Downy perennial growing to 7 ft (2.2 m). Has thick white roots, heart-shaped leaves, and pink flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to Europe, marshmallow is naturalized in the Americas. It prefers marshy fields and tidal zones and is cultivated for medicinal use. The aerial parts are gathered in summer as the plant begins to flower and the root is unearthed in autumn.
Root, leaves, flowers.
Marshmallow root contains about 37% starch, 11% mucilage, 11% pectin, flavonoids, phenolic acids, sucrose, and asparagine.
History & Folklore
The philosopher Theophrastus (c. 372–286 BCE) reported that marshmallow root was taken in sweet wine for coughs. Marshmallow was once a key ingredient in the sweets of the same name.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Useful whenever a soothing effect is needed, marshmallow protects and soothes the mucous membranes. The root counters excess stomach acid, peptic ulceration, and gastritis. Marshmallow is also mildly laxative and beneficial for many intestinal problems, including regional ileitis, colitis, diverticulitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
The leaves treat cystitis and frequent urination. Marshmallow’s demulcent qualities bring relief to dry coughs, bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, and pleurisy. The flowers are applied to help soothe inflamed skin. The root is used in an ointment for boils and abscesses, and in a mouthwash for inflammation. The peeled root may be given as a chew stick to teething babies.
Hollyhock (A. rosea) and common mallow (Malva sylvestris) are used in a similar fashion.