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Balancing Act: Marshmallow and Digestive Harmony

A panacea of herbal virtues, Marshmallow is one of the best herbs you could keep in your medicine cabinet. While many herbs tend to be drier, Marshmallow is an incredibly moistening and soothing herb. Their latin name is Althaea, which comes from the Greek root altho, meaning to heal. Since most all herbs have healing properties, there must be something particularly special about Marshmallow for them to deserve that name.


With a strong affinity for our digestive, respiratory and urinary systems, Marshmallow is a tonic herb that is supportive of our entire bodies. Because of their cooling, soothing and softening qualities, this is a great herb to combat many irritations and infections in the body.


A picture of Marshmallow flowers and leaves

A picture of Marshmallow flowers and leaves


Herb Info

  • Common Name: Marshmallow. Hollyhock (Althea rosea), Low Mallow (Malva neglecta) and other mallows can be used as substitutes.

  • Latin Name: Althaea officinalis 

  • Family: Malvaceae

  • Fun Fact: This herb is traditionally used to make marshmallow sweets

  • General characteristics: Soft, grayish, hairy leaves and stalks. Can grow to 3-4 feet tall. Has multiple flowers that are mauve, white or blueish in color. The root looks like the trachea and bronchi highlighting how this plant has an affinity for the respiratory system.

  • Native to: salt marshes along the ocean in Europe. Is widely naturalized and cultivated in the United States.

  • Parts used: Root is the most mucilaginous part and is specific for the digestive system. The leaf is good for the urinary system and lungs. 

  • Precautions: This is a generally safe herb with limited precautions. The mucilage coats our mucus membranes and can delay the absorption of orally taken drugs and can delay digestion as well. It is best to ingest Marshmallow 2 hours between eating and taking medications. However, if food is causing inflammation in the gut, taking Marshmallow near meals can help minimize irritation from eating.


Herbal Actions

  • Alterative

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Antimicrobial 

  • Antispasmodic

  • Demulcent 

  • Diuretic

  • Emollient 

  • Expectorant (especially leaf)

  • Laxative

  • Vulnerary


Marshmallow’s Medicinal Powers


An incredibly soothing herb, Marshmallow is one of the best herbs available for our mucus membranes. Very high in a medicinal component called mucilage, Marshmallow is moistening and soothing to our entire bodies. Juliette de Bairacli Levy even says this herb is one of the most beneficial of all herbs available to us as herbalists.


Althaea officinalis also has a softening and anti-inflammatory impact and is the most anti-inflammatory of the common mucilaginous herbs. This makes this herb a particularly helpful ally for almost any hot, dry, hard condition in the body.


Matthew Wood points out how herbs tend to have a normalizing and balancing effect on the body, meaning that Marshmallow can often help people with opposite conditions of similar natures. He teaches that Marshmallow is good for dried out people who lack thirst and is also supportive for thirsty people who experience excessive urination. Regardless, Marshmallow helps to establish a balanced moisture volume within the body.


Nutritive and immune enhancing, the young leaves make a good salad herb. Marshmallow is gentle and tonic, making them a great addition to your daily herbal teas as well. 



Dried Marshmallow root on a wooden spoon

Dried Marshmallow root on a wooden spoon


Energetically, Lucy Jones shares that Althaea is good for “sore or jagged edges…Marshmallow can smooth the way for us to heal unresolved emotional issues from the past” -A Working Herbal Dispensary. Marshmallow energetically helps us to digest and assimilate past experiences and can make people feel more grounded.


Marshmallow is good for our physical digestion as well and this is one of the body systems where this herb is most known for helping. However, Althaea is also helpful for our respiratory systems, urinary systems, skin, and anywhere else we have mucus membranes. This herb does so much, in fact, that it will take two blog posts to share everything I uncovered about this herb through my research. 



Herbal Apprentice Program

If you want to learn more incredible herbal remedies and the magic of plants, Artemisia Academy's Herbal Apprentice Program may be perfect for you. This 150-hour program is hands-on, interactive, and will give you the skills and knowledge you need to form deep and healing relationships with the herbal allies all around us.


Sources Used


About the Author

A headshot of the author, Alicia Cielle Heiser

Alicia Cielle Heiser is an Astrologer, Herbalist and student at Artemisia Academy. Her work centers on facilitating a greater understanding of the cyclical nature of the world and the ways that we as humans fit within the greater whole. She is writing a series of materia medica blog posts for Artemisia to make the wisdom and knowledge of herbal medicine more available to more people. Alicia also has a podcast called Conversations with the Planets and she offers herbal astrology readings and crafts personalized herbal tea blends. You can find her at www.aliciacielle.com. 

 

Disclaimer: Information presented on this webpage is for educational purposes only, and does not include the diagnosis and treatment of disease nor replace the advice of a licensed physician. Please refer to a licensed health professional for any illness or persistent symptoms before using herbal remedies.


Herbs can sometimes cause discomfort or side effects, and may interact adversely with pharmaceutical medications. Do not use herbs internally without the approval of a doctor or medical professional if you are currently on medications or have a history of medical conditions.

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