Althaea officinalis: Marshmallow
Marshmallow boasts many medicinal uses.
- Healing of minor wounds, cuts, burns, abrasion, rashes, bites and other skin issues
- Supports digestive health and healing from ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, inflammation of the digestive tract, IBC and stomach ache
- Relieves urinary tract inflammation (such as with urinary tract infections)
- To sooth cough and sooth sore throat
- Lubricates and reduces inflammation in joints for better mobility and reduced pain
DemulcentMost notable are its demulcent properties due to its mucilage content. A demulcent is an agent that forms a soothing film over a mucous membrane, relieving minor pain and inflammation of the membrane.
Think of the mucilage like a thick sticky, moisture-rich substance that coats membranes. If you were to soak dried marshmallow root in water it would thicken up and become sort of slimy and gooey - this is the mucilage at work.
As it coats the membranes its flavonoids and other medicinal properties get to work on reducing inflammation. Think of if you had a sore dry throat. You would want something cooling and moisturizing to coat your throat that could also provide soothing relief to heal the area, reduce the pain and inflammation and fight the illness-causing your sore throat. And that's exactly what marshmallow root does!
This effect is true for all your different membranes including the throat, lungs, stomach, and intestines. So whether you’re suffering from cough, ulcers, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, or skin, it will help to support the healing and soothing of those membranes. Meanwhile, it will work with the immune system to fight off illness and infection.
- Source of antioxidants
- Reduces oxidative stress
- Immune modulatory effects to support a healthy immune system
- Induce phagocytosis (which helps to speed the healing of tissues)
- Rich source of flavonoids
- Promotes healing of epithelial cells (skin, tissues, wounds)
- Anti-fungal and anti-yeast properties
There is evidence that certain compounds inside marshmallow (including polysaccharides and flavonoids) have anti-inflammatory effects. Some researchers suggest that one way marshmallow extract may reduce inflammation is by forming a protective layer on the lining of the throat and gut, which can shield these tissues from irritation. Other research has found that it acts on various inflammatory markers including interleukin-6, inflammatory cytokines, and TNF alpha.
This brings us to its immune-modulatory effects. Often people talk about things being anti-inflammatory or immune-boosting as if they are separate mechanisms. But actually inflammation and the immune system are part of the same system. You can read our previous article on the connection between the immune system and inflammation for more information on this topic. But essentially inflammation occurs when the immune system perceives a threat and responds by sending immune cells and blood to the area to fight off the threat. This is, of course, a simplified version of what's going on but you get the idea.
So when we talk about marshmallow root being anti-inflammatory it's no surprise that it has effects on the immune system. Its effects are immune modulating, meaning that it can help to boost a weak immune system or it can help to balance an overactive immune system.
One study interesting looked at marshmallow root's antibacterial effects. They wanted to see its potential to help fish against a type of bacterial infection common in farmed fish. The researchers wanted to find an alternative to antibiotics, as antibiotic resistance becomes more of an issue. The study found that at a high enough dose marshmallow root extract was as effective as the antibiotics. But even better, posed no threat of antibiotics resistance.
Now if you’re thinking - but hey, I am not a fish. Don’t worry, this is just one of many studies that supported marshmallow root’s antibiotic and antiviral capacity both internally and topically.
Ways to take it
Because of the diverse benefits of Marshmallow root there are many different ways you can take marshmallow and is why we’ve included it in so many of our products.
Using dried marshmallow root for loose-leaf tea is very straightforward. People can pour boiling water over the dried root before covering and steeping it for 5 to 10 minutes. It will then be ready to strain and drink.
All the benefits we’ve just mentioned are also benefits you can see when applied topically. We’ve included it in Black Ointment for its skin healing benefits. It will help to provide soothing and cooling relief to redness, irritation, cuts, scrapes, burns, bites, sore muscles and ligaments. But it will also help the cells to heal quickly, while reducing inflammation and fighting infections.
This is probably the most fun way to get in the benefits of marshmallow root, but also the most labor intensive. We don’t mind though, its a labor of love!
We love this all natural homemade marshmallow recipe by Wellness Mama.