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Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)
Part used and where grown: The marshmallow plant loves water and grows primarily in marshes. Originally from Europe, it now grows in the United States as well. The root and leaves are used.
In what conditions might marshmallow be supportive?
¥ common cold/sore throat
¥ Crohn's disease
¥ peptic ulcer
Historical or traditional use: Marshmallow (not to be confused with confectionery marshmallows, which are a product of the modern food industry) has long been used to treat coughs and sore throats.1 Because of its high mucilage content, this plant is soothing and healing to inflamed mucous membranes. Additionally, it was used to treat chapped skin, chilblains, and even minor wounds.
Active constituents: The active constituents in marshmallow are large carbohydrate (sugar) molecules which make up mucilage. This smooth, slippery substance can soothe and protect irritated mucous membranes. Although marshmallow has primarily been used for the respiratory and digestive tracts, its high mucilage content may also provide some relief for the urinary tract and skin.2
How much should I take? Marshmallow can be made into a hot or cold water tea. Make a tea by adding roots and/or leaves and letting it steep. Drink three to five cups a day. Herbal extracts in capsules and tablets providing 5-6 grams of marshmallow per day can also be used, or it may be taken as a tincture in the amount of 5-15 ml, three times daily.
Are there any side effects or interactions? Marshmallow is very safe. There have been extremely rare reports of allergic reactions.
1. NosalÕova G, Strapkova A, Kardosova A, et al. Antitussive action of extracts and polysaccharides of marsh mallow (Althea offcinalis L., var. robusta). Pharmazie 1992;47:224-6 [in German]. 2. Tomoda M, Shimizu N, Oshima Y, et al. Hypoglycemic activity of twenty plant mucilages and three modified products. Planta Med 1987;53:8-12.
Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.