Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) in Marysville
08 Aug 2012

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) in Marysville

If you are addicted to using the

08 Aug 2012

marshmallow root herb of the month

herb of the month

If you are addicted to using the fluorescent pink tummy coolant to manage your belly pain, this herb is for you. Using marshmallow root in place of Peptol-bismol will do more for you than simply alleviate your tummy ache. Marshmallow brings healing to all tissues it touches, so much so, that it can also be used externally to heal burns and wounds.  Because marshmallow slimes up tissues to heal them, it works at treating the cause of your ailments — something the fluroescent pink tummy coolant may not be able to deliver. Don’t trust me?  Just check out the Greek root of the plant’s generic name (Althaea).  It means “to cure”.

When marshmallow root is properly prepared as a cold infusion, it looks like goo.  Marshmallow’s latin name is Althaea officinalis, and it is known as a demulcent in herbal medicine.  Demulcent herbs are rich in complex carbohydrates, otherwise known as mucopolysaccharides, which are best extracted in cold water.  I used a big word on you there, but when you hear mucopolysaccharides, think mucous.  A cold infusion of marshmallow root will not only look mucousy due to its mucopolysaccharide content, but it will have this type of effect on the body.  Although marshmallow root is a pro at sliming up the digestive tract with healing goo, it can also have this effect in the lungs and urinary tract.  I like to think of marshmallow as being able to cool down tissue that’s hot and irritated, especially in the gastrointestinal tract.

Oh, and yes, this plant is the origin of your modern day marshmallow.  Too bad our current Jet-Puffed mallows are not medicinal…

The Ultimate Belly Soother

Marshmallow root can be a food allergy foodie’s best friend.  When you are allergic to hemp and you have a gazillion other food allergies, but you just want to sneak it into your smoothie in hopes that there will be no pain but there ends up being lots, marshmallow will come to the rescue! Marshmallow root works great for esophagitis from eating too much crystallized ginger, acid reflux symptom relief (doesn’t necessarily treat the cause), stomach ulcers, celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis.  While it is not really an anti-diarrheal herb, it can ease the intestinal pain and bowel inflammation that can occur from diarrhea.

Supports Respiratory Health

When it comes to respiratory ailments, marshmallow leaves are used more frequently than the root.  The mucilage content of marshmallow especially comes in handy for a dry, irritated cough. Through a neurological reflex, marshmallow can trigger mucous production in the respiratory tract, which is what can help to heal inflamed tissue.

Urinary Tract Ally

Although marshmallow’s primary affinity is for the gastrointestinal tract, it also has some partnership with the urinary system through the same neurological reflex arc mentioned above.  Althaea officinalis root can stimulate mucous production in the urinary tract, which can really soothe urinary tract pain.  It can mitigate urinary tract inflammation caused by interstitial cystitis or a urinary tract infection.

For Post Partum Moms

Marshmallow root can be used in a sitz bath to promote external healing of tissues after childbirth. It can also be taken as a tea to prevent clogged ducts in lactation.

Side Effects & Safety

Marshmallow should be taken alone, away from other drugs or herbs because it has the potential to interfere with their absorption.  It is super safe, even for pregnancy, nursing moms, and babies.

If you would like to start taking marshmallow, please consult your naturopathic doctor.  A licensed healthcare practitioner can tailor the dose according to your needs. 

1.  Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press, 2003.
2.  Yarnell, Eric.  Natural Approach to Gastroenterology.  Healing Mountain Publishing, 2011.
3.  Kingsbury, Sheila.   The Practitioner’s Guide to Lactation Management.  Summer 2011.

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