Learn 5 ways to use hollyhocks – a lovely old-fashioned garden flower that’s completely edible and non-toxic!
Many people don’t realize that the common garden flower, Hollyhock, is completely edible – root, leaves and blossoms – and useful for more than just its charming looks.
Hollyhock is related to Marshmallow and can sometimes be used as a milder substitute for that herb; a primary exception being that Hollyhocks have woodier and tougher roots, and are less palatable for eating purposes than Marshmallow’s softer roots.
One thing to remember about this plant is that high heat and alcohol can denature some of the healing properties, so, for the most part, avoid those two methods of preparing or preserving Hollyhock when using for medicinal purposes.
Some uses for Hollyhocks include:
1. Hollyhock Cold Infusion
Taken internally, Hollyhock is soothing to the gastrointestinal, respiratory and urinary tracts in the human body. When you have a sore throat and it’s hard to swallow, try a cold infusion of Hollyhock. (For a persistent sore throat that isn’t helped by common home remedies, be sure to check with your health care provider.)
To make, simply gather a handful of fresh flowers (you can use dried also) and fill the center of a square of cheesecloth. Wrap the sides up to form a crude tea bag of sorts and tie with baking string, or in a pinch, I’ve used unwaxed dental floss. Drape the string over the edge and use the lid to hold it in place. You want to keep it submerged near the top of the water. Leave in place in the refrigerator overnight, then remove the makeshift bag. Refrigerate the resulting infusion and use within one to two days.
You can also use this cold infusion to replace the water amount in soothing soap recipes. (See below.)
2. Hollyhock Split-End Cream
While a trim is the only sure fire way to get rid of split ends, this hair cream can help out between hair cut appointments.
To make this, you’ll need:
- 2 tbsp (28 g) argan oil
- 1 tbsp (1 g) crushed dried hollyhock flowers or leaves
- 1 tbsp (14 g) shea butter
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) aloe vera gel
- 2 to 3 drops of your favorite essential oil
- preservative of choice (see note below)
Directions to make:
Infuse the argan oil with hollyhocks. (If you’ve never infused oil before, use the same method as for making plantain infused oil as written in my article about 10 Things to Make with Plantain.)
In a small jar, melt the shea butter by placing the jar into a small saucepan of hot water. Once melted, combine it with the hollyhock infused oil.
Place the oil and butter mixture in the refrigerator for around 30 minutes, or until it starts to firm up. Using a fork, stir well.
Add the aloe vera gel, preservative, and essential oil, if using. Stir the mixture vigorously for a couple of minutes, until it turns opaque and creamy.
Set the mixture aside to cool for about 5 minutes, then stir thoroughly once more with a fork. You should now have a thickened cream.
Dab a very small amount on your fingertips. Working with one section at a time, lightly rub the cream just into the ends of your hair. Go light on amount used – a little bit will go a long way!
My favorite natural preservative changes over time, so I tend to vary which one I use. Currently, I would recommend using 2 grams of Phytocide Elderberry OS (oil soluble natural preservative), but mixing it in with the melted butter and oils, right before refrigerating. (I determined that amount by deciding on a 3.5% usage rate for this batch, which is 60 grams.)
If you wanted to use a water soluble preservative, such as Leucidal SF Max (natural) or Optiphen Plus (not natural, but paraben-free and formaldehyde-free), add it with the aloe. (You would use 2 grams Leucidal SF Max, or 0.6 g Optiphen Plus.)
3. An Old-Fashioned Hollyhock Doll
This is not an herbal use, but a fun thing to show the kids!
To make, find a small bud and carefully peel away the green underside. You will reveal a tiny “face” with eyes; this will be the head of your doll.
Take a fully opened flower, turn upside down and secure the head to it with a toothpick. Now your doll has a beautiful dress with a full ruffled skirt!
Add additional toothpick halves for the arms.
This simple dolly is completely non-toxic so can even be used to decorate food and drink, as long as you are sure the child is old enough to be careful with the toothpicks.
4. Hollyhock Soap
You probably knew this one was coming! :)
I tend to turn every beneficial thing growing around here into a soap, Hollyhock being no exception!
For a recipe on my site, I used a cold infusion of Hollyhock for the water part of my recipe and added a tiny pinch of rose clay for color – an easy way to personalize your favorite basic soap recipe. Click here for that recipe!
5. Butterfly Host Plant
Hollyhocks are so easy to grow and so pretty to look at, why not try your hand at growing (and using!) some this year?
Mine were handed down to me by my mother, but a great place for pure, untreated, heirloom seeds is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
They’re very drought resistant and do well in poor, hard soils – which is a bonus for me, because as a general rule, the dirt around here is pretty much red clay. Not only do my Hollyhocks come back year after year, they have thrived in a section of my yard that contains such hard dirt, I have to enlist the help of my husband’s muscles just to dig in the area.
These are fun for kids to grow too; a special bonus being that Hollyhocks are a preferred host for Painted Lady Butterflies. We definitely want to help butterflies and pollinators out as much as we can these days!
I hope this post has not just opened your eyes to some lesser known uses of Hollyhock, but also will encourage you to look around and find the hidden treasures in everything growing around you.
A little research and a bit of experimentation and you never know what amazing thing you will find out next!