Hear the word “marshmallow” and savoring the gooey goodness of a s’more by a crackling campfire might come to mind. But the plant that gave marshmallows their name offers even more benefits than that!
The flowering perennial Althaea officinalis – known more commonly as marsh mallow or real mallow – was once famously used as an ingredient in fluffy, sticky confections, including marshmallows. Commercially made marshmallows no longer contain marsh mallow, but the herbaceous plant continues to be used for its many health benefits.
This salt-marsh-loving plant grows natively in Europe and in damp soils throughout much of the world. Its genus name comes from the Greek word “althein,” which means “to heal.”
Traditional Greek medicine relied routinely on A. officinalis, with the earliest recorded use dating back to the ninth century B.C. when it was noted as a good treatment for ruptures and coughs. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the root has a tropism for the lungs, stomach, intestines, bladder, and kidneys.
Soothing and Moistening
The marsh mallow's flowers, leaves, and roots are a source of mucilage, which moistens and softens tissues. This quality makes it great for soothing the mucus membranes of the respiratory and intestinal tracts when they are dry and irritated. Due to its salty quality, marsh mallow also helps eliminate water from the body and is sometimes recommended as a poultice for soothing skin irritations.
- officinalis has been the subject of numerous studies addressing cough and respiratory concerns. Research over the past decades has shown this medicine to be an excellent choice for safely soothing these agitations in people of all ages. Research has also shown that marsh mallow supports a healthy inflammatory balance, eases oxidative stress, and even helps balance the microbiome.
Energetically and emotionally, marsh mallow can be said to soften and smooth one’s “edges” when life gets tough. According to herbalists, who also recommend marsh mallow as a poultice for reducing skin irritation and discomfort, the flower essence of marsh mallow balances the crown, third-eye, and occipital chakras along with the cranial bones. Marsh mallow is also said to ground one’s energies and tone down emotions associated with anger, frustration, and agitation.
If you’re experiencing an irritated throat or dealing with a troubling cough, brew up a mug of marshmallow tea. If your concerns are digestive-related, sip a cold infusion of Althaea officinalis to soothe the gastrointestinal tract. And if you just need to soften a sense of rigidity in your life, slowing down with a cup of marshmallow tea might be just the treat you need.
- Wood, M. The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. 2008 North Atlantic Books