HERBS TO LIVE BY… Marshmallow

COMMON NAME: Marshmallow; Althea

LATIN NAME: Althaea officinalis

PLANT PART USED: Root & Leaf

ENERGETICS: Moistening & Cooling

TASTE: Sweet & a bit Salty

PRIMARY ACTIONS: Anti-putrefacient, Demulcent, Emollient, Vulnerary

SECONDARY ACTIONS: Diuretic

ABOUT: Marshmallow is an often-underestimated herb that is very gentle and soothing for internal or external use. Its anti-inflammatory benefits are well-known and lend support to the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts (including the skin). As its properties are soothing and moistening, it is best used for conditions that are dry, hot and inflamed.

Dr. Christopher, the renowned herbalist, was unique among herbalists in that he successfully used external marshmallow fomentations and soaks to treat gangrene. He also recommended the person take marshmallow decoction internally.

INDICATIONS / SYMPTOMS:

Internal: Asthma, Bronchitis, Colitis, Crohn’s/Ulcerative Colitis, Cystitis, Dry Coughs/Mouth, Gastritis, GERD, IBS, Indigestion, Inflammation (throughout the body), Hyperacidity, Kidney Irritation and Pain (including Stones), Leaky Gut, Peptic Ulcers, Skin Inflammation, Sore Throat, and Pharyngitis.

External: Bruises Burns, Skin Irritations and those of the Rectum, Vagina and Perineum, and Mastitis. Marshmallow is a “draw”-er., Poultices can be used in the case of abscesses, boils, poisons, swollen tissue and tumors to draw substances to the surface of the skin.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Avoid taking Marshmallow with other herbs or medications as the mucilage coats and may impair absorption. It is possible that Marshmallow root may lessen the need for drugs to lower blood sugar. There are no current significant studies regarding the use of marshmallow root in pregnancy and lactation. However, this herb has been used by pregnant women for thousands of years of folk medicine and is generally considered safe when used in moderation.

­­­PREPARATION / DOSAGE: Consider marshmallow root a “tea herb” as its mucilage is best extracted in water. There is more mucilage found in the root than the leaf of the marshmallow plant. Cold or hot infusions can be taken three times per day, or more often for acute symptoms. They can be further sweetened with stevia or honey, if desired.

Hot Infusion: Infuse 1 TBSP of chopped/shredded root per 1.5 C water and simmer for 20 minutes.

Cold Infusion: Place 4 TBSPS of chopped/shredded root in 1 quart of cold water for 8 hours or overnight.

Poultice: The leaves work well for topical poultices to reduce inflammation, irritation, insect bites, eczema/dermatitis, burns, wounds and chapped skin. 

FOOD: Euell Gibbons, author of Stalking the Wild Asparagus and Stalking the Healthful Herbs, writes about boiling and then frying marshmallow roots with butter and onions.  He also noted the usefulness of the mucilage that remained after the boil as a vegetarian egg white replacement when it was whipped to a froth.

The tender spring greens (tops and leaves) can be eaten in salads and benefit by stimulating the kidneys.

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