When you hear the word “Marshmallow”, the first thing that pops up in your head is that fluffy white puff commonly known as a sugary treat. However, the subject of our discussion will be a bit different; it will be the marshmallow plant “Althaea Officinalis”.
This plant has been used for many centuries in traditional medicine that goes back to ancient Greek and Egyptian times, and that is due to its healing power in treating inflamed or irritated tissue of the skin and gastrointestinal (GI) tract. What explains that is its demulcent properties which make it form a protective, soothing coating on irritated tissue. The most used part of this plant is the root and the leaves, generally consumed in capsule or tea form.
The healing power of marshmallow
Marshmallow is mainly known to contain a high amount of mucilage, which is a gel-like or viscous substance when it comes into contact with water. It thus creates a slippery and slimy coating that forms a protective barrier on tissues. That’s what makes this plant a good option to relieve the pain caused by the tissue inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract lining as it has been shown in many studies.
Marshmallow root and leaf are commonly used to treat Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) thanks to its mucilage, and may help relieve skin irritation as it has anti-inflammatory activity. This explains its use in creams, as it increases the speed of wound healing and reduces inflammation thanks to the antibacterial activity.
It can also be useful in treating urinary tract infections and act as a diuretic (to get rid of excess body fluid).
The marshmallow’s high mucilaginous is also useful to treat coughs and colds. A study has confirmed that the marshmallow root contained in cough syrup has shown an improvement in relieving cough due to colds or respiratory tract diseases.
Safety concerns regarding marshmallow
Generally consuming marshmallow is safe. But it’s better to avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding as it’s not yet known for sure if it is safe to consume during these periods. It may also be better for people who suffer from diabetes to avoid it, since it may lower blood sugar levels.
Marshmallow can interact with medication, as it may impair their absorption due to the high mucilage that forms a barrier, so it makes it hard for the digestive system to absorb the medicine properly. Some researchers have found that it interacts with diabetes medication. Therefore, it is generally better to avoid taking other medications within one hour of use.
Usually, this plant does not have any side effects, but it might not be tolerated by some people. At first, use a small amount and see how your body would react, then you can add more.
Note: Consume 2 to 3 times a day if it’s in tea form, and 5 to 6 g a day if it is in a capsule form.
Macerate is a herbal preparation that uses room temperature water instead of boiling water, as boiling water can destroy and diminish the content of some plants like the ones containing mucilage, unlike cold or room temperature water. Therefore, doing a macerate will help preserve the active properties of the plant.
The procedure is very simple; all you need is a dried or chopped root of marshmallow and room temperature water:
- Measure the amount of marshmallow you will need, 1 heaping tablespoon of the marshmallow roots in 8 oz (around 200 ml) of water at room temperature. You can use a tea or ball strainer and enclose the roots inside of it.
- Place the strainer in what you wish to drink from, like a cup or a mug.
- Pour room temperature water over the herb, then cover it tightly.
- Let it steep for 2 to 3 hours
- Strain off the herb
- Sip and enjoy! The remaining infusion could be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Note: People who have a weak immune system should avoid macerate preparation. The plant can contain some microorganisms that could be destroyed by hot water, but in the case of macerate, room temperature water won’t destroy them.
Marshmallow is a perfect natural alternative to treat coughs and colds, heartburn, skin troubles, and any respiratory and digestive conditions. However, marshmallow is only used for mild symptoms; in case of more severe conditions, it is always better to consult your doctor.
As for people who follow any medical treatment, they should get the approval of their doctor before consuming it in any form.