Marshmallow has been used for coughs and irritated throats for thousands of years, with the oldest known recorded use dating back to the 9th Century BC! Its Latin name holds a clue into how highly regarded this plant has been - the word Althaea comes from the Greek work altho, which means “to cure”.
Marshmallow contains asparagine, a valuable amino acid, and high levels of vitamin A. Marshmallow can also potentiate the healing actions of other herbs.
Pharmaceutical anti-tussives, such as dextromethorphan - commonly found in cough medicines such as Benylin, Robitussin, and Vicks - work by affecting a signal in the brain which tells the coughing reflex to turn off. While this can help in the short-term, these medicines are not suitable for long-term use - people with chronic issues such as bronchitis, asthma, or emphysema. This is because coughing is actually a protective mechanism in the body - your body is trying to expel something that shouldn’t be in there.
Marshmallow leaf works differently because its effects are much more local. It contains high levels of mucilage, which is essentially a soothing, cooling goo that coats and protects the mucous membranes. It reduces inflammation in sore and irritated throats.
Marshmallow is an anti-tussive, so it calms the coughing reflex. This means it is not shutting off a necessary process (coughing), but is actually helping to get rid of the source of the cough - the inflammation. This soothing, anti-inflammatory action means that Marshmallow is great for chronic conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, smoker’s cough, or emphysema.
It is super effective in dry, hacking coughs, but is also great for a wet, productive cough. Whenever you can’t stop coughing, Marshmallow should be your treatment of choice.
Marshmallow is a great plant medicine for children because it is effective, soothing, and has an excellent safety record - almost 3000 years of medicinal use can’t be wrong!
Marshmallow is especially effective at beating a cold or the flu when combined with other anti-inflammatory and antibacterial herbs for sore throat, such as slippery elm and echinacea or lemon, myrrh, oregano, cypress, and frankincense as herbs or essential oils. When combined, these target the underlying cause of the sickness (including bacteria) and coat the throat to ease discomfort.
The antioxidants in the root might help prevent cancerous tumor growth, especially in the lungs. Also, the high amounts of vitamin C in the root clear mucus anywhere in the body, with more concentrated effects on the mucus in the lungs. As several reports suggest, marshmallow root tincture works wonders for the lungs. And hence, this might be a supplementary remedy for cancer. However, we recommend you speak to your doctor.
Digestive uses for marshmallow root include lowering or preventing heartburn, stomach ulcer symptoms, diarrhea and constipation. It coats the inside of the stomach and prevents acid from causing discomfort and “burning.”
Given its high mucilage content, it reduces inflammation of the stomach lining and prevents and heals stomach ulcers, heartburn, diarrhea and constipation. It creates a protective lining in the digestive tract, thereby treating leaky gut syndrome and preventing acid from causing discomfort and “burning.” Marshmallow root tincture also helps individuals suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
If you feel symptoms of tonsillitis, bronchitis, a urinary tract or respiratory infection coming on, take marshmallow root at the first sign of discomfort like swelling, burning and tenderness. It helps speed up the healing process and naturally kills bacteria that can cause various ailments.
Once ingested, it helps increase the secretion of urine, which improves the body’s ability to draw bacteria out of the urinary tract. This is the reason it’s also recommended for treating kidney stone symptoms.
Inflammation is one of the root causes of heart disease, and since marshmallow root fights inflammation, it can improve heart health. In some studies, this root had also elevated levels of good cholesterol.
Marshmallow seems to have diuretic effects and acts similar to “water pills” that are intended to lower fluid retention, edema and bloated stomach. If your diet or hormone levels (such as experiencing PMS or menopause) cause you to retain water and feel uncomfortable, marshmallow can help increase urination and balance fluids.
By helping soothe the nerve-sense system of the skin, marshmallow has anti-irritant properties and is even well-tolerated by those with allergies and hypersensitive skin. For many years, it’s provided relief from itching, swelling, redness and chaffing.
Marshmallow can be used topically on the skin to treat a number of problems: insect bites, wounds, burns, scrapes, dry/chapped skin and peeling, eczema and dermatitis. The roots and stem of the marshmallow plant secrete mucilage, which softens skin, lowers swelling and kills bacteria. That’s exactly why it’s often added to skin-care products and ointments for clearing issues like bugs, infections and wounds.
Known throughout the ancient Egyptian, Arab, Greek, and Roman cultures, this herb has been used continually for at least 2000 years. In traditional folk practices it was given to soothe and moisten mucous membranes of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts, and also as an external poultice.
However, while concoctions of all parts of the Marsh mallow plant have been used as medicine, a traditional use of the plant can be found in old recipes: Stems of marsh mallow were peeled to reveal the soft and spongy pith. This pith was boiled in sugar syrup and dried to produced a soft, chewy confection. Commercial marshmallows are a late-nineteenth-century innovation, which was a development of a well used recipe from the old days using the Marsh mallow plant itself. This plant has been used in beverages, desserts, candies, cosmetic creams, and was the "root" of the original marshmallow confectionery.
Marshmallow was once thought to have influence where affairs of the heart were concerned. A bouquet of the leaves left on the grave of a loved one was believed to ensure a safe journey to the next world, while a bunch placed on a windowsill of the home would guarantee the return of a lover gone astray.
Most of the mallows are considered edible and have been used as a food source. The Romans considered a dish of mallow a delicacy. Further, the 16th century Italian physician and botanist, Prosper Alpinus, reported that the Egyptians also ate mallow. Mallow was boiled and fried with onions and butter in the Arabic speaking countries of the middle east and Asia in times of famine or crop failure. The use of the herb spread from Greece to Arabia and India, where it became an important herb in the Ayurvedic and Unani healing tradition. In Ayurveda, the root was used to reduce vata (dry constitutional type) and increase kapha (wet constitutional type) and was considered to be energetically cold, sweet tasting, and moistening.
Common Names: Marshmallow, althea, sweet weed, mallards, guimauve, mortification plant, schloss tea, wymote, Mallow, white mallow, common marshmallow, malvavisco, hatmi, iviscus, ghasul, khitmi, khatmah, usubeni-tati-aoi
Preparation: Let 1 tablespoon of dried marshmallow root stand in 1 cup of cold water for 1 hr., stirring occasionally. Heat to a gentle boil; simmer, covered, for 10 min.
Remove from heat. Drink 2-3 cups a day after meals.
If you have bronchitis, add a touch of honey.
You can add this infusion to your bath or a foot soak to relax and give your skin a treat!
Precaution: Because it coats the lining of the stomach, marshmallow may interfere with the absorption of other drugs or herbs. For this reason, it is important to take marshmallow several hours before or after taking other herbs or medications.
FDA Disclaimer: These statements and products have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. Always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing any new exercises.
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