According to my Father, malva sylvestris (common mallow) was my great-grandmother, the Strega’s, favorite herb. He fondly remembers her gathering malva.
On a recent trip to Italy, I was happy to find malva in an herb store in its dry and liquid forms. The dry was full of green freshness and has been very wonderful to drink and share with friends who equally enjoyed it. I assumed I would save it, but this herb wants to be shared and enjoys the communal setting.
My great-grandfather and many of my great-uncles died of silicosis. This is a lung disease caused by working in the granite quarries and sheds. The small particulates plant themselves inside the lungs and create tuberculosis-like symptoms. My great-grandmother may have been gathering a lot of malva to help assist them with their lung discomfort.
Malva coats linings, making it a good remedy for stomach upsets and bronchial problems. A necessary item in any healing toolkit.
The main function and concern of the Streghe was women’s medicine, which includes reproduction and prevention of pregnancy. Women once knew how to control their own fertility. Interestingly malva is used to test for fertility. This could be another reason why it was so esteemed to my great-grandmother. Among other healing properties it offers to reproductive tracts, it also helps with impotence in men and fertility in women by increasing blood flow to the reproductive areas. This would surely be very important medicine to the Streghe.
Since it helps both women and men stay “juicy,” this may also be one of the reasons it is so popularly used in witches love potions.
I’m committed to remembering the stories I have heard and searching for more information. If any of you have any stories to share about your Streghe ancestors, I would love to hear them.
~Theresa C. Dintino