Althaea officinalis,


The root deprived of brown, corky layer and small roots, and carefully dried.

Habitat. Europe, Western and Northern Asia; naturalized in salt marshes, New England, New York, Australia; cultivated in Europe.

Syn. Marsh Mallow Root, Marsh Mallow, White Mallow, Mortification Root, Sweetweed, Wymote; Fr. Racine de Guimauve, Guimauve; Ger. Radix Althaea, Eibischwurzel, Eibisch.

Al-thse'a. L. fr. Gr.

Althaea Althaea 534

to heal, cure - i. e., its medicinal qualities


Of-fi-ci-na'lis. L. see (Asagroea) officinalis, page 102.

Plant. - Perennial herb .6-1.3 M. (2-4°) high, having several woolly stems; leaves 2.5-7.5 Cm. (1-3') long, serrate, both sides pubescent; flowers large, 2.5-5 Cm. (1-2') in diameter, purple. Root, slenderly tapering, 15-30 Cm. (6-120 long, 1-2 Cm. (2/5-4/5') thick; usually cut into small pieces, 5 Mm. (1/5') thick, whitish, longitudinally furrowed, frequently spirally twisted and covered with somewhat loosened bast-fibres (hairy); fracture fibrous (bark), short, granular (wood); internally yellowish-white; bark 1-2 Mm. (1/25-1/12) thick, porous (due to mucilage cells) and separated from slightly radiating wood by grayish cambium zone; odor slight; taste sweetish, mucilaginous. Powder, whitish; microscopically - many starch grains, .003-.02 Mm. (1/8325-1/1250') broad; sclerenchymatous fibres in groups; tracheae, few calcium oxalate rosette aggregates. Tests: 1. Macerate 1 Gm. in water 10 Ml. (Cc.) 30 minutes, stir occasionally, filter - pale yellow neutral mucilage, turning deep yellow with a few drops of potassium hydroxide T. S.; mucilage should not have a sour or ammoniacal odor. Should be kept in tightly-closed containers, adding occasionally a few drops of chloroform or carbon tetrachloride to prevent insect attack. Solvents: water (cold), dissolving asparagin, mucilage, sugar, (hot), also starch. Dose, 3ss-l (2-4 Gm.).

Adulterations. - Root: Belladonna root, when young and peeled, resembles althaea, but distinguished by absence of hair-like bast-fibres, and by possessing visible yellowish wood bundles; old dark-colored althaea roots sometimes are whitened with calcium oxide or sulphate, which subside to the bottom upon soaking in water, thereby readily being detected; root sometimes marketed cut in small cubes, rendering admixtures more likely; Powder: Starchy substances recognized by shape of starch granules.

Commercial. - Plant during first 2 years produces only a tap-root, which soon thereafter becomes tough, woody, inert, and much branched, the branches having little medicinal value; the unscraped root is yellowish-brown, non-fibrous, and should be collected from cultivated plants, peeled, and dried carefully; leaves and flowers sometimes used.

Constituents. - Asparagin (al-thein, amido-succinamic acid, aspara-mide) 1-2 p. c, Mucilage (bassorin, althaea mucilage, upon which value depends) 35 p. c, Starch 37 p. c, pectin 11 p. c, betaine, sugar 11 p. c, fat 1.25 p. c, ash 4-8 p. c. Asparagin, C4H8N2O3 + H2O. - Obtained by putting the thick, viscid mucilage of althaea into a dialyzer, with water outside; asparagin passes into the water, which upon evaporation yields the crystals. These are colorless, neutral, transparent, lustrous, sp. gr. 1.520, soluble in water (47), acids, alkalies, converted by these latter into ammonia and organic acid; therapeutically inactive. Dose, gr. 5-10 (.3-.6Gm.).

Preparations. - 1. Massa Hydrargyri, 15 p. c. 2. Piluloe Ferri

Carbonatis, 1/6 gr. (.01 Gm.). 3. Piluloe Phosphori, 1 gr. (.06 Gm.).

Unoff. Preps.: Syrup, 5 p. c, dose, 3 j-4 (4-15 Ml. (Cc.)). Decoction,

5 p. c. Ointment. Poultice. Species Althaea (Emollientes, Pectorales).

Properties. - Demulcent, emollient, protective.

Fig. 255.   Althoea officinalis.

Fig. 255. - Althoea officinalis.

Uses. - Inflammations of pulmonary, digestive, and urinary organs, mucous membranes; skin eruptions, herpes, psoriasis, enema (decoction) for vaginal and rectal irritation. In pharmacy, the powdered root being very absorbent, is used to harden pills, troches, electuaries, etc.

Althaea Althaea 536Althaea Althaea 537Fig. 256.   Althoea officinalis: 1, expanded flower; 2, vertical section of flower; 3, stamen; 4, stamen after discharge of pollen; 5, fruit; 6, outside calyx as seen from beneath.

Fig. 256. - Althoea officinalis: 1, expanded flower; 2, vertical section of flower; 3, stamen; 4, stamen after discharge of pollen; 5, fruit; 6, outside calyx as seen from beneath.

The dried leaves (althaea folia) also used medicinally.

Allied Plants: