Several species are widely grown as garden flowers, while some are invasive weeds, particularly in the Americas where they are not native.
Many species are edible as leaf vegetables and commonly foraged in the West. Known as ebegümeci in Turkish, it is used as vegetable in Turkey in various forms such as stuffing the leaves with bulgur or rice or using the boiled leaves as side dish. Malva verticillata (Chinese: ; pinyin: d?ngháncài, Korean: auk) is grown on a limited commercial scale in China; when made as a herbal infusion, it is used for its colon cleansing properties and as a weight loss supplement.
Very easily grown, short-lived perennials are often grown as ornamental plants. Mild tasting, young mallow leaves can be a substitute for lettuce, whereas older leaves are better cooked as a leafy green vegetable. The buds and flowers can be used in salads. Small fruits that grow on the plants can also be eaten raw.
Cultivation is by sowing the seeds directly outdoors in early spring. The seed is easy to collect, and they will often spread themselves by seed.
Bodos of Northeast India cultivate a subspecies of malva called lapha and use it extensively in their traditional cuisine, although its use is not much known among other people of India except in the northern Indian state of Kashmir where malva leaves are a highly cherished vegetable dish. It is called "Soachal".
Malva sp. leaves have been used in traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea or externally as baths for treatment of disorders of the skin, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract. The leaves can also be chewed to sooth coughs or sore throats.
This plant is one of the earliest cited in recorded literature. The third century BC physician Diphilus of Siphnus wrote that "[mallow] juice lubricates the windpipe, nourishes, and is easily digested."Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "Me pascunt olivae, / me cichorea levesque malvae" ("As for me, olives, endives, and mallows provide sustenance").Lord Monboddo describes his translation of an ancient epigram that demonstrates malva was planted upon the graves of the ancients, stemming from the belief that the dead could feed on such perfect plants.
^O.E.D (1989) 2nd.ed. vol.IX, p.271 col.3; P.Chantraine, Dictionnaire de la langue grecque, Klincksieck, Paris 1968, vol.2 p.662. The Italian linguist Vincenzo Cocco proposed an etymological link to Georgianmalokhi, comparing also Hebrew (malúakh) meaning "salty". Gordon Douglas Young, Mark William Chavalas, Richard E. Averbeck, Kevin L. Danti, (eds.) Crossing boundaries and linking horizons: studies in honor of Michael C. Astour on his 80th birthday, CDL Press, 1997 pp.162-3.