Althaea afficinalis

Althea, Sweet Weed, Mallards, guimauve, Mortification Plant, Wymote

Traditional Use

Marshmallows tend to be more commonly associated with the sweet, fluffy confectionary we toast around campfires; however, the root of this powerful herb has a long and esteemed history of traditional use as a potent cough remedy and healer of many other ailments.
In traditional herbal medicine, medicinal use of the Marshmallow root can be traced back to ancient Egyptian and Greek times. It was mentioned in Homer’s “Iliad” as a slippery herb and as such was used to coughs, sore throats and congestion.



Parts used

Roots and leaves


Marshmallow Root: Mucilage, l8-35%; consisting of a number of polysaccharides; one is composed of L-rhamnose, D-galactose, D-galacturonic acid and D-glucuronic acid in the ratio 3:2:3:3, another a highly branched L-arabifurranan, another a trisaccharide structural unit and one with a high proportion of uronic acid units. Miscellaneous; about 35% pectin, l-2% asparagine, tannins.
Marshmallow Leaves: Mucilage; including a low molecular weight D-glucan. Flavanoids such a kaempferol, quercitin and diosmetin glucosides, scopoletin, a coumarin. Polyphenolic acids, including syringic, caffeic, salicyclic, vanillic, p-coumaric.


Because it coats the lining of the stomach, Marshmallow may interfere with the absorption of other drugs or herbs. For this reason, it is important to take Marshmallow several hours before or after taking other herbs or medications.


Respiratory Health
Coughs/Colds/Sore Throats
Hailed as one of nature’s most effective cough remedies, Marshmallow root is a mucilage rich herb with “antitussive” (cough suppressant) properties. The mucilage from this root coats the throat, thus soothing irritation and soreness.
A 2018 study into cough preparations containing Marshmallow root found that it was particularly effective for dry coughs. It worked in the majority of cases within 10 minutes, leading the researchers to conclude; “The results of the surveys justify the long-established use of Marshmallow preparations for symptomatic treatment of dry cough.”
Another study from 2015 found that Marshmallow was also effective at relieving coughs caused by colds, bronchitis and other respiratory disorders. A syrup containing Marshmallow, thyme, aniseed and ivy leaf was used in the study.
The reasons for its effectiveness are thought to be due to its ability to loosen mucous and inhibit bacteria, helping to suppress and heal the cough at the same time.
Urinary Tract Infections
A 2016 study published in the “Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry” reported that Marshmallow root extract supports overall urinary health. Its soothing properties can relieve irritation and inflammation of the urinary tract.
Another study from 2015 of Marshmallow leaf extract found that it was effective against gram-positive bacteria – a common cause of urinary tract infections such as cystitis.
Skin Health
Topical use of Marshmallow root can relieve skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis. It is also effective in treating insect bites, wounds, dry or chapped skin and burns. Its potent anti-inflammatory properties, coupled with the healing, soothing, skin softening mucilage heal and protect the skin. It is such a gentle herb that it is extremely well tolerated by those with hyper-sensitive skin that is prone to allergic reactions.
Furthermore, a study that looked at the use of medicinal plants for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases found that; “Extract of Marshmallow root stimulates phagocytosis and the release of oxygen radicals and leukotrienes from human neutrophils. Release of cytokines: interleukin-6 and tumour necrosis factor (TNF), from monocytes, by the extracts, demonstrated their potential anti-inflammatory activity.”
Urinary Tract Infections
Digestive Health
Marshmallow forms a protective layer on the skin and lining of the digestive tract. Its mucilage, emollient, anti-inflammatory and carminative properties make this herb an excellent addition to any herbal protocols for digestive issues.
Containing between 10 – 30 percent mucilage, this protects the oesophagus from the escaped stomach acid that causes heartburn or acid reflux. Whilst the coating protects the stomach and digestive tract, its anti-inflammatory properties soothe irritated mucous membranes and the smooth muscles of the intestines, helping any damage to heal naturally.
Marshmallow helps to restore the integrity of the gut lining, thus making it helpful to those suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.


Beginning around 9th century BCE, the Greeks used Marshmallows to heal wounds and soothe sore throats. A balm made from the plant’s sap was often applied to toothaches and bee stings. The plant’s medicinal uses grew more varied in the centuries that followed: Arab physicians made a poultice from ground-up Marshmallow leaves and used it as an anti-inflammatory. The Romans found that marshmallows worked well as a laxative and by the Middle Ages, Marshmallows served as a treatment for everything from upset stomachs to chest colds and insomnia.

The ancient Egyptians used Mashmallow root for making candied delicacies for their gods, nobility and Pharaohs over 2000 years ago. They used the soft, spongy pith of the plant, which was boiled in honey or sugar syrup, to create a chewy candy-like substance – the pre-cursor to our modern day Marshmallows. 

In 19th-century France, candy makers whipped the sap of the Marshmallow plant into a fluffy confection which more closely resembled the modern Marshmallow. Unfortunately, the process of extracting the sap was a laborious task and over time confectioners substituted gelatin for the plant extract.


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