For many years marshmallow plant has been used to relieve coughs, sore throats, and minor wounds, as well as immune booster.
Marshmallow plant or Althaea officinalis is an upright perennial from family Malvaceae. The genus name of the plant – Althaea – comes from Greek word that means ‘associated with healing’. The name is given because of the special qualities of the Mallows to soften and heal. More names of the Marshmallow: March Mallow root, White Mallow root, Althea and Cheeses. Some others are Sweet Weed, Mallards, Mauls, Mortification plant, Mortification Koot, Guimauve (French), Schloss Tea (german), and Wymote.
The plant has a fleshy taproot. It is a perennial, thick and long, whitish-yellow outside, white and fibrous within. The stem is downy, generally die down in the autumn until the spring comes and it puts out branches again. Velvety leaves are roundish, irregularly toothed at the margin, and thick. They are soft on both sides, as have covering of stellate hairs. Marshmallow flowers are smaller than common Mallow flowers are, of a pale pink color (also paler than the Common Mallow). They are in bloom during August and September. The whole plant abounds with a mild mucilage (especially the root).
Marshmallow is a native of most countries of Europe (including central Russia south) . To be specific, it is native to Britain and occurs in most of the maritime counties in the south of England. The plant now grows in the United States (from Massachusetts to Virginia) and other countries as well.
The marshmallow plant can be found growing in salt marshes, in damp, wet meadows, by the sides of ditches, by the sea and on the banks of tidal rivers. So, it prefers moist in its growing.
It used to be cultivated always in gardens, thanks to its medicinal qualities. It raises from seed, sown in spring; needs cutting and offsets of the root.
The root and leaves of the plant are used medicinally. Flowers can also be used. The root is used to a greater extent than the leaves, as both fresh and dried leaves (that are used for the same conditions as the root) are considered to be weaker.
The whole and cut-and-sifted root and powder are available in teas (“slimy” teas), capsules, and other formulations. Marshmallow root is more popular in America, while the leaves – more in Europe. Peeled root is considered of higher quality than root with the outer bark. The root and leaves in form of the marshmallow syrups are also available.
The root as well as the leaves contain mucilage – a mucus-like substance that does not dissolve in water (mostly composed of galacturonic acid, glucuronic acid, galactose, arabinose and rhamnose). The root contains 25 – 30 percent of this substance (the leaves – only 16%). Thank to this substance the plant can swell up and become slippery when wet. It gives the root an ability to soothe irritated tissue, particularly mucous membranes, and to loosen a cough.
Other active compound in the root are different polysaccharides, L-rhamnose, D-galactose, D-galacturonic acid and D-glucuronic, as well as highly branched L-arabifurranan and trisaccharide. Also about 35 % of pectin, l-2% of asparagines, starch, oil, sugar, phosphate of lime, glutinous matter and cellulose.
Marshmallow root has the following properties:
- It is astringent – has a binding effect
- Diuretic – it increases the secretion and flow of urine
- Lithotriptic – dissolves urinary calculi (stones)
- Emollient – soothes inflamed tissue, softens and protects the skin
- Demulcent – soothes damaged or inflamed surfaces
- Mucilant – the herb protects mucous membranes and inflamed tissues
- Tonic – it nourishes and refresh the entire body
- Galactogogue – Marshmallow promotes the flow of milk in breastfeeding mothers
- Laxative – it stimulates bowel movements
- Vulnerary – gives additional help in healing of wounds by protecting against infection and stimulating cell growth
- Nutritive – assists in the process of assimilating food and nourishes the body
Its abundance of mucilage makes Marshmallow an excellent demulcent and emollient – these properties make it useful in inflammation and irritation of the alimentary canal, and of the urinary and respiratory organs. Decoctions of the plant (especially of the root) are excellent in painful complaints of the urinary organs, exerting a relaxing effect upon the passages. Powdered root boiled in milk is recommended in hemorrhage from the urinary organs and in dysentery.
The decoctions are also effective in curing bruises, sprains or any ache in the muscles, burns and inflammations. Good for any localized irritations, abscesses, different injuries. Marshmallow helps to minimize skin inflammatory processes, thus improving wound healing processes.
Boiled in wine or milk, Marshmallow will relieve diseases of the chest, it is a nice remedy for coughs, bronchitis, and whooping-cough (in the form of syrups it is available and popular in children treatment). It relieves local irritation and soothes irritated mucous membranes in sore throat accompanied by dry cough; slows down lung congestion in sore throat with dry cough, and relieve mild inflammation of the mucous membranes of the digestive tract.
Marshmallow mildly stimulates the immune system at cellular level.
Ointments of the root may help in case of varicose veins.
The usage of Marshmallow is helpful (though has not been substantiated by human pharmalogical studies) in case of asthma, Crohn’s disease, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastritis and others.
It is recommended to use Marshmallow after consulting the doctor, it is considered to be safe (there are no side effects reported), though there are cases when you cannot use this remedy. For example, if you have diabetes it may make your blood sugar falls too low, especially when combined with diabetes medication. Marshmallow may also slow the absorption of other drugs taken at the same time (the mucilage may absorb and hence reduce the action of drugs). Do not use it at all when you are pregnant or breastfeeding the baby.