Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)
useful for belly pain, bladder pain, dry cough, and lactation
If you are addicted to using the fluorescent pink tummy coolant to manage your belly pain, this herb is for you. Using marshmallow root in place of Peptol-bismol will do more for you than simply alleviate your tummy ache. Marshmallow brings healing to all tissues it touches, so much so, that it can also be used externally to heal burns and wounds. Because marshmallow slimes up tissues to heal them, it works at treating the cause of your ailments — something the fluroescent pink tummy coolant may not be able to deliver. Don’t trust me? Just check out the Greek root of the plant’s generic name (Althaea). It means “to cure”.
When marshmallow root is properly prepared as a cold infusion, it looks like goo. Marshmallow’s latin name is Althaea officinalis, and it is known as a demulcent in herbal medicine. Demulcent herbs are rich in complex carbohydrates, otherwise known as mucopolysaccharides, which are best extracted in cold water. I used a big word on you there, but when you hear mucopolysaccharides, think mucous. A cold infusion of marshmallow root will not only look mucousy due to its mucopolysaccharide content, but it will have this type of effect on the body. Although marshmallow root is a pro at sliming up the digestive tract with healing goo, it can also have this effect in the lungs and urinary tract. I like to think of marshmallow as being able to cool down tissue that’s hot and irritated, especially in the gastrointestinal tract.
Oh, and yes, this plant is the origin of your modern day marshmallow. Too bad our current Jet-Puffed mallows are not medicinal…
The Ultimate Belly Soother
Marshmallow root can be a food allergy foodie’s best friend. When you are allergic to hemp and you have a gazillion other food allergies, but you just want to sneak it into your smoothie in hopes that there will be no pain but there ends up being lots, marshmallow will come to the rescue! Marshmallow root works great for esophagitis from eating too much crystallized ginger, acid reflux symptom relief (doesn’t necessarily treat the cause), stomach ulcers, celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis. While it is not really an anti-diarrheal herb, it can ease the intestinal pain and bowel inflammation that can occur from diarrhea.
Supports Respiratory Health
When it comes to respiratory ailments, marshmallow leaves are used more frequently than the root. The mucilage content of marshmallow especially comes in handy for a dry, irritated cough. Through a neurological reflex, marshmallow can trigger mucous production in the respiratory tract, which is what can help to heal inflamed tissue.
Urinary Tract Ally
Although marshmallow’s primary affinity is for the gastrointestinal tract, it also has some partnership with the urinary system through the same neurological reflex arc mentioned above. Althaea officinalis root can stimulate mucous production in the urinary tract, which can really soothe urinary tract pain. It can mitigate urinary tract inflammation caused by interstitial cystitis or a urinary tract infection.
For Post Partum Moms
Marshmallow root can be used in a sitz bath to promote external healing of tissues after childbirth. It can also be taken as a tea to prevent clogged ducts in lactation.
Side Effects & Safety
Marshmallow should be taken alone, away from other drugs or herbs because it has the potential to interfere with their absorption. It is super safe, even for pregnancy, nursing moms, and babies.
If you would like to start taking marshmallow, please consult your naturopathic doctor. A licensed healthcare practitioner can tailor the dose according to your needs.
1. Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press, 2003.
2. Yarnell, Eric. Natural Approach to Gastroenterology. Healing Mountain Publishing, 2011.
3. Kingsbury, Sheila. The Practitioner’s Guide to Lactation Management. Summer 2011.
Enjoy More Archerfriendliness
If I snoozed in my movie theater seat during the premiere of the first Harry Potter movie, you can imagine how short my attention span must be when it comes to "learning" videos. It's difficult for me...
When I started naturopathic medical school at Bastyr University, one thing I knew for sure, with full confidence, was that I did not want to do pediatrics. I had zero interest in pediatrics and di...
Whenever I work on these herb of the month articles, I end up all googly eyed over the particular herb. This month, I'm swooning for blue flag, known botanically by it's beautiful latin name,...
August 8th, 2012 at 10:48 am
Love it. Guess the marshmellows I have for roasting will not be effective….will try the root!
August 8th, 2012 at 10:56 am
I tried to grow that and I believe it is a perennial but it did not come back the 2nd year! But I did hear great things about it before! I have been sticking to the jet puff weekly! HAHA
August 9th, 2012 at 1:07 pm
Can I get this at the store? Would I just mix it with cold water and eat it, in order to feel better if I have a stomach ache?
August 10th, 2012 at 9:27 pm
Hi Raquel! Yes, you should be able to get it at stores that carry bulk herbs. There are also herb stores in Seattle that sell it in bulk. I have a recipe coming soon for making your own!
March 5th, 2014 at 8:18 am
How do I process this to make an elixir for respiratory issues? I want to try this on my husband :)
November 11th, 2018 at 8:09 am
To make marshmallow root tea do you just boil water and add the dry leaves to the hot water and steep for 10 minutes my daughter has IC, and we’re just learning how to start healing her.