Chinese Mallow

Chinese mallow, also known as cluster mallow, is an annual herb from the Malvaceae family. It belongs to the Malva, or mallow, genus and known scientifically as Malva verticillate. Chinese mallow is related to hibiscus and marshmallow plants, and is similarly beneficial for the body.

History of Chinese mallow

Chinese mallow has been in cultivation for more than 2,000 years. In pre-Han China, it was considered an important herb or leaf vegetable. The ancient Chinese medical text, Huangdi Neijing, names Chinese mallow as one of the five consumable herbs. The other four named herbs are pea leaves, long-stamen chive, spring onion, and garlic chives. Until the Northern Wei dynasty, Chinese mallow was considered to be an important vegetable and was widely domesticated and cultivated. In the Chinese text, Nong Shu (Agricultural Manual), Chinese mallow was said to be important amongst other vegetables due to its ability to be an “alternative in years of crop failure, or be marinated to serve with staples”.

How to use Chinese mallow

Chinese mallow is often compared to spinach. This is mainly because it is a leafy vegetable that is quick and easy to cook. It’s also full of nutrition. The leaves of Chinese mallow can be eaten when they are about the size of your hand. Young shoots and stems can also be eaten, and all parts of the Chinese mallow are popular in soups, boiled, steamed, or even fried in a tempura batter. Chinese mallow flowers and young leaves can be eaten in raw in salads or added to sandwiches. The flavour is rich and not too dissimilar to spinach, and leaves give a mild fragrance to salad. Chinese mallow seeds can also be consumed, which have a delicate nutty flavour. Chinese mallow can also be steeped in hot water and drunk as a tea.

Health benefits of Chinese mallow

The seed of Chinese mallow has been used in medicine for hundreds of years. The benefits of Chinese mallow as a medicine include:

  • Laxative: Helping to relieve constipation,
  • Diuretic: Reducing water retention and increasing the production of urine,
  • Galactagogue: Helping to initiate the flow of breast milk,
  • Anti-inflammatory: Useful in skin disorders and other inflammation,
  • Respiratory: Helps to relieve dry coughs and sore throats.

Chinese mallow is also used to repair kidney function. The polysaccharide content can be used to stimulate white blood cells in the body, as well as helping to reduce irritation and inflammation. The plant is also said to lower blood sugar.

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