The Many Benefits of Marshmallow Root
English Name: Marshmallow Root
Latin Name: Althea officinalis
What is Marshmallow Root?
Althea officinalis is a perennial plant indigenous to Europe, North Africa and western Asia, where it thrives on river banks and other areas of loose, rocky soil. It grows up to 6 feet tall and sports silver-green leaves with three serrated lobes and delicate white and purple flowers in the summer, both of which are edible. The plant has been used for medicinal purposes since at least the ancient Greeks. In fact, the word “althea” means “to heal” in Greek. Early Egyptians combined the root with honey as a palatable treatment for sore throats, and the French later adapted that recipe to include egg white meringue for a confection that became the precursor to what we know today as the marshmallow — though commercially produced marshmallow creams and candies no longer contain the herbal root1.
How does Marshmallow Root work?
The root of the marshmallow plant contains a high amount of mucilage, a thick glue-like substance that acts as a natural demulcent when consumed. That means it creates a protective layer of this gluey substance over the top of mucous membranes, soothing inflamed tissue and generally quelling inflammation. The root also contains substantial amounts of flavonoids and phenols, which are valuable micronutrients with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. With this combination of soothing and fortifying elements, marshmallow root has been used for thousands of years to treat problems associated with the upper and lower digestive tracts and the respiratory system2.
What are the benefits of Marshmallow Root?
Much of our digestive and respiratory tracts are covered in mucous membranes, a layer of tissue that secretes mucous to protect our insides from foreign substances like dust and chemicals. When a virus or bacterium attacks the body, the mucous membranes are often our first avenue of defense. The mucilage in marshmallow root fortifies these membranes and soothes their irritation from colds and infection. Ingesting marshmallow root can help soothe a dry throat, alleviate coughing and help mitigate other upper respiratory ailments. The root also helps soothe and repair the entire digestive tract, helping mitigate symptoms like upset stomach, diarrhea, heartburn and constipation3. Because of its ability to both soothe and fortify mucous membranes, marshmallow root can be an excellent aid for dogs who have swallowed a foreign object and need to pass it or who are having other minor digestive disturbances4.
Products Featuring Marshmallow Root
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The content provided is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have a health condition, please consult a medical professional and do not use this information to self-diagnose or self-treat.
1. Barron, Jon. "Marshmallow Root." Benefits & Uses | Herbal Library. Accessed November 03, 2018. https://jonbarron.org/herbal-library/herbs/marshmallow-root.
2. Cronkleton, Emily. "Marshmallow Root: Benefits, Side Effects, and More." Healthline. September 21, 2017. Accessed November 03, 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/marshmallow-root#antioxidant.
3. "Marshmallow Root." November 22, 2016. Accessed November 3, 2018. https://www.ema.europa.eu/documents/herbal-summary/marshmallow-root-summary-public_en.pdf.
4. "Digestive Disorders." Whole Pet Vet. Accessed November 03, 2018. http://www.wholepetvet.com/digestive-disorders/.
Reviewed by Master Herbalist, Mary Ellen Kosanke