The Physiomedical Dispensatory by William Cook, M.D., 1869    



Description:  Natural Order, Malvaceae. Genus ALTHEA:  Calyx surrounded at base by a six to nine-cleft involucel; styles numerous, with linear stigmas; carpels numerous, one-seeded, indehiscent; arranged circularly. A. OFFICINALIS :  Stem three feet height, erect, covered with thick and stellate wool. Leaves alternate, velvet-like on both sides, cordate-ovate, somewhat three- lobed, dentate. Flowers axillary and terminal, on short peduncles, large, pale-purple, appearing in September.

This plant is native to the salt marshes of Europe, but has been introduced to some of the marshes of America. The root is the officinal part, and our supply is obtained from Europe. It appears in market in pieces varying from three to seven inches long, and as large around as one’s finger; white, downy, and tough. The leaves and flowers possess properties similar to those of the root. (See Hibiscus Moschatus. )

Properties and Uses:  The root contains large quantities of pure mucilage, which is agreeable to the taste and soothing to all mucous membranes. A decoction is useful in irritable coughs arising from acute bronchitis, pneumonia, and pleurisy; also in acute dysentery and gonorrhea, and inflammation or catarrh of the bladder. Probably it is diuretic to a moderate extent, as most mucilages are; at least it exerts all excellent soothing influence in all irritations of the kidneys and water passages, and in scalding urine.  It is always given in decoction or infusion; and appropriate medicaments of a more permanent character are generally combined with it. An infusion may be used as an adjunctive wash in acute ophthalmia, and pruritis. Externally, the crushed root, boiled in milk, forms an admirable body for poultices in irritable swellings and sores, and in bruises, scalds, and burns. The dust has been used as an absorbent in making pills.

A decoction, made by simmering an ounce of the root in a pint of water, may be given in doses of one or two fluid ounces as; often as desired. A sirup may be made by macerating an ounce and a half of the roots in a pint of water for twelve hours, and adding two pounds of sugar to the strained liquor. It soon ferments, and is good only in temporary prescriptions. It is an elegant demulcent for coughs; and if one-half of an ounce of lobelia herb be used in making this sirup, the practitioner will have an excellent preparation for all bronchial irritations. The antispasmodic action would be heightened, and the sirup preserved, by adding to the pint of this two ounces of tincture of cimicifuga.

 Medical Herbalism journal and