The bright orange globe mallow (Sphaerelcea
spp) flowers in Arizona's deserts and forests. Globe Mallow ranges
in elevation from 3,000 to 8,000 feet. This perennial herb grows from
three inches to five feet in height. The tiny hairs on the entire plant
can be irritating to the eyes, which is how the name “sore-eye poppy”
came into use.
At Chaco Canyon, according to Dunmire and Tierney, prehistoric globe-mallow
pollen grains are more often associated with the inside of Kivas, than
with food preparation rooms. The seeds and flowers have been found in
many other archeological sites as well. Today it is still used as a medicinal
plant and for food in times of need.
The Rio Grande puebloans use the ground root to pull venom from, and to
help heal, snake bites. A tea of the leaves is used for sore throats,
diarrhea, cracked hands and boils. The Hopi use the roots as a poultice
to cast broken bones.
In my travels I have come across many
Yerbarias that use the globe-mallow
or yerba de la negrita (as it is called in Spanish) to promote hair growth.
The leaves and roots are extracted then added to shampoo or hair rinse.
It seemed to be quite a popular remedy as I found it in most of the tiendas
that I visited.
As an herbalist at the Winter Sun Trading Co., I use the dried leaves
and flowers in a hair oil to stimulate growth. The entire plant is demulcent,
therefore I recommend it for healing skin ailments, sore throats and soothing
urinary tract infections. It is quite a reliable little plant that is
utilized throughout the entire southwest.
Dunmire and Tierney, Wild Plants and Native Peoples of the Four Corners,
Museum of New Mexico Press, 1997.
Margarita Kay, Healing with Plants in the American and Mexican West, The
University of Arizona Press, 1996.
Phyllis Hogan, Interview, Arizona Ethnobotanical Research Association.