Marshmallow has been used for more than 2,000 years as both a food and a medicine. The flowers are edible and make an attractive addition to a salad. References to marshmallow root as a healing herb are found in Homer's Iliad, written over 2,800 years ago. Aristophanes spoke of eating mallow shoots instead of wheat. Followers of Pythagoras considered mallows sacred, as the flowers always turned towards the sun. Pliny said “whosoever shall take a spoonful of the Mallows shall that day be free from all diseases that may come to him.” The use of the herb spread from Greece to Arabia and India, where it became an important herb in the Ayurvedic and Unani healing traditions. The Romans, Chinese, Egyptians, and Syrians used marshmallow as a source of food. The Arabs made poultices from its leaves and applied them to the skin to reduce inflammation. The root's emulsifying property is used for cleaning Persian carpets in the Middle East. It is regarded as the best method to preserve the vibrancy of vegetable dyes used in coloring the carpet's wool.
The use of marshmallow to make a candy dates back to ancient Egypt, where the recipe called for extracting sap from the root of the plant and mixing it with nuts and honey. Candy makers in early 19th century France made the innovation of whipping up the marshmallow sap and sweetening it to make a confection similar to modern marshmallows. The modern marshmallow sweets unfortunately do not contain anything of the plant or its constituents.
The leaves, flowers, and root of marshmallow are all purported to have medicinal properties. Mucilaginous herbs are herbs that contain mucilage, a long chain of sugars (polysaccharides) that make a slippery substance when combined with water. This thick sticky sustance coats membranes and the soothing action is very helpful with any condition that is irritated or chapped and works to sooth inflamed tissues. Mucilage in plants plays a role in the storage of water and food, seed germination, and thickening membranes. Marshmallow extract contains flavanoids, which contain anti-inflammatory properties. The flavanoids are able to reduce inflammation while the mucilage holds them in place and prevents further damage. The extracts also induce phagocytosis, which is the process in which certain cells engulf bacteria, dead cell tissues or other solid particles. This helps speed up the healing process. The mucilage remains unaltered until it reaches the colon, which is why marshmallow works well on most inflammatory digestive disorders.
"The Official Healer" Marshmallow is an African plant with short roundish leaves and small pale flowers. It grows in salt marshes, in damp meadows, by the sides of ditches, by the sea and on the banks of tidal rivers. It thrives in moist, uncultivated ground. Marshmallow is found in southern and western Europe, western Asia, and the northeastern region of North America. Its fleshy, upright stems reach heights of 3 to 4 feet. The stems, which die back in the autumn, are erect and unbranched, with only a few lateral branches. The pale yellow roots are tapered, long, and thick, with a tough, yet flexible exterior. The short stemmed leaves are round, with irregularly toothed margins and 3 to 5 lobes. A soft and velvety down covers the leaves and stem. The flowers have five pale pink petals, that are in bloom during August and September and are followed by the flat, round, fruit, with seeds that ripen from August to October. The flowers are hermaphroditic (having both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees. The generic name, Althaea, is derived from the Greek "ἄλθειν" (to cure), from its healing properties. The name of the family, Malvaceae, is derived from the Greek "μαλακός" (soft; Latin "mollis"), from the special qualities of the mallows in softening and healing.
It has also been used for
reduction of high blood sugar levels in the body.
Benefits of Marshmallow for specific health conditions include the following:
Recent research shows that marshmallow increases white blood cells. Marshmallow also speeds up healing by activating the immune system, specifically by facilitating a process called phagocytosis, which removes damaged or dead cells from the body.
By helping soothe the nerve-sense system of the skin, marshmallow has anti-irritant properties and is even well-tolerated by those with allergies and hypersensitive skin. Marshmallow can be used topically on the skin to treat a number of problems: insect bites, wounds, burns, scrapes, dry/chapped skin and peeling. The roots and stem of the marshmallow plant secrete mucilage, which softens skin, lowers swelling and kills bacteria. Some evidence shows its anti-inflammatory effects are also beneficial for treating eczema and dermatitis. Polysaccharides in marshmallow roots are a type of absorbent fiber that combines with liquid to form a soft and slippery base that acts like a skin buffer, moisturizer and protective layer for ultra-sensitive skin.
One of the most famous uses of this herb was used in a “drawing paste”. When applied to a splinter, thorn or bee sting, it would draw out the offender and speed healing. If the skin is red, has a splinter/sting or irritated, you can apply crushed marshmallow to it. It is also applied topically to soothe chapped skin. Marshmallow extract is sometimes added to creams and used to treat inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema and contact dermatitis. In the past it was called mortification root because of its ability to prevent gangrene. For hair, mucilage provides the much needed slip for manageable detangling. Water enables the transport of mucilage in between the hair fibers where the slimy consistency makes the strands slippery. By getting in between the strands, mucilage temporary weakens strand cohesion. Without strand cohesion the strands glide past each other easily; allowing for easier separation and removal of shed hair. Aside from mucilage, herbs also come with a plethora of water-soluble minerals and vitamins all of which nourish the hair and sooth the scalp while detangling.A decoction of the root makes a soothing lotion for bathing inflamed eyes.In a study published in the January 2010 issue of the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology," clinicians found that marshmallow extract had a stimulating effect on cell proliferation of connective tissues and was extremely important to the tissue's regeneration. This proved that marshmallow root is effective in healing skin irritations and can speed up wound healing.Because it contains salicylic acid (the natural forerunner of synthetic aspirin), Marshmallow has been used to relieve the pain of headaches and muscle aches. Used internally and externally, the high mucilage content will also promote rapid healing of diaper rash, skin ulcers, sunburns, psoriasis, and eczema and problem skin. Ointments of the root may help in case of varicose veins.
Although althea has a broad, general application on the mucosa throughout the body, it has a specific relationship with the kidneys. It is salty and is therefore also diuretic and emollient. As an emollient it will soften and break up hard tissue (water follows salt). It has been called the ‘most diuretic of the mucilages’ and ‘the most mucilaginous of the diuretics.’ It has a soothing operation on the kidneys and bladder while at the same time increasing diuresis. The root is also said to help increase the secretion and flow of urine and is considered a good diuretic. For this reason, it can aid in the passage of kidney stones, while minimizing discomfort. Marshmallow root is also used in combination with other diuretic herbs for kidney treatments which assist in the release of gravel and stones. It works very well for urinary problems and is an essential ingredient for any kidney care formula. Herbalists frequently use marshmallow for urinary problems such as cystitis, kidney stones, and bladder infections. Besides soothing the urinary tract it is also a diuretic, which can be of further aide in many urinary problems. Although not a powerful antibiotic, it does relax the muscular wall of the bladder significantly, causing the release of bacteria that may have been pocketed in the bladder. Marshmallow is very helpful in times of burning urination, inflamed kidneys and kidney stones.
Marshmallow is traditionally used as a treatment for the irritation of mucous membranes, including use as a gargle for mouth and throat ulcers, and gastric ulcers. When mixed with water, it forms a slick gel that is used to coat the throat and stomach to reduce irritation. A study on rats concluded that an extract from the flowers has potential benefits for hyperlipidemia, gastric ulcers and platelet aggregation. The root has been used since the Middle Ages in the treatment of sore throat. Marshmallow helps to lessen heartburn and intestinal conditions, such as ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and constipation. This slimy herb helps to coat and protect irritated mucous membranes in the mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal tract. Marshmallow can be used as a suppository for hemorrhoids.Inflammatory bowel diseases (such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) The mechanism by which it soothes sore throats applies to gastrointestinal mucosa as well and regular consumption of marshmallow can help with the pain of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's, and prevent stomach ulcers from perforation. For stomach ulcers and indigestion, tea works well. Pre-made teas can be purchased or tea can be made by using two to five teaspoons of either powdered root or dried leaves and and boiling them in five ounces of water. Tea containing both powdered root and dry leaves appears to be most effective. Capsules can be used for Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. Roots may be formed into a mouthwash and used to treat inflammation. It is in this form that the roots can be extremely helpful in aiding the irritation of teething infants. The root may also be peeled fresh and given to infants to chew on. Marshmallow makes a wonderful mouth wash for painful mouth conditions. Mouth ulcers, canker sores, cuts on the inside of the cheeks, inflamed gums and even sore throats are soothed with a marshmallow rinse. Simply swish the cold infused tea around in your mouth to coat the affected tissues.
Research suggests that marshmallow is an effective way to help treat certain digestive disorders, including leaky gut syndrome, which develops when particles leak outside tiny openings in the gut lining, allowing them to enter the bloodstream where they can trigger autoimmune reactions. Marshmallow helps restore integrity of the gut lining by forming a protective layer around small junctions. In addition, it seems to be beneficial for people suffering from other forms of inflammatory bowel diseases, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
A 2011 study examined the effects of marshmallow root supplementation on blood lipid profiles and liver function over a one-month period. Researchers found that marshmallow had anti-inflammatory effects that worked against both acute and chronic inflammation, which is one of the root causes of heart disease. Plus marshmallow also showed anti-ulcer activity, anti-lipidemic abilities and resulted in an increase in HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind). When given a dosage of 50 milligrams marshmallow per kilogram of body weight, the subjects experienced significant increases in serum HDL cholesterol level with no side effects and adverse effects on liver enzymes.
Marshmallow root has a long history (dating back thousands of years) as an herbal remedy for cough, sore throat and other respiratory problems such as bronchitis and whooping cough, also known as pertussis. Marshmallow is most commonly used to ease sore throats and dry coughs. The Marshmallow plant, especially the leaves and roots, contains polysaccharides that have antitussive, mucilaginous, and antibacterial properties. Because of this, marshmallow has a soothing effect on inflamed membranes in the mouth and throat when ingested orally, specifically a sore throat. The antitussive properties help reduce dry coughing and prevent further irritation. Marshmallow may be a helpful aid to radiologic esophageal examination, preventing irritation and inflammation. Tincture is the preferred form for treatment of sore throats and dry coughs. One to two teaspoons should be taken two to three times a day. marshmallow preparations help soothe irritated mucous membranes due to Asthma
Common cold/sore throat
It is claimed to increase the flow of breast milk in nursing mothers. Combine with blessed thistle.
Marshmallow was traditionally added to formulae to ease childbirth and to enhance the production of breast milk. Marshmallow soothes sore nipples when a poultice is applied externally.
The seeds are also chewed as a nervine, stomachic and to sweeten the breath, also said to be aphrodisiac.
Heart & Circulation. an aid blood sugar management in diabetes.
Wellness & Perception. Marshmallow is a wonderful plant for the cold and flu season. It can soothe an inflamed sore throat. It stimulates phagocytosis, an important part of the immune system and it’s even used to moisten the lungs in cases of dry hot conditions, such as hot coughs with little to no expectoration. Recent scientific research has shown it to be a powerful anti-tussive herb as well. Weight loss has been promoted when taking marshmallow because it swells when mixed with fluid, prompting the stomach to have a feeling of more fullness. Its antimicrobial action has been found to be effective against E. coli, useful in gastro-enteritis and dysentery, and for treating dysbiosis (disturbance of the gut flora). Its abundance of minerals and vitamins make marshmallow a useful tonic when run down after illness, stress or surgery. It contains beta carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C. It is considered to be strengthening and rejuvenative; research has demonstrated that marshmallow has antioxidant activity, probably related to its tannin and flavonoid (kaempferol, scopoletin, quercetin) content.Marshmallow improves the functioning of the immune system, since it is known to stimulate phagocytosis, the immune process in which cells called macrophages engulf and digest infectious microorganisms that attack healthy cells and cause serious disease.
It is unique in that when making a tea with Marshmallow Root, you will want to brew it with cold water to preserve the mucilaginous properties.
Marshmallow roots are high in polysaccharides and starches. By using a cold infusion you extract mainly the mucilaginous polysaccharides. If you simmer the root you also extract the starches in the plant (which is okay; the cold infusion is considered to be a purer extract of the mucilage.)