When most people hear marshmallow, they think of the white fluffy food treat commonly roasted at campfires. Marshmallow, however, is also a type of herb. Marshmallow, known scientifically as Althaea officinalis, is an African plant with short roundish leaves and small pale flowers.

Marshmallow was originally used medicinally by the Egyptians. Its usage was later adopted by the French. Today, it has a wide variety of medicinal uses which we will explore in below.

Marshmallow Mechanism of Action

Marshmallow works as a mucilage, producing a thick sticky substance that coats membranes. Marshmallow extract contains flavonoids, which contain anti-inflammatory properties. The flavonoids are able to reduce inflammation while the mucilage holds them in place and prevents further damage.

The extract also induces phagocytosis, which is the process in which certain cells engulf bacteria, dead cell tissues or other solid particles. This helps speed up the healing process. The mucilage remains unaltered until it reaches the colon, which is why marshmallow works well on most inflammatory digestive disorders.

Marshmallow also contains Asparagine, which is a naturally occurring amino acid. It is not an Essential amino acid as it can be produced by the body so is not needed as a dietary supplement. Asparagine was first identified from Asparagus juice, in which it is abundant, and hence its name Asparagine. It was then identified in a range of other plant and animal food sources and identified as an amino acid.

Medical Uses of Marshmallow

Below we will discuss some of the health benefits of Marshmallow:

Marshmallow for Dry Coughs and Sore Throats

Marshmallow is most commonly used to ease sore throats and dry coughs. The Marshmallow plant, especially the leaves and roots, contains polysaccharides that have antitussive, mucilaginous and antibacterial properties. Because of this, Marshmallow has a soothing effect on inflamed membranes in the mouth and throat when ingested orally, specifically a sore throat. The antitussive properties help reduce dry coughing and prevent further irritation.

Marshmallow may be a helpful aid to a radiology esophageal examination (also known as a barium swallow test).

Marshmallow for Digestive Disorders

Marshmallow has been used to treat certain digestive disorders including; heartburn, indigestion, ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers and Crohn’s disease. The mechanism by which it soothes sore throats also applies to gastrointestinal mucosa. For this reason, regular consumption of Marshmallow can help with the pain of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and prevent stomach ulcers from perforation.

Marshmallow for Inflammatory Skin Conditions

Due to its anti-inflammatory flavonoids, Marshmallow extract can be added to creams that are used to treat inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema and contact dermatitis.

Marshmallow for Asthma

There is tentative evidence that Marshmallow may also help with respiratory disorders such as asthma, due to its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.

Marshmallow Diabetes Research

Researchers are looking at Marshmallow as a natural alternative to blood sugar management in Diabetes.

Marshmallow has several potential mechanisms through which it may help with diabetes management:

Anti-inflammatory Properties: Marshmallow contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is associated with insulin resistance, a key feature of type 2 diabetes. By reducing inflammation, marshmallow may indirectly improve insulin sensitivity.

Blood Sugar Regulation: Some animal studies suggest that marshmallow may have hypoglycemic effects, meaning it could help lower blood sugar levels. This effect may be attributed to certain compounds in marshmallow that help regulate glucose metabolism. However, more research is needed to confirm these effects in humans.

Digestive Health Support: Marshmallow root contains mucilage, a gel-like substance that forms a protective layer in the digestive tract. This mucilage may help slow the absorption of sugars from the digestive system into the bloodstream, potentially leading to more stable blood sugar levels after meals.

Kidney Health: Diabetes can increase the risk of kidney damage (diabetic nephropathy) due to elevated blood sugar levels over time. Marshmallow has diuretic properties and may support kidney function by promoting urine production and helping to flush out toxins from the body. By supporting kidney health, marshmallow may indirectly benefit individuals with diabetes.

Antioxidant Activity: Marshmallow contains antioxidants, such as flavonoids and phenolic compounds, that help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Oxidative stress, caused by an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals, plays a role in the development and progression of diabetes-related complications. By reducing oxidative stress, marshmallow may help protect against diabetic complications.

While these potential benefits are promising, more clinical research is needed to better understand the effects of marshmallow on diabetes and its complications. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using marshmallow or any other herbal remedy for diabetes management, especially if you’re already taking medications or have underlying health conditions.

How To Take Marshmallow

The roots and leaves of the Marshmallow plant are the parts most commonly used medicinally. Marshmallow can be commonly found in the form of tinctures, capsules and tea. The preferred form and dosage depends on the specific ailment being treated.

Tincture can be taken for treatment of sore throats and dry coughs. One to two teaspoons should be taken two to three times a day.

For stomach ulcers and indigestion, tea works well. Pre-made teas can be purchased, or tea can be made by using two to five teaspoons of either powdered root or dried leaves and and boiling them in five ounces of water. Tea containing both powdered root and dry leaves appears to be most effective.

Capsules can be used for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Follow recommended dosage guidelines on the product label.

Marshmallow can also be found in ointments, creams and cough syrups.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Marshmallow Herb Notes / Side Effects

Marshmallow is considered a very safe herb, however, it can cause low blood sugar in some people, so those with low blood sugar should check with a physician or herbalist before using marshmallow.

Because of the way marshmallow coat the stomach, it may affect absorption of other drugs. Anyone taking medications should take marshmallow either six hours before or six hours after taking other medication.

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