Easily mistaken for : Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris) but Marsh Mallow is hoary woolly on stems and leaves, has paler flowers slightly flushed with lilac, and the outer epicalyx (sepals) which are narrow and number between 6 to 10. Marsh Mallow, in the Althea genera, is also in a differing genera to that of most other Mallows (Malva).
Marsh Mallow grows on brackish soils such as dykes, banks, drier salt-marshes and grassland by the sea. It also grows inland where it is shorter and may be mistaken for
Hollyhock (Alcea rosea).
Marsh Mallow gives its name to a sweet no longer made from the roots of Marsh Mallow when it was more abundant. It is scare now. The whole plant, but particularly the roots, contain a moist mucilageous substance, much more than does Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris) which is used to make the sweetmeal. The flowers and leaves are also edible and can be added to salads or boiled or fried.
The mucilageous substance was traditionally used to treat the mucous membranes of humans, for bronchitis, sore throats and gastric ulcers.
The plant contains a lactone,
AltheaHexacosenyl Lactone (n-hexacos-2-enyl-1,5-olide) for which the Author cannot find the structural formula.
Two steroidal compounds
Lanosterol and β-Sitosterol are found in the plant. All plant steroids are said to be derived from the steroid Cycloartenol, whilst those steroids of fungi and animamls are all derived from Lanosterol, so the Author does not know why Lanosterol is found in this plant, but there you go; apparently it is - plants are not renown for keeping to the rules. Studies on some animals have found that it can prevent or even improve cataracts in the eye.
AltheaCalamene (2β-HydroxyCalamene) is a hydroxy Calamene found in Marsh Mallow.
Calamene itself is a sesquiterpene found in
Sweet Flag Acorus calamus, hence its name.
A FATTY ACID COUMARIN GLYCOSIDE
AltheaCoumarin Glucoside (5,6-dihydroxycoumarin-5-dodecanoate-6β-D-glucopyranoside) is a substituted dihydroxycoumarin. A glycosidic group replaces one of the H groups of the OH, whilst the other is replaced by a Lauric Acid moiety.
A FATTY ACID
This C12 saturated fatty acid
Lauric Acid (aka
n-Dodecanoic Acid) is also found which smells faintly of bay oil (which is not obtained from our
Bay Tree but from
West Indian Bay Tree (Pimenta racemosa).
It is non-toxic and used in the manufacture of soaps and cosmetics by reacting it with sodium hydroxide NaOH to produce the sodium salt Sodium Laurate.
As the third fatty acid component in
Triglycerides it is found in Coconut Oil, Laurel Oil (hence the name) and very few other plants. It constitutes about 6% of human breast milk and about 3% of cow's or goat's milk. Because it has a propensity to increase high density lipoproteins (HDL - the so-called 'good' cholesterol) it can contribute to a lower risk of atherosclerosis.