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OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312




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Wyrtig - In early sources
Botanical illustration of Althaea officinalis; image from Wikimedia Commons

In Early Sources...






Marsh mallow
Althaea officinalis






Growing marsh mallow in your own garden

Macer Floridus De altea malva, holihocce vel uuimuaue
The tall mallow, holy hock or guimauve
Capitulare de Villis Mismalvas
Old English Herbal
of Apuleius

hibiscus ƀ is mersce mealwe
Hibiscus, that is marsh mallow

hibiscum 7 ožrum naman mersc mealwe nemnež
Hibiscus & by other names marsh mallow named


Biscupwyrt, biscopwyrte

ža bradan biscopwyrt
The broad bishopswort

Leechbook Bisceopwyrte, merscmealwan, merscmealwe

Althea is derived from the Greek word althaķnō, "to heal"; officinalis designates plants with medicinal use, and is derived from the Latin officina, originally the name for a work- or store-room in a monastery.

Mallow is derived from the Greek malake, "soft," which also gives us the name for the plant genus MalvaMersc is Old English for "marsh," where this plant often grew. Our color name, "mauve," also has its roots in the word malva. Today the French  make a lovely, marshmallow-like confection known as  Guimauve.

Hoc, Welsh for "mallow," is retained in hollyhock -- "holy hoc" -- a familiar mallow still seen in modern gardens.

The confection we call marshmallow (which no longer has any ingredients taken from the marsh mallow plant at all) had its origins as a medicine used to treat mouth and throat irritation and disorders of the GI tract.

Mallows were also used for food, eaten as greens or cooked in soups and stews. The Romans used marsh mallow root to thicken barley soup, as well as in a stuffing for roast pig.

Gif mon biŽ on węter ęlfadle

Žonne beoŽ him Ža hand nęglas wonne 7 Ža eagan tearige 7 wile locian niŽer.


do him wiŽ to lęcedome . eofortŽrote . cassuc . fone nioŽoweard . eowberige . elehtre . eolone . merscmealwan crop .

fen minte . dile . lilie . attorlaŽe . polleie . marubie . docce . ellen .
fel terre . wermod .

streawbergean leaf . consolde .


ofgeot mid ealaŽ . do halig węter

to sing wiŽ gealdor ofer Žruwa .

Se binne awrat

betest beado wręda

swa benne ne burnon ne burston

ne wundian ne weologan .

ne hoppetan ne wund waco sian .

ne dolh diopian .

ac him self healde hale węge

ne ace Že Žon ma Že

eorŽan on eare ace .


Sing Žis manegum siŽum .

eorŽe Že on bere eallum

hire mihtum 7 męgenum .

Žas galdor mon męg singan
on wunde.

Lęcboc, LXIII

Marsh mallow from an 11th century herbalIf someone has the water-elf pox,

then are the nails of his hands

dark, and the eyes tear and

will gaze downward.


Give him this as a treatment:

boarthroat (carline thistle), hassock grass, iris
root, yew berry,  lupin,

helenium, marshmallow flowers,

fen mint, dill, lily, cocks-spur grass,

pennyroyal, horehound, dock, elderberry,

centaury, wormwood,

strawberry leaf, comfrey.


Pour ale over them, give holy water,

sing this charm over them thrice:

I have wreathed

the best healing wreathes,

So sores may not burn nor burst,

Nor wound nor fester,

Nor throb nor wound awaken,

Nor infection deepen,

but himself hold healthy ways

Nor pain that then more than

earth on ear aches.


Sing this many times forcefully:

Earth bear on you with all

her might & main.

These charms one may sing
over wounds.

                             Leechbook LXIII

Mersc mealuwe 

Šeos wurt Že man hibiscum 7 oŽrum naman mersc mealwe nemneŽ biŽ cenneŽ on fuhtum
7 on feldum.


WiŽ fotadle genim Žas wyrte

Že we hibiscum nemdon

cnuca mid ealdum rysle

lege to Žam sare

Žy Žryddan dage

heo hyt gehęlŽ. Žisse wyrte onfundelnysse manega ealdras geseŽaŽ.

Herbarium Apuleii xxxix

Marsh mallow 
This plant some name hibiscus &
others name marsh mallow 
is known on wet ground 
7 in fields.

For gout, take this plant

that we call hibiscus,

pound it with old fat,

lay it on the sore

By the the third day

this will heal it. This plant

many experienced elders


                  Herbal of Apuleius 39

Vyldemalwe is clepid holy hocke, and in latin we clepen here altea, for she wexiŽ into hie3te,

and sum men clepyn here euysca, for her rote handelyd semeŽ to be moist as a maner of lyme. Some men clepin Žis Že wilde malowe.

Macer Floridus, c. 1150 CE

Wild mallow is called holy hock,

and in Latin we call her althea,

for she grows to a height,

and some people call her hibiscus,

for her root, held, seems to be

moist like a kind of plum. Some

people call this the wild mallow.

                 Macer Floridus, c. 1150 CE


Please note: Many plants have been used in past and present times for medicinal purposes, and as one of the focuses of Wyrtig is the history of gardening, these uses are discussed here. However, common sense requires that you consult your family physician or other health care provider before using any plant materials for medicinal purposes. The old saying that "A doctor who treats him- (or her-) self has a fool for a patient" is no less true in herbal medicine than in any other branch of the healing sciences. Herbal remedies should not be used by the uninformed; medical advice should be sought before using any herbal remedy.


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