Also known as Althea officinalis.
Marshmallow is a member of the mallow family and is native to Europe and western Asia. It can also be found in North America, particularly in salt marshes along the eastern seaboard. In addition to its root, marshmallow's velvety leaves and pale pink or white flowers are also used medicinally.
Since ancient times, Europeans have relied on the root of the marshmallow plant as a cough and sore throat remedy. ‘Althea’ in the herb's botanical name comes from the Greek word for ‘heal’ or ‘cure’, and the plant's common name – marshmallow - comes from the habitat that it favours: marshes and other damp environments.
Marshmallow has nothing to do with the modern fluffy confection forms commonly sold today, but in ancient times, the boiled roots were used to make marshmallows, which were served as a vegetable, and were considered a great delicacy among the Romans. Marshmallow was also once a main ingredient in French confectionary.
Historically, parts of the marshmallow plant were once used to fill hungry stomachs during famines, and in 19th-century America, children with sore throats were given a hardened disk made of whipped marshmallow root juices, sugar, and egg whites to suck on as a remedy.
Marshmallow contains rich stores of various vitamins and minerals, including important immune-system boosters such as vitamins A and C.
The key ingredient in marshmallow root and leaf is mucilage, a substance that becomes gel-like when combined with a liquid. This quality has been put to good use, both in internal and external forms, to soothe and protect inflamed mucous membranes and other tissues. Cooled marshmallow root tea can be used to soothe inflamed skin or mouth irritations; it can also be used as a gargle. A compress, poultice, or paste made from the root works well as an emollient for skin irritations and wounds.
Specifically, marshmallow may help to;
Lessen heartburn and intestinal conditions, such as ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and constipation; the gel-like consistency when wet makes it particularly valuable for coating and protecting irritated mucous membranes in the mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal tract. British health authorities even consider marshmallow root preparations safe and effective for soothing ulcers along the digestive tract
Cleanse and detoxify impurities from wounds, and help heal open wounds
Assist the function of the lungs and respiratory tract, and help asthma
Help treat kidney, urinary and bladder problems, including kidney stones
Treat bronchial infections, whooping cough and pneumonia
Increase and enrich breast milk
Help treat nervous conditions