Marshmallow (Althaea)

Marshmallow Benefits

When most people hear marshmallow, they think of the white fluffy food treat commonly roasted at campfires. Marshmallow, however, is also a type of herb. Marshmallow, known scientifically as Althaea officinalis, is an African plant 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.


Marshmallow is most commonly used to ease 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 Crohn's disease. The mechanism by which it soothes sore throats applies to gastrointestinal mucosa as well and regular consumption of marshmallow can help with the pain of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's, and prevent stomach ulcers from perforation. Marshmallow extract is sometimes added to creams and used 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 tentative 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.

Mechanism of Action

Marshmallow works as a mucilage, producing a thick sticky substance that coats membranes. Marshmallow extract contains flavanoids, which contain anti-inflammatory properties. The flavanoids 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.

Marshmallow also contains Asparagine, which is a naturally occurring amino acid. It is not an Essential amino acid as it can be produced by the body so is not needed as a dietary supplement. Asparagine was first identified from Asparagus juice, in which it is abundant, and hence its name Asparagine. It was then identified in a range of other plant and animal food sources and identified as an amino acid.

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 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 Crohn'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 Herb Notes / Side Effects

Side Effects and Precautions

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. Because of 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.

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KB 's avatar  KB 08/07/2015 13:38

Hello, it says to seek consultation, with a history of cancer. Any more info that can be offered? Most docs I know, aren't big supporters (and/or do not understand) how herbal supplements can work hand in hand with western medicine. I want to use marshmallow, but now am wondering if it should be ok.

Bob Johnson 's avatar  Bob Johnson 01/07/2015 22:11

Marshmallow, like Dock, often grows near Stinging Nettles and when the leaves are rubbed on a nettle sting can relieve the pain.
I use <a href="">Nettles</A>, Dock and <a href="">Marshmallow</A> like Hops to make homebrew!
Of course you could also distill the result in a homemade still to make something for cold nights or spike the punch at the local ladies temperance league shindig!!!

Lizp33558 's avatar  Lizp33558 17/07/2012 11:34

hi ., i take 400 mg 2x when stomach bothers me, have ibs and othr issues, really helps, i love it

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GWOODY 's avatar  GWOODY 09/04/2014 18:42

I like how it gives moisture to my body, I actually enjoy the flavor of it as a cold drink. it has a little different flavor depending i think on where it was grown. Some taste slightly root y and or like green beans in flavor, and some have a really nice smoky flavor. I have not researched' this bit of info' as yet,so don't know of it's validity or not; but did read that people w/ cancer or history of cancer should use with caution or not use, as it has an effect on cells which helps them to build tumors.
That said if you need moisture for your body and skin, esp. in winter months or as an older person with overall drying issues, DRINKING an OATSTRAW INFUSION regularly/daily will go along way to moisturize your whole body in all areas,as well as give you a lot of nutritional nourishment,and some calcium. Add A 'STINGING NETTLE INFUSION to that and you have a great bunch of nutrients ,like taking a multivitamin, only from a real source ,which your body can actually absorb properly and benefit from.Most people report feeling some changes within a couple weeks of drinking nettle daily. NEttle especially is great for getting calcium,and it has magnesium as well which you need to to absorb/process the calcium. Many people esp. womyn are told to take large quantities of calcium,and you do need it, all of your organs need it, and your brain, not just your bones which 'mainstream media' and supplement pushers, seems to focus on.When you do not get enough calcium your body will prioritize what you do give it. which means it will take most of it for your organs! Your bones do not get enough in this case. Calcium pills mostly are not really that absorbable by your body. the carriers, fillers,binders them often do not break down properly,or separate from the calcium so you can absorb it, and are taken right back out with your waste system ,most or all of the calcium still bound to the binders etc..Often what ever calcium and whatever its bound to,which does end up staying in your body- is left to accumulate/and attach in your body in joints etc..Causing arthritis, plaque, and bone spurring. If you need calcium you need magnesium to absorb it.If you are trying to get lots more calcium this is a way you will actually get the calcium in a usable form for your body.And if you look it up, there are actual measurable amounts of calcium per quart of liquid nettle. Truth is however that what you eat,and just how healthy your digestive system is, dictates a whole lot as to what you absorb or benefit from.

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Vicky Hite  's avatar  Vicky Hite  23/05/2015 15:06

Can I use marshmallow root for kombucha or does it contain oils?

Robert 's avatar  Robert 02/02/2015 14:06

Im using Marshmallow everyday for my stomach problems an realy helps me!!

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