Love Marshmallows…?

Marshmallows_treat

 

When most people hear marshmallow, they think of the white fluffy food treat commonly roasted at campfires. That’s right. But those spongy, oooo-ey, goo-ey, sweet treats that are an essential ingredient to s’mores and hot chocolate had their roots in the herbal world! Commercial marshmallows are different. Marshmallow, however, is a type of herb. While it’s probably not a good idea to attempt s’mores with marshmallow root, this herb has been used historically to treat sore throats and more. Marshmallow, known scientifically as Althaea officinalis, is a perennial herb native to Europe and Asia with short roundish leaves and small pale flowers. It was originally used medicinally by the Egyptians. Its usage was later adopted by the French. Today, it has a wide variety of medicinal uses.

 

Uses

Marshmallow is most commonly used to treat sore throats and dry coughs. The Marshmallow plant, especially the leaves and roots, contains polysaccharides that have antitussive, mucilaginous, and antibacterial properties. Because of this, marshmallow has a soothing effect on inflamed membranes in the mouth and throat when ingested orally, specifically a sore throat. The antitussive properties help reduce dry coughing and prevent further irritation.

More recently, marshmallow has been used to treat certain digestive disorders, including heartburn, indigestion, ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers and Chron’s disease. The mechanism by which it soothes sore throats applies to gastrointestinal mucosa as well. Regular consumption of marshmallow can help with the pain of ulcerative colitis and Chron’s, and prevent stomach ulcers from perforation. Marshmallow extract is sometimes added to creams to treat inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, and contact dermatitis. Additional uses are currently being investigated. Marshmallow may be a helpful aid to radiologic esophageal examination. There is evidence that marshmallow may also help with respiratory disorders such as asthma. Researchers may soon test marshmallow as a natural alternative to blood sugar management in diabetes.

Marshmallow root extract or powder can be used in conditioner as a hair detangler, and creams to soften skin. Marshmallow extract can also be used in bath water. The flowers and young leaves can also be eaten.

marshmallow flower

Mechanism of Action

Marshmallow works as mucilage, producing a thick sticky substance that coats membranes. Marshmallow extract contains flavonoids, which contain anti-inflammatory properties. The flavonoids are able to reduce inflammation while the mucilage holds them in place and prevents further damage. The extracts also induce phagocytosis, which is the process in which certain cells engulf bacteria, dead cell tissues or other solid particles. This helps speed up the healing process. The mucilage remains unaltered until it reaches the colon, which is why marshmallow works well on most inflammatory digestive disorders.

 

Availability and Dosage

The roots and leaves of the marshmallow are the parts most commonly used medicinally. Marshmallow can be commonly found in the form of tinctures, capsules and tea. The preferred form and dosage depends on the specific ailment being treated. Tincture is the preferred form for treatment of sore throats and dry coughs. One to two teaspoons should be taken two to three times a day. For stomach ulcers and indigestion, tea works well. Pre-made teas can be purchased or tea can be made by using two to five teaspoons of either powdered root or dried leaves and boiling them in five ounces of water. Tea containing both powdered root and dry leaves appears to be most effective. Capsules can be used for Chron’s and ulcerative colitis at a dosage of six grams a day. Marshmallow can also come commercially in ointments, creams and cough syrups, though these forms are notoriously hard to find. The more common forms can be found in most herbal supply stores and in some natural or organic grocery stores, and health food stores.

Marshmallow-Root

Overview

Marshmallow root has been used for more than 2,000 years as both a food and a medicine. The Romans, Chinese, Egyptians, and Syrians used marshmallow as a source of food, while the Arabs made poultices from its leaves and applied them to the skin to reduce inflammation. Both the root and leaves contain a gummy substance called mucilage. When mixed with water, it forms a slick gel that is used to coat the throat and stomach to reduce irritation. It is also applied topically to soothe chapped skin.

Few scientific studies have looked at the effects of marshmallow in humans. Most of its suggested uses come from a long history of use in traditional healing systems. However, one recent study confirmed that marshmallow preparations help soothe irritated mucous membranes. Marshmallow has been known for treating the follow conditions:

 

Asthma

Bronchitis

Common cold/sore throat

Cough

Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Indigestion

Stomach ulcers

Skin inflammation

 

 

Side Effects

Marshmallow is considered a very safe herb and virtually no side effects have been reported with its use. Marshmallow may, however, cause low blood sugar in some people, so those with low blood sugar should check with a physician or herbalist before using marshmallow. The tinctures are made with alcohol and sugar so diabetics, alcoholics and those with liver diseases should take marshmallow in a different form. Marshmallow is not recommended for use in pregnant or lactating women, mainly because there are no studies on short term or long term safety and effects on the fetus or baby. Due to the way marshmallow coat the stomach, it may affect absorption of other drugs. Anyone taking medications should take marshmallow either six hours before or six hours after taking other medication. ;-)