Marshmallow root is valued for its soothing and protecting mucilage and is used in teas, syrups, poultices, ointments and lozenges.
Althaea officinalis L.
Botanical Family: Malvaceae
Common name: marshmallow
Synonyms: althea, raiz de altea (Spanish)
The Plant: The very appearance of a blooming marshmallow plant is soothing to the soul; the grey-green leaves are softly fuzzy, and the clustered flowers are a gentle pink and white, making the bushy plant seem almost cuddly.
Marshmallows soothing mucilage is contained in the root as well as the leaves and flowers and is readily apparent when chewing the fresh foliage.
The perennial plant is about four feet tall and loves moist, rich soils (thus the name marsh-mallow or a mallow that loves the marsh). It likes full or part sun, is easy to grow, and makes a good addition to an herb garden. (If you do grow it, you can use the fresh flowers to top a salad.) This European and Western Asian native is naturalized in temperate regions of the United States. In some herbals, it's listed under the name althea.
Both the leaves and the roots of the marshmallow plant are used. The leaves have the highest levels of mucilage when harvested before flowering. The roots are harvested in the fall of their second year, when they're at their highest mucilage content. They have a dark exterior and are creamy white inside.
Constituents of Note: Marshmallow root contains 10 to 20% mucilage (leaves contain 6 to 10%).
Quality: Marshmallow roots have a faint, starchy aroma and a somewhat sweet, mucilaginous taste.
Peeled roots are white to whitish-grey, and this is the type of root we prefer when it's available. Unpeeled roots have the outer bark intact, and the marshmallow will appear both white and dark brown. Roots should also be free of dirt.
Regulatory Status: GRAS (Title 21 172.510) as a natural flavoring and Dietary Supplement
Did you know? The confection called marshmallows were originally made from marshmallow root extract, eggs and sugar, beaten to a foam and partially dried. The result, called p¦Ât¨¦ de guimauve, is similar to modern-day marshmallows, which are made by whipping together a sugar syrup and gum arabic or gelatin (to replace the marshmallow root extract).
Directions: For a tea, an infusion is made with a teaspoon of herb to one cup of cool water. The mixture is left to infuse for an hour or more.
To make marshmallow syrup, add four ounces of marshmallow root to one quart of water and simmer over low heat until the liquid is reduced by half. Then strain to remove the spent herbs. Add one cup of honey (or other sweetener if preferred) to the concentrated tea and warm together until thoroughly mixed. A couple of drops of essential oil (such as peppermint or orange) can be added to the finished syrup as flavoring. Bottle the finished syrup and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Suggested Uses: As a soothing internal botanical*, marshmallow is used in throat formulas and in herbal teas. Marshmallows demulcent action makes it a beneficial ingredient in syrups, lozenges, teas and throat sprays. Marshmallow root makes a soothing and drawing poultice or ointment.
In skin care, marshmallow is used as an emollient. It can be added to creams and lotions. The powdered root can be moistened and mixed with oatmeal, tied into a cloth and used to wash the skin.
Because it's a perennial herb and easy to grow, consider using marshmallow as a substitute for slippery elm bark. (Slippery elm harvest can damage or destroys the trees if not done correctly. Wild slippery elm, while not currently endangered, is on the United Plant Savers watch list, due to habitat loss, potential over-harvesting and susceptibility to Dutch elm disease.)
This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Caution/Safety: The Botanical Safety Handbook* classifies marshmallow as:
Class: 1 herbs which can be safely consumed when used appropriately
Per the German Commission E Monograph** for marshmallow root, there are no known contraindications, side effects or drug interactions. However, it is noted that, “The absorption of other drugs taken simultaneously may be delayed.”
*Michael McGuffin, ed., American Herbal Products Association's The Complete German Commission E Monographs, (Austin TX: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998
Origins: Marshmallow is cultivated in eastern Europe and the United States. Our certified organic marshmallow is from the United States and our non-organic comes from Poland.