Join the World's Leading Personal Health and Guidance System: Truestar Health.
Free nutrition plans, exercise plans, and all around wellness plans. Join now for free!

Marshmallow

Botanical name: Althea officinalis

Photo

© Steven Foster

Parts used and where grown

The marshmallow plant thrives in wet areas and grows primarily in marshes. Originally from Europe, it now grows in the United States as well. The root and leaves are used medicinally.

Marshmallow has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Science Ratings Health Concerns
1Star

Asthma

Common cold/sore throat

Cough

Crohn’s disease

Diarrhea

Gastritis

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Indigestion

Pap smear (abnormal)

Peptic ulcer

Ulcerative colitis

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

Marshmallow (not to be confused with confectionery marshmallows) has long been used by herbalists to treat coughs and sore throats.1 Due to its high mucilage content, this plant is soothing to inflamed mucous membranes. Marshmallow is also used by herbalists to soothe chapped skin, chilblains (sores caused by exposure to cold), and minor wounds.

Active constituents

Mucilage, made up of large carbohydrate (sugar) molecules, is thought to be the active constituent in marshmallow. This smooth, slippery substance is believed to soothe and protect irritated mucous membranes. Marshmallow has primarily been used as a traditional herbal soothing agent for conditions of the respiratory and digestive tracts.2

How much is usually taken?

The German Commission E monograph suggests 1 1/4 teaspoon (6 grams) of the root per day.3 Marshmallow can be made into a hot or cold water tea. Often 2–3 teaspoons (10–15 grams) of the root and/or leaves are used per cup (250 ml) of water. Generally, a full day’s amount is steeped overnight when making a cold water tea, 6–9 teaspoons (30–45 grams) per three cups (750 ml) of water, or for fifteen to twenty minutes in hot water. Drink three to five cups (750–1250 ml) a day. Since the plant is so gooey, it does not combine well with other plants. Nevertheless, it can be found in some herbal cough syrups. 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—1–3 teaspoons (5–15 ml) three times daily.

Are there any side effects or interactions?

Marshmallow is generally safe with only rare allergic reactions reported.

At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with marshmallow.

References:

1. Nosal’ova 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.

3. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 166–7.

All Indexes
Health Issues Men's Health Women's Health
Health Centers Cold, Flu, Sinus, and Allergy Diabetes Digestive System Pain and Arthritis Sports Nutrition
Safetychecker by Drug by Herbal Remedy by Supplement
Homeopathy by Remedy
Herbal Remedies by Botanical Name
Integrative Options
Foodnotes Food Guide by Food Group Vitamin Guide