Marshmallow root or Althaea officinalis is an herb that has been used in natural medicines for ages. This is due to its ability to treat a number of issues such as indigestion, respiratory problems or skin conditions.
It is a perennial herb, perfect for gardens, that is native to Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. Marshmallow root has been used historically as a food in times of famine, where it was more prominent than most other vegetables in Europe.
It can also be found in both Greek and Roman texts, showing its medicinal purpose since ancient times. Marshmallow root is also a demulcent herb. This means that it has soothing properties that relieve inflammation. It is also peculiar with the way in which cool water brings out its medicinal properties when used in a tea, rather than hot water.
With few side effects and a whole lot of health capabilities, Althea officinalis is one of the most underrated herbs.
Its fluffy-looking white plant just so happens to be where the s’mores ingredient got its name.
Health Benefits of Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)
Between its capabilities as an herb with health benefits topically or when ingested, it is not hard to see why marshmallow root works. It has the capacity to be used medicinally or on an everyday basis.
From heartburn to a sore throat to dry skin, this root herb is extremely versatile in its healing powers. That makes it a perfect option to be added into any diet.
Its natural medicinal benefits combined with its year-round abundance means that it has to potential to be added as a staple in any household. [R]
1. Tissue Moistening and Preventative Tearing
It is widely believed by herbalists that marshmallow root is a great component of natural medicine. One such claim stems from the fact that the marshmallow root contains mucilage.
Mucilage is said to promote, in the bodily tissues, a systemic moistening. This means that it is one of the recommended remedies for an irritated bladder.
Even though the mucilage never directly touches the bladder, it softens the tissue surrounding it. [R]
2. Aiding to Decrease Heartburn
One of the reasons as to why marshmallow root is such an effective herb is because of its ability to soothe pains such as heartburn. It is one of the best natural remedies for heartburn since it works to calm the nervous system.
The soothing feature it has when the stomach lining is targeted is also beneficial. If the stomach lining is irritated, it can lead to a number of uncomfortable situations.
The herb also serves as a good digestive nervine. Most of its properties are good for symptoms relating directly to heartburn, so much so that it can serve to act as a preventative measure.
3. Sore Throat
Mucilaginous herbs such as Althea officinalis are essential for healing a sore throat. Much in the same way that milk coats the throat, an infusion of marshmallow root will serve to soothe.
The root coats any irritated mucous membranes. This means that it will not only soothe but remedy whatever problems are causing the soreness of the throat. [R]
4. Helps to Treat a Cough or a Cold
As previously mentioned, the mucilage of the marshmallow root will serve to coat any mucous membranes that have been irritated.
This is particularly helpful when hoping to treat the symptoms of a cough or of a cold. The antitussive properties of the herb can also play a large role in the healing process.
With these two properties combined, not only will it help to soothe but also to prevent symptoms.
There will be a noticeable decrease in irritation in the throat as well as a reduction in the swelling of the lymph nodes.
When used topically, Althea officinalis can be an irreplaceable component of any skincare routine.
Its emollient nature makes it so that the herb is perfect for healing and soothing dry and cracked skin. Any inflammation of the skin would also be almost immediately decreased. [R]
It is for this reason that marshmallow root is often an ingredient in commercial body butters.
6. Treats a Leaky Gut and
It is due to its high content of mucilage that the herb of marshmallow root is able to serve in such a healing process. In the process of healing of leaky gut, marshmallow root is almost always recommended. [R]
Given its ability to actually reduce any inflammation in the stomach lining, it can work wonders for leaky gut. In its reduction of inflammation, it also creates a sort of protective lining around the digestive tract.
This temporary lining can stop leaky gut as it serves as a barrier, one in which medication would be otherwise needed. [R]
7. Heals Stomach Ulcers
It is its same mucilaginous properties that serve to treat leaky gut syndrome and heartburn that aid in the treatment of stomach ulcers. [R]
By creating a protective barrier around the stomach lining, Althea officinalis can help heal stomach ulcers.
It can also soothe most pains being experienced, making it easier for a patient to cope. In addition, when marshmallow root is ingested in a tea infusion, it can act as a preventative measure.
The mucus-like lining will stop stomach ulcers from immediately appearing, as they would find it harder to make ground.
8. Antibacterial and Wound Healing
It is well-known that symptoms of an original infection such as inflammation or swelling can be aided by marshmallow root. However, the root is also known to treat a wound and actually target the bacteria to kill it. [R]
It kills the bacteria and then actually makes the patient’s healing-time less lengthy. This is best done by cream or an ointment that contains the extract of the marshmallow root.
However, when ingested, marshmallow root can also increase the secretion of urine. This means that the bacteria is more easily flushed out if the body, leaving infections less time to set in.
As previously mentioned, the herb of marshmallow root has the ability to promote urine secretion. This flushes out the body and can help to cleanse the kidneys as well as the bladder.
Another health benefit of Althea officinalis is its capacity to be a useful antioxidant.
Either through a cool tea infusion or the recommended raw ingestion, the marshmallow root can be ingested daily. This would be in order to help flush out any toxins residing in the body.
How To Use Marshmallow Root:
While the leaves and the root can be used to treat illnesses, it is not recommended. The safest and most effective way is to stick to using solely the root of the plant.
1. In a Tea Infusion
Perhaps the most common way to get your daily dose of marshmallow root is by using a tea infusion. It is a quick and effective way to get the nutrients from the powder that will ameliorate your health.
For one, drinking it steeped in cool water is best to help your immune system. To help fight off colds and a sore throat, the coating similar to artificial mucus finds its way to the glands in the throat and coats them. [R]
This soothes the pain from a sore throat. It can also help to prevent coughing fits.
Tea is also the best way to use marshmallow root when you want to flush out bacteria. It promotes urination, meaning that kidneys will be cleansed.
Also, it is the best ways to cause the bacteria to be stripped and forced through the digestive system until it leaves the body. This can also serve to prevent kidney stones, kidney infections, or urinary tract infections. [R]
While you can make the tea hot and have it have some of the same properties, it is not as beneficial. The cool water is what draws out the health properties that can cure things such as inflammation, tenderness, or burns.
To make hot marshmallow root tea, add 1 tablespoon of marshmallow root to 1/12 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, and sweeten to taste.
A tea infusion with cold water is the best and easiest way to ingest the recommended dosage of marshmallow root. Combine 1 tablespoon of marshmallow root in 1/12 cups of water and let it seep overnight. Strain and sweeten to taste.
It is easy to incorporate into the diet and is a great way to make sure that the herb’s antioxidant properties are working.
2. Topically, in a Paste
The recommended way to use Althea officinalis to heal or soothe dry skin is through a paste. Combining lemon juice and the powder from crushed marshmallow root is sure to do the trick.
This paste can be applied topically as often as wanted, though it is recommended to not exceed more than twice a day.
It does not matter if it is cracked skin from the cold weather of winter, or blistered skin from the heat of summer. If dry or irregular skin issues is the problem, this natural paste method has shown to be most effective.
While ingesting the root may help, the paste targets the affected area directly and so is a more reliable source of relief.
3. In an Ointment or Cream
One of the best and easiest ways to treat things such as burns or swelling with Althea officinalis is through natural ointments or creams.
In contrast to a paste, ointments usually contain more ingredients than just marshmallow root. These include things such as ginger root, turmeric, or honey.
When marshmallow root is used as an ingredient rather than the sole measure, it can be complemented by other herbs. These herbs will pick up the slack where the marshmallow root may have less power.
If ingredients like honey, which has natural soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, were to be added to the topical paste, then the effectiveness would increase.
4. As an Herb Cooked in Food
Many side effects of illnesses such as the common cold or the flu can be reduced with the intake and ingestion of marshmallow root.
While symptoms such as sore throats or coughs are generally better treated with a tea infusion, the herb itself works too.
The root of the herb can be used to cook with — stir-fry, a soup or stew, salads, as a spice on meat, or as an ingredient in baking. It generally serves to add a bittersweet taste.
Ingesting the root straight while cooked into food items like this is best for digestion issues. It allows the raw minerals present to better target the stomach or intestine as it passes through.
5. Ingested Raw in Food
Keeping an herb uncooked can be the perfect way to be sure to maintain all of its health benefits.
By eating it raw, you know that none of the vitamins, electrolytes, or minerals are being cooked out of it through the heat.
It is also the optimal way to ensure the functionality of the antioxidant properties of the root. The texture and the potency of the bittersweet flavor are what give the root its appeal.
The best way to ingest it raw is either by making health power shots from ginger root, marshmallow root, and orange juice.
The orange juice brings vitamin C, the ginger root is full of minerals, and the marshmallow root is a great antioxidant. The three together make for a useful morning drink.
Marshmallow Root Side Effects/Caution
For the majority of the time, marshmallow root is a very safe herb with little to no cautionary signs or side effects. With such, it should be mentioned that the ingestion of too much Althea officinalis may cause low blood sugar levels.
This means that those who suffer from regular blood sugar level issues should be careful to monitor their levels. This is especially important if someone with diabetes were to incorporate marshmallow root into their diet.
While not a whole lot of research has been done on pregnancy and marshmallow root, it is better to stay on the safe side.
With the health benefits it proclaims, the herb could be a potential threat to a pregnancy. It is best to limit use to either a small dosage or a bi-weekly intake at most. The same applies during times of breastfeeding.
Stop taking marshmallow at least 2 weeks before surgery. The health properties could lead to problems with blood clotting. This lays the groundwork for a potential to unnecessary complications.
For that reason, any person with a scheduled operation should limit their intake. The risk of bleeding may be higher both during and after the surgery would be performed.
Where to Buy:
Due to its bountiful nature, Althea officinalis can usually be bought during the entire year. A local supermarket would be the best place to find either the root itself or powder from the root.