Botanical name: Althea officinalis
© 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
Marshmallow has been used
in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
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
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
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.