The Globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea and allied spp.) is a riotous splash across the mesa, all scarlet and orange and pink amongst the native grasses and blue flowered Sages. Unlike the common mallows, our spp. is so hairy as to sometimes be known as Sore Eye Poppy, and if you ever drive down a dry dirt road with Globemallow growing on either side and your windows down you’ll soon be rubbing your eyes and understanding that particular common name in a very personal way. Children sometimes like to play with the pretty blooms and then accidentally rub the hairs into the eyes, causing quite the itchy, scratchy, owie kind of catastrophe.
However, outside of this strange anamoly, the Globemallow can be worked with in any way in which you would normally use a Malva spp. or good old Marshmallow. Like these other species, Globemallow makes a lovely gooey mess when pounded up. In fact, indigenous peoples once used the root goo as a kind of edible glaze on the inside of some of their earthenware. That same goo also makes a wonderful poultice for wounds, broken bones, sprains and swellings.
I do suggest that if you use any part of Globemallow medicinally besides the root, that you thoroughly strain whatever you’re making to avoid any scratchy throat moments. It’s also a traditional wash for irritated, red eyes and you definitely want to strain the wash, because the last thing you need is more itchiness in your eye. It works very well for that application though, and is especially effective when combined with Rose petals.
Essentially, much of the Mallow’s medicine has its roots in the moistening and moderately cooling qualities of the plant overall. It’s very useful here in the Southwest where everyone tends towards hot and dried out. It’s really quite lovely come a sunbaked June day at the height of fire season when there’s smoke in the air and one’s lungs feel like they’ve been sun dried. Added to a nourishing infusion of Oatstraw and Rose, it provides a moist, sweet treat for the whole body, but especially the mucus membranes.
Globemallow makes a great oil despite the fact that it may seem like its mucilagenous nature would promote mold. So far I’ve had significantly less trouble with it than say, Plantain. It’s a soothing and very healing addition to nearly any salve and is especially good at stimulating the local immune system. Poultices and washes also work nicely in a pinch.
Perhaps the most profound healing effect I’ve seen personally with the help of this plant is in cases of IBS and dyspepsia related to an irritated, imbalanced gut. Slow but sure, it can greatly restore the health of the GI in almost any situation where there’s simple constitutional dryness accompanied by chronic inflammation. It’s dependable, common and easy to use, just like all the best medicines. This is a great combo with Rose and Chamomile for many many cases of IBS.
That whimsical little painting over there on the left is by our very own lovely Loba, just this morning as a card for me. I drew her some Motherwort, Oats and Sage in return.
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore
Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest by Charles Kane
Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E Moerman