The marshmallow plant or Althaea officinalis is native to the regions of Europe and Africa. More commonly, the plant thrives in wet or damp areas like marshes and meadows. It is a member of the genus, Althaea and the family, Malvaceae .
This plant is mainly known for its medicinal uses. The roots, leaves, as well as the flowers of this plant have been used for treating various diseases for a long time. Usually, marshmallow tea is prepared by steeping about 1 to 2 teaspoon of dried root of the plant in a cup of boiled water. The tea is strained after allowing it to steep for about half an hour. You can slightly warm the tea again to use it for gargling, or as a wash for minor cuts and burns. You can also drink it to get relief from stomach problems.
The root of this plant contains many essential vitamins, along with some active compounds like pectin, soluble fiber, and mucilage. The herb owns most of its therapeutic properties to these nutrients and compounds.
In herbal medicine, the marshmallow root has been used for a plethora of health conditions, including mouth and throat ulcers, respiratory disorders, sore throat, and digestive ailments. The following are some of the noteworthy benefits of this herb and its roots.
- It is used to alleviate some common digestive ailments like diarrhea, indigestion, peptic ulcers, and heartburn or acid reflux disease, and inflammatory conditions like Crohn's disease, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. The root of this herb contains pectin and soluble fiber, both of which are known to be beneficial for the digestive system.
- The compound mucilage, found in the root can soothe the mucous membrane of the body, and help expel excess mucus. For this reason, it has been an age-old remedy for conditions like cough, whooping cough, and laryngitis. It can provide relief in asthma as well.
- It also contains salicylic acid, which can help reduce pain, especially headaches and muscle pain.
- Marshmallow swells up when it is mixed with a fluid, due to which it can give a feeling of fullness when taken internally. This in turn, can reduce the frequent cravings for food.
- This herb possesses diuretic properties, and so it can increase the flow of urine. In other words, it can help excrete the excess fluid from the body.
- Its root can be used for bladder infections, kidney stones, cystitis, and the inflammation of the urethra. This herb can soothe the urinary tract and improve the functions of the kidneys.
- The external or topical use of the root in the form of a poultice can provide relief in skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, diaper rash, skin dryness, and minor cuts and wounds. It can soothe the skin, and reduce irritation and inflammation.
So far, this herb and its preparations have not been found to cause any serious side effects. This herb has also not been found to interact with any drugs. But it is presumed that its herbal extract can lower the absorption of medications and supplements, as it contains certain compounds that coat the lining of the digestive tract. To overcome this problem, marshmallow needs to be taken a few hours before and after taking any kind of medications. Its extract may lower the level of blood sugar. So people taking blood sugar lowering medications should always consult their physicians before taking this herbal extract.
This herb can lower the amount of stomach acid, which can have an adverse effect on digestion, especially if you are suffering from a condition, known as hypochlorhydria. This medical condition is characterized by the production of low or no gastric acid in the stomach. Some people can also experience an allergic reaction after taking this herbal medicine. Such a reaction is quite rare, but if it occurs, one can experience itching, hives or skin rash, unusual swelling, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath. Usually, people allergic to any plants of the Malvaceae family like cotton, hibiscus, and okra, are at a greater risk of developing an allergic reaction to this herb.
To sum up, marshmallow and its roots are beneficial for a number of health conditions, right from localized skin infections like boils, burns, and sores, to inflammatory skin conditions, respiratory problems, and digestive ailments. However, it is always advisable to consult your physician or a health care provider before taking any herbs or herbal supplements. This will help you know more about the possible side effects, drug interactions, and various other aspects of the herb.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.