Althaea officinalis Linn

Family ► Malvaceae.

Habitat ► Native to eastern Europe; found in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

English ► Marshmallow, Hollyhock.

Unani ► Khatmi, Gul-Khairu (also equated with Althaea rosea Linn.).

Siddha/Tamil ► Shemai-tutti.

Action ► Demulcent, emollient, antitussive (used for cough, bronchitis, gastritis, enteritis and cystitis), antilithic, diuretic.

Key application ► (leaf and root) In irritation ofthe oral and pharyngeal mucosa and associated dry cough; in mild inflammation of the gastric mucosa. (German Commission E, ESCOP.) As demulcent. (The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia.) In gastroenteritis, peptic and duodenal ulceration, common and ulcerative colitis. (The British Herbal Compendium.) Topically for varicose veins, skin ulcers, abscesses, cuts, burns.

Althaea rosea (L.) Cav., synonym Al-cea rosea L., Hollyhock flower, is used as mucilage for prophylaxis and therapy of diseases and discomforts of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract and for urinary complaints. (It is included among unapproved herbs by German Commission E.)

The root contains starch, mucilage, pectin, flavonoids, phenolic acids, sucrose, tannins and asparagines. Mucilage (18-35%) consists of a number of polysaccharides. Flavonoids include kaempferol, quercetin and diosmetin glucosides. Polyphenolic acids include syringic, caffeic, salcyclic, vanillic and p-coumaric acids.

The mucilages have proven biological activity including stimulation of phagocytosis in vitro.

The root counters excess stomach acid, peptic ulceration and gastritis.

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