Posted: May 20th, 2011
Marshmallow is a perennial herb is native to Europe. It grows up to four feet tall with soft, velvety, maple-shaped leaves. It usually grows with one to several stalks coming from its base and has flowers along the stem, similar to a hollyhock. The whole plant can be used medicinally. Harvest the leaves in the summer after blooming has occurred. The root is best harvested in the late fall because the mucilage content is higher. It can be used fresh or dried.
Marshmallow is high in aluminum, chromium, dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, selenium, sodium, tin and vitamin C. The root and leaf have slightly different properties. Both are demulcent, diuretic, and emollient but the root is more vulnerary while the leaf is more expectorant. For these reasons the leaf is better suited for the lungs and urinary system while the root is more appropriate for the skin and digestive system. Due to its tannins and essential oils, Marshmallow irritates the mucous membranes encouraging them to secrete mucus. This produces the desired effect of soothing and coating the respiratory system, urinary tract and gastro-intestinal tract.
Marshmallow moistens the respiratory system making it useful for dry coughs, bronchitis, asthma, whooping cough, dry or inflamed lungs, and respiratory catarrh. Use it with licorice and horehound for bronchitis. Marshmallow is a diuretic encouraging the body to flush out the urinary tract. The leaf is good for kidney and bladder inflammations, blood in the urine, urethritis, cystitis, incontinence, difficult or painful urination and gravel or kidney stones.
The root is good for the skin to help reduce inflammations and infections. Use it for boils, burns, wounds, ulcers, abscesses, bruises, gangrene and varicose veins. It works well used as a compress or poultice.
Marshmallow is one of the best sources of easily digestible vegetable mucilage (up to 35% in the root and 10% in the leaf) making it wonderful for the digestive system. It helps lubricate the gastro-intestinal tract to protect it against irritation and dryness. Marshmallow root is useful for gastritis or ulcers. Due to the high mucilage content, it makes a good laxative and helps heal irritations arising from diarrhea or dysentery. The mucilage also binds with and eliminates toxins to help the body cleanse itself making it good for infections, parasites and blood poisoning. The root is good for G.I. inflammations, colitis, enteritis and cholera. As a mouthwash it will help infants cut new teeth. Marshmallow supports immune function and promotes the formation of mother’s milk. It is a good harmonizing herb in formulas. It is a very safe and mild herb with no known contraindications.
by Elaine Sheff
Article Categories: Herbs