve stuck hacking coughs. Also mildly stimulates white blood cell production and relieves urinary tract infections and prostate problems. Harvest root of this 4–6' showy perennial in autumn of the third year. Meanwhile, enjoy the attractive flowers through the summer or eat the velvety leaves in salads. All mallows contain soothing mucilage in the root, and marshmallow has the most, so it makes a great home-garden substitute for slippery elm. For tea, steep roots in cold water for several hours rather than boiling. Plant in cool moist soil. Will self-sow. Zone 4. ~600 seeds/g. ③
About medicinal herbs: Archeological evidence dates the medicinal use of herbs back 60,000 years to the Neanderthals. 85% of the world’s population employ herbs as medicines, and 40% of pharmaceuticals in the U.S. contain plant-derived materials. Fewer than 10% of higher plant species have been investigated for their medicinal components. Interest in traditional herbal remedies continues to grow.
Statements about medicinal use of plants have not been evaluated by the FDA, and should not be used for the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any ailment. Before using or ingesting any medicinal plant, consult a healthcare practitioner familiar with botanical medicine.
Culture: Some herbs are customarily grown from divisions because they cannot come true from seed, such as scented thymes and flavored mints. Some require fall sowing of fresh seed, such as sweet cicely and angelica.
Using herbs: Drying herbs at home is not difficult. Whole leaves retain their flavor at least a year. To substitute fresh herbs for dried in cooking, use triple the dried quantity called for in a recipe.
For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.